Tag Archives: sacrifice

Lightning Arrestors and Other Unsuspecting Sacrifices

“I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

If you’ve followed my twitter feed for more than 10 minutes you know that I’m an amateur radio operator.  A “HAM” in the vernacular.  Amateur radio is quite an excellent fit for my Myers-Briggs personality profile, INTJ.  In particular, INTJ’s are most comfortable when things make sense.  We not only like things to work, we like to know how and why they work.  We want the world to make sense.  In HAM radio, an understanding of electrical theory is invaluable, even indispensable.  Also, much to the boredom of those closest to us, we want everyone in our circle to know about our hobby along with the why and the what.

If you’re reading this, you’re in my circle so let me tell you about amateur radio (my wife would really appreciate me talking to someone else about it for a few minutes).

HAM radio antennas, both those huge monstrosities that resemble something E.T. might use to phone home or the modest vertical pole that I use, make excellent lightning rods.  Of course, that’s not their purpose, but even the smallest rumble of thunder can strike terror into the heart of a HAM.  Therefore, we have several strategies that we employ to protect thousands of dollars worth of equipment against lightning damage.

If a particularly severe lightning storm is impending we will disconnect the wire leading from the antenna.  This is rather cumbersome and renders the radio useless until the storm has passed.  For other less severe weather events, ranging from cloudless skies to mild-storms, we put loops in the cable (lighting prefers straight lines) or we use devices called “lightning arrestors” that are placed along the cable in between the antenna and the radio. In the former case, the lightning will “loop” back round on itself, effectively blocking its own path.  The electrons collide and effectively blow up the cable similar to a fuse blowing to stop the flow of electricity.  Regarding the latter, lightning arrestors filled with some non-conductive material impedes the flow of electrons.  Like the looped cable, the energy is dispersed through the destruction of the device.  In both cases, the destructive energy is rendered inert long before it can enter the house.  (I warned you that it would be boring, but please stay with me just another paragraph or so.)

Both strategies employ similar tactics.  A length of antenna feed-line routinely costs between $75 – $100.  Lightning arrestors often cost even more.  Both have but one purpose: to be destroyed.  In these here parts $75 is some serious coin, but that’s less than ten percent of the cost of most amateur radios.

Better expressed, both have but one purpose: to sacrifice themselves in order to save something much more valuable.  Both only work once.  Before they are needed, both devices add nothing to the performance of the station.  After they have done their job, well, in most cases they don’t exist anymore having vaporized in an acrid smelling puff of smoke.

At this point it would seem that I have a clever analogy for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us.  Unfortunately, I don’t.  The more accurate analogy would be that the radio gives up its life to protect the wire or the arrestor.

What?  That makes no sense!  Why sacrifice a $1500 radio in order to save a $50 piece of wire?  Precisely.

Jesus’ sacrifice doesn’t make sense…at least not by earthly standards.  It would have cost infinitely less for me to die than for the Son of God to be crucified.  If it had been me on The Cross of Calvary my name wouldn’t even be a footnote in ancient history.  No one would have cared.  There would be no mad raving anti-“Joe”istian atheists ranting.  There wouldn’t be any “sheep in wolves in sheep’s clothing” false profits.  There wouldn’t be anyone manipulating religion for the own purposes.  Why?  Because a cheap “tool” has no value, no power, no meaning when it is used up.  Who cares when “good for nothing” ceases to exist?  But when the “Radio” gives itself up for the tool people take notice, it means something.

Fortunately, God doesn’t calculate worth the way that I do.  I’m not valuable because of the purpose that I serve; my worth doesn’t come from earning potential or what I can “do for the Kingdom.”  At the risk of mixing metaphors, it’s the Good Shepherd that lays down His life; not the “good for nothing” shepherd.  Understanding God’s sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus’ willingness to give Himself up on my behalf, requires that I know who is who.  The “Radio” sacrificed itself for the cable so that the cable might be valuable.

That’s why worship.

Sacrifice? What sacrifice?

