Episode 52:
Burnt Offering
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Editorial Notes

For Christians, the sacrifices that "get to" God are praise, doing good, and sharing with others. I donít have to go to a certain place, butcher and cook an animal (or have a priest do that for me). I have the freedom to offer a "continual" (all the time) sacrifice of praise. I have the freedom to please the creator of the universe simply by doing good and sharing with others.

Thatís a lot of freedom. Itís more freedom than many of us know what to do with. Itís more freedom that many of us can believe in.

So what do we do? We try to create the old sacrificial system in the garb of Christianity.

We create holy places and call them "worship centers". Some of us get really upset if we see books or music being sold in a store within the walls of a church, as if this were comparable to the activity of the money changers that Jesus drove from the Temple. Itís not the same thing. The reason is because God himself ordered the Temple in Jerusalem to be built, but He did not give use Christians a mandate to build and dedicate buildings to Him. There is no holy real-estate in Christianity. An activity that is not sinful in and of itself does not suddenly become sinful because it occurs in a "church building".

Then we have special activities that we must perform in these "worship centers" in order to "get to" God. One of the great myths of "churchianity" is that if we get enough people together to stage a certain kind of performance, then we can somehow "get to" God in a way that we cannot individually. Sometimes sacrificial language is borrowed from the Old Testament, as if our performances somehow constitute a "sacrifice" that God can smell up in heaven. Then we pay elite individuals to manage the events and play the role of "priest" to make sure our performances are indeed acceptable.

Can you find anywhere in the New Testament where Christians gathered together to "perform" like we do on Sunday morning? What would a Christian from the first century think if they went to "church" with us?

Once the holy place is built, the priests are hired, and the rituals are set in stone, we can easily fall into a "perform to appease" mindset. Without saying it in so many words, God is made out to be a stern ogre in the sky who needs his weekly "fix" of rote performance from us loathsome human critters He can barely tolerate. The "nice god" Jesus gets you into the church, and then you perform "worship service" every week to appease the "tough god", the Father.

It seems that no matter what God has done for us, and no matter how much freedom He has given us, we would prefer holy places, altars, priests. and rote performances. We offer the "sacrifice" that we want God to have, not the one that God wants. Perhaps it feels safer to have a god-in-a-box that is only interested in us 90 minutes a week. That kind of "god" doesnít demand a lot of responsibility or "sacrifice". But that kind of "god" isnít the God who has revealed Himself to us in Jesus.

Oh well, at least I donít have to butcher any sheep.

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