Lev 1-3; Romans 10; Psalm 78 vs 1-31
‘Of the best that thou hast given, Earth and Heaven render thee’
First today, we note the Psalm. The neglect of the Psalms in the life of the church is a grievous omission. Nothing perhaps better exemplifies the narcissistic temperament of so much of contemporary Christianity than the neglect of the Psalms – for where else in all sacred scriptures are a people so unremittingly self critical. Where else are we so honest with God, most especially about our own faults than in the Psalms. Their place in the liturgy of God’s people down through the ages, the prayer book by which Christ so thoroughly identified himself with us, must be restored if we are to move more fully into the life that God wishes to offer us – a life free of dissimulation and conceits, a life of Honesty and Truthfulness. The Psalms, in rehearsing our sorry history, do not leave us with the hubristic satisfaction of saying, ‘look how far we have come’!
Viewed in such a light, thus our Salvation is very Great – as the writer to the Hebrews puts it ‘How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?’ A New and Living way opened for us. And at its heart is sacrifice. The Sacrificial system is marked out by the words, the best, the choice, the unblemished. As the various offerings are outlined in the opening chapters of Leviticus, this is a recurrent theme, and indeed later its failure to be heeded is the source of the sharpest denunciation of the prophets. These sacrifices are not propitiatory, they are Sacrifices of Praise – they are not to elicit Salvation, they are in response to it. Those who know they have been forgiven much, love much.
The Psalms keep us reminded of the scope of God’s salvation – all we can do is our reasonable act of worship – to offer our souls and bodies, as living sacrifices, in the pattern of the One who offered up himself.