Sunday, January 01, 2017

Cutting out the sacrifices?

Sermon for the Circumcision of Christ

Derek has just been told off by his mummy for treading on John’s toe. John deserves to have had his toe trodden on because he poked Derek in the eye, first. Mummy tells Derek that he will not be allowed to watch his favourite programme until he says sorry to John. As you can imagine, Derek feels that this is a great injustice, and so he refuses to eat his sweets so that he’ll die from starvation and Mummy will be sorry. And what does Mummy tell Mrs Meeks from next-door?

“Oh! He’s just cutting off his nose to spite his face!”


That’s a weird little phrase. We use it to mean that Derek is literally going to damage himself for a cause that really isn’t worth the pain and suffering. Well, at least we think it’s a cause that isn’t worth the pain and suffering. For Derek, this is an important issue. He’s being made to say sorry and John isn’t. Perhaps Derek is campaigning for freedom from injustice, but then, if he truly values justice, would he go without his sweets on behalf of John if things were the other way around?

Is it really worth the sacrifice?


Today, men all around the world feel uncomfortable as we are presented with the Circumcision of Christ. It’s an unkind cut that our Jewish brothers and sisters have valued throughout the centuries. It signifies the Covenant and relationship that the Jewish people have with God. As symbols go, it literally involves cutting off a part of the body to seal one’s relationship with God in blood. That is clearly going to be painful, and will have a lasting effect on that one’s life. Again, we must ask the question: is it really worth the sacrifice?


That depends on what lies within the heart. What is our motive? Does it make us more socially acceptable? Do we become one of the in-crowd? Or do we do it because we value God and seek to be among those who cherish His Rule?

And then, Our Lord comes to circumcision. What does this say? That God wants to be socially acceptable? Well, clearly He isn’t: the Jewish authorities crucify Him. That God wants to be part of the in-crowd? Then why does He spend most of His ministry with the outcasts while scolding the “in-crowd” for their lack of sincerity and faith?

St Paul says that Abraham “received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised; that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.”

The Jewish people identify themselves with the God-fearing Abraham through Circumcision. Thus Christ our God seeks to identify Himself with the people of Abraham. We see throughout His Holy Incarnation God’s desire to be reconciled to all His children, Jew and Gentile whether they be uncircumcised or not. So what does the sacrifice of circumcision actually do?


There is no point in making sacrifices unless the sacrifice is worth making. Again, St Paul says, “ though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”


Do we Christians need to be circumcised? No. Our Lord has made the sacrifice of His blood to seal the new covenant with us. He has made circumcision unnecessary. However, the Christian must learn to make sacrifices. The word “sacrifice” literally means a making-holy. That’s our job. We make the sacrifice of the Mass so that we no longer need to slaughter animals, an act that can’t take away all our sins in the first place. We make a sacrifice of our Sunday mornings so that we can meet God. We make a sacrifice of our lives by recognising Christ our King and thus reject our own will, our possessions, our statuses, our reputations, even our own flawed views of right and wrong, in order to separate ourselves out into being with God.

That’s enormous, daunting, and painful. Yet, Our Lord allows Himself to be circumcised so that He might be part of our in-crowd so that we can all be in His in-crowd. If we have the faith then we will be able to bear our sacrifices for Him and thus stand with Him in His Kingdom. If we don’t have the faith, why don’t we ask God for it?

Yes, why don’t we ask God for the faith to make sacrifices?

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