The things we talk about at the breakfast table. Had breakfast with some colleagues yesterday and the conversation moved to what it means to make sacrifices for the things we think are important. Eventually we came up against one of the harder to resolve questions about Christian devotion. When we offer ourselves to God in service, or when we serve others in the name of God and as servants of Christ in the power of the Spirit, what do we actually, and really mean, when we use the word "all"? I've thought about that off and on since yesterday.
"All to Jesus, I surrender, All to Him I freely give...." Really? Truly? Or is the word "all" a rhetorical device to express intention, but knowing that what we offer is an unattainable ideal, an exaggerated sense of our capacity to love without reserve and give without holding back?
When Havergal wrote her hymn "Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to thee", she of course included the couplet "Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withold". Are we sure we mean that when we sing it? Or are we assuming a limited liability, or at least a limited generosity, because to give it all would be impossibly self denying and careless of personal possession? One of the first critics of that hymn asked the question, "But what if there are children to feed and clothe?"
"It's all about you Jesus, it's not about me". No, not much! Isn't it nearer the truth that every step off the path of faithful following after Christ, is not about you Jesus, but all about me? And if we really were more self-aware of what we pray for, long for, work our hardest for, what is that all about, and who is it all about?
OK. Enough subversion for now. When Paul urges his readers to present their bodies as a living sacrifice as reasonable worship, it was always ever only going to be possible "by the mercies of God". The paradox is that I can only take up the cross and follow Christ, in and by the strength of Christ. Self giving love is only reasonable if the love of God is poured into my heart by the Holy Spirit.
Only if I am a new creation can I become a minister of reconciliation rather than a servant of self interest and prolonged, pervasive selfishness.
Only if I recognise that I need to learn stuff, will I acknowledge my burdens and wearinness and come unto Him, take on His yoke, and learn of Him.
Then, and only then will I know what I mean and intend by that word "all", when I learn of the One who "reconciles all things to Himself, making peace by the blood of the cross", and so am given permission to blurt out that word "all", in the exaggerated devotion of the consciously forgiven, unconditionally loved and joyfully liberated. And yes I'll struggle and fail repeatedly, in delivering the full content of that word "all". But the generous, outrageous, unreasonable love of God will go on working and enabling that continuous presenting of my whole self as a living sacrifice, which is my reasonable worship - and all because of the mercies of God. For which, thank God.
The photo was taken in Glen Dye. The image of the lamb lies at the centre of Christian theological reflection on sacrifice, Agnus Dei - Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world....worthy is the Lamb....