“…whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Why are we Christians so pre-occupied with the sacrifices we make for the sake of Christ?  What possible sacrifice, what thing, can we possibly give up for Him?  Such a thought implies that we’re giving up more for less.  Isn’t that what a sacrifice is; giving something up without a return on investment?

How ridiculous!  We whine and complain about doing without this thing or that thing in order to follow Jesus.  But, “what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”  Saying, “I’m sacrificing my life for the sake of Christ” is born of arrogance.  He made, and on the cross is, the only sacrifice.  I’m called to identify with Him on the cross, but He made the sacrifice once and for all.

Unfortunately, we as Christian leaders are often the most easily swayed by this misguided attitude of sacrifice.  We wear it like a badge of honor, “oh, look at what I gave up in the private sector to enter fulltime ministry!”  “I know I could have made boat loads of money, but this is for the Kingdom.”  “The rewards of the world aren’t worth mentioning compared to the riches of Heaven.”

Then why mention them?

If I beleive that what I was doing for myself is a sacrifice in place of God’s calling, then I must also think that what I was doing was more beneficial and important than God’s agenda.  To think so highly of my plans and activities implies that I’m ashamed to be involved in something as lowly as God’s work.  That is truly a shameful thing.

Lord, spare us from ourselves!  What better place can there be other than in the will of God and answering His call?  What could possibly be more honoring and humbling than the Creator of the universe asking me to participate in what He’s doing?

That’s why worship!

Jumping the Worship Shark

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1

If there’s any place that exemplifies how translators struggle to find English words that convey ancient Greek thought, this is it. It’s a difficulty that has nested itself comfortably in the “worship wars.”

What is worship?

For decades, even centuries, worship was defined as a noun to represent an event that occurred on a specific day at a specific time for a predetermined period of time, i.e. on Sunday at 9:45AM to conclude no later than 11:15 providing ample time to beat the people from the community church down the street to the Sunday buffet. In this paradigm of worship as noun one’s relationship with the “event” could be passive. Ultimately, there was no participation required of those in attendance. It was by nature non-threatening for those in attendance due to its passivity. One could attend with very little personal capital invested in the event, perhaps none. With the exception of a small group of participants behind a podium it was largely a spectator sport. Large scale participation was limited to an occasional stand-sit-kneel-stand-sit routine punctuated by a snack consisting of bread and grape extract.

Not too long ago the definition of “worship as a verb” began to take hold. It wasn’t so much an event as it was something we did. Rather than going “to worship” on Sunday one would worship on Sunday at 9:45AM to conclude no later than 11:15 providing ample time to beat the people from the community church down the street to the Sunday buffet. In spite of its noble intentions, this semantic juggling act still allowed for pervasive levels of passivity on the part of those in attendance.

In recent years there has been an attempt to encapsulate the concept of worship as a “lifestyle.” While “worship as lifestyle” encourages participation in the above mentioned Sunday event that may or may not “leak” into weekday activities there is still, in large measure, a passive connotation inherent in this definition. Much like “Goth”, “Geek”, “Prep” or “Emo” are lifestyles that can come and go at the whim of fads and circumstances “lifestyle worship” includes a strong undertone of “trendiness.” There remains the alternative of being merely a spectator. The lifestyle worshipper can remain disengaged from the world and passively allow a t-shirt with a pithy Christian message to ineffectively carry their testimony or even exercise the option to not display a Christian worldview at all, remaining non-descript and being “of the world.” Just as other lifestyles are often best classified by a corresponding catalogue in the iTunes store, lifestyle worship carries the risk of being reduced to nothing more significant than the latest Grammy award winning category. “Worship as lifestyle” allows the “worshipper” to avoid engagement with the world as a mere volunteer or mercenary that can come and go at the whim of emotions or as circumstances dictate. Ultimately, it’s a very safe, capricious lifestyle.

Where does this leave us in the evolution of the definition of worship?

At the risk of “jumping the shark”…to be continued…