Pleasing Sacrifices

Scripture: Hebrews 13:15-16
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Reflection: Pleasing Sacrifices
By Jon Polk

After weaving a rich theological tapestry, the letter to the Hebrews concludes in the same manner as many other New Testament epistles, with the author including a closing postscript of seemingly disconnected behavioral exhortations.

Love each other. Show hospitality. Remember the suffering. Honor marriage. Be content. Imitate your leaders.

The list is followed by one of the many commonly quoted verses from Hebrews, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

There is a thread of continuity in these instructions that connects with Christ’s eternally consistent character.

One final time, the author recalls the high priest imagery that has permeated the book. A reference to the Old Testament sin offerings serves as a reminder that Jesus himself functions both as our high priest and a sacrifice for our sins.

Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross is not merely an event that happened to Jesus, it is one of his important character traits. Jesus’ selflessness, demonstrated by his willingness to give up his very life for us, is the same yesterday and today and forever.

So what do all these final charges have in common? Selflessness.

Loving one another in the community of faith involves treating one another as we would members of our own families. There is a reason we refer to each other as sisters and brothers.
Not only should we love those in our community, but we are challenged to love those outside our community as well. Loving the stranger, the “other,” often involves personal risk.

One step even further is serving the outcasts, not simply strangers but those shunned from the community, in prison, mistreated, suffering. Ministry to the outcast involves a sacrifice of our time and resources.

Any married person could tell you that a truly successful marriage is founded on a commitment to serve one another selflessly.

Being content with what we have and guarding our hearts from the love of money may require reevaluation of career goals or personal ambitions. Trusting in God to meet our needs means releasing our selfish desire to control our destiny.

Remembering that God has provided faithful leaders to guide and instruct us is yet another way we practice selfless humility.

Ultimately we have been called to imitate our self-sacrificing savior, Jesus, by giving of ourselves to do good for the benefit of others. George Herbert, 17th-century British priest, poet, and theologian, wrote, “For there is no greater sign of holiness than the procuring and rejoicing in another’s good.”

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. — 2 Corinthians 4.6

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis TickleToday’s Readings
Isaiah 6 (Listen – 2:24) 
Hebrews 13 (Listen 3:31)

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 7 (Listen – 3:51) James 1 (Listen 3:26)
Isaiah 8:1-9:7 (Listen – 3:26) James 2 (Listen 3:32)

Read More about Finishing Well
We must keep our eyes on the example of Jesus, who ran the race before us and endured great suffering on our behalf.

Read More about Compelled Toward Community
We have been made participants in a New Covenant of grace with God and we are beneficiaries of Christ’s inheritance of forgiveness.

Hours of Prayer

From John: 
Read the Bible. Reflect and pray. 

That is the two-pronged, ultra-simplified vision that we have for our readers. This past week we have taken some time to curate and comment on some classic readings about prayer to strengthen and encourage us in the practice of prayer. Tomorrow we return to following the reading plan with a series on the book of James by Jon Polk.

“Praying the hours,” which is also called “fixed-hour prayer,” “daily office,” or “the divine hours” is an ancient practice of prayer in which psalms, other scriptures, and written prayers are prayed according to a set schedule throughout the day at assigned times. It has been continually practiced by faithful Christians for thousands of years.

Reflection: Hours of Prayer
By John Tillman

I grew up in a faith tradition that eschewed “rote” prayer for “spontaneous” prayer. When I discovered the freedom, emotional connection, and expression that was possible in fixed-hour prayer, it was a revelation and a revolution in my spiritual practice. Ruth Haley Barton writes from similar experience in her essay, Sweet Hours of Prayer.

“I was convinced that spontaneous prayers were the only real prayers because they came from the heart; only people who were not very spiritual and did not have much to say to God needed to rely on prayers that were written by someone else!”

In so-called “spontaneous” prayer times of my youth, our leaders and I often fell back on familiar patterns and idiosyncrasies. We knew that deacon so-and-so was going to incessantly repeat, “DearLard,” in a pattern so familiar when it was our turn to pray we inadvertently mimicked him. These repetitions became just as “rote” as reading prayers thousands of years old but less polished and beautiful.

Of course, every prayer, well worded or not, is beautiful and may be heard with joy by our Father, but Barton continues:

“No matter how alone we might feel on any given day, fixed-hour prayer gives all of us a way to pray with the Church even when we are not in a church…This way of praying affirms that we are not alone, that we are part of a much larger reality—the communion of saints that came before us, those who are alive on the planet now, and all who will come after us. In a spiritual sense, praying with the Church through fixed-hour prayer expresses that deeper unity that transcends all our divisions—and that is no small thing.”

*Quotations from, Sweet Hours of Prayer by Ruth Haley Barton.

Another way to pray with us as a community is through our private Facebook group for subscribers to The Park Forum. Its primary purpose is for us to pray and connect as a community. Join us there if you have not yet and leave us a prayer request to pray for you.

You can also pray in community with us by following our prayer feed on the Echo prayer app.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord.—Isaiah 1:18

Today’s Readings
1 Chr 11-12 (Listen -11:59)
Hebrews 13  (Listen -3:31)

Thank You!
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Read more about Called to Prayer :: The Angelus
It is not the bell that unites them—it is the spiritual bond of prayer.

Read more about The Cultivating Life
Praying is like watering the soil of your heart so that it doesn’t become hard and dusty and so that the things God plants there can grow.