Atonement: Perfect Sacrifice

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Hebrews 9:11-14

This morning I had the privilege to accompany the first grade class that I volunteer in to Sea World.  17 first graders…5 chaperones and 1 teacher…if we had 20 chaperones, the odds may have been in our favor.

Just kidding.

It was an amazing experience.  The children that attend this school are from some of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the metro-Orlando area; so, going to Sea World is big news…like bigger than french fries and chicken nuggets being served in the cafeteria on the same day.

If I had to summarize this Sea World experience for the children in one word, the word would be wonder.  Watching the children marvel at the sea creatures and squeal as the roller coasters zoomed overhead and point and smile and repeat.  They were in awe.  They were amazed.  Everything was new.  Everything was fresh.  And they were present in the moment absorbing all of it.  They were content to just be.  Excitement bubbled up from endless founts inside each of them.  Their grins were contagious.

Most of them slept on the ride back to the school…and I can only imagine the visions and dreams that were dancing in their heads.  I hope in their dreams they were sealing the memory of this day and I hope they continue to wonder in all they experienced.

I am amazed by how much these children continue to teach me each time I am with them.  Today’s lesson was that lesson of wonder – to be present, to simply be.  I (and I think many adults) are quick to observe and then we jump to analysis, inquiry, and yes, even judgment.  We are a qualitative and quantitative folk.  We are concerned about efficiency and cost-effectiveness.  We are time conscious and are quick to think about what is next rather than remain present in the moment.  We forget to wonder.  And when we do not wonder regularly, little by little, we lose that ability.

We need to slow down.  We need to see clearly.  We need to hear wholly.  We need to smell, feel, and taste.  We need to be.  And in doing so God will amaze us.

As a pastor and speaker of the Word I am always seeking an interpretation of a text that is studied in worship on Sundays.  Being a speaker of the Word is more than just saying what the story says – it is not just a paraphrase.  Being a speaker  of the Word is more than just saying what other people have said about the story – it is not just a book report.  Speakers of the Word seek – for ourselves and for the people we serve – an interpretation of the Word – otherwise known as the so what moment.  Given what the story says and what other people have said about it, so what?  What now?  Where do we go from here?  

I like to offer practical responses and practical challenges as the so what so that some sort of response is encouraged that will lead to greater spiritual formation and possibly behavior modification.  As I marinate on the text this week, I feel the response that I am led to is one of wonder.  Jesus is the high priest.  Jesus has given of himself – a perfect sacrifice – that our lives will be transformed and our dead works purified so that we will worship the living God.

What should characterize that worship?  Wonder – wonder of all our Lord has done, wonder that our God has acted on our behalf out of mercy and grace.

Yet how quick are we while in worship to skip out on presence.  We may be there in body, but are were their in mind?  And if we are there in mind, are we present in wonder or presently writing our grocery list or rolling our eyes because we are singing that hymn again instead of this hymn or thinking that our time would be better spent elsewhere?  If we do not practice wonder, then we are not practicing true presence, and we therefore limit how God desires to amaze us in those moments.

Our God is amazing and wants to amaze us.  Open yourself up to wondering.  I bet you will be wearing the great grin of a first grader at Sea World eating chicken nuggets and french fries when you do.

Prayer: “His name is wonderful, his name is wonderful, his name is wonderful, Jesus, my Lord.  He is the mighty King, Master of everything, is name is wonderful, Jesus, my Lord.  He’s the great Shepherd, the Rock of all ages, almighty God is he; bow down before him, love and adore him, his name is wonderful, Jesus, my Lord.”* Amen.

*”His Name Is Wonderful,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 174

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