Give me that Old Time Religion....
...is it good enough for you?
"Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting. Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull. Then you shall kill the bull before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and shall take part of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and the rest of the blood you shall pour out at the base of the altar. And you shall take all the fat that covers the entrails, and the long lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys with the fat that is on them, and burn them on the altar. But the flesh of the bull and its skin and its dung you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering. "Then you shall take one of the rams, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram, and you shall kill the ram and shall take its blood and throw it against the sides of the altar. Then you shall cut the ram into pieces, and wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and its head, and burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD. It is a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD. "You shall take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram, and you shall kill the ram and take part of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tips of the right ears of his sons, and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the great toes of their right feet, and throw the rest of the blood against the sides of the altar. Then you shall take part of the blood that is on the altar, and of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments, and on his sons and his sons' garments with him. He and his garments shall be holy, and his sons and his sons' garments with him. (Exodus 29: 10-21 ESV)
Eew! When is that last time you heard that Scripture quoted from the pulpit! We came across that passage as part of our daily Bible reading, and it brought to mind how sanitized we have made our society and our church.
We live in a day when you food comes to us sanitary, shrink wrapped and prepackaged. No one wants to know where it comes from or how it got in the meat case. The old quote, attributed to Otto von Bismarck, holds true: If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made. The manliest barbeque warrior would probably pass out after five minutes in a slaughterhouse. But that chicken, beef and pork doesn't magically appear on a foam tray covered with plastic wrap, it once was clucking, mooing or oinking.
First sign of a sniffle and we truck the kids off to the doctor, and it seems no matter how minor the illness, the kid is getting a prescription. So much for chicken soup and rest. Every illness requires an antibiotic, everyone slathers themselves with hand sanitizer in a quest to ensure every germ is avoided. If you could sell a hermetically sealed body suit, people would snap them up to ensure that little Johnny and Susie would never have a fever or runny nose.
His church is no different. Everything is neat and tidy, everyone is nice. In place of anguished David and humbled Paul, we have Larry the Tomato. You are nice, God is nice, let's all be nice to each other. We follow a carefully crafted pattern, even those of us who pride ourselves on not being liturgical (try rearranging the order of service in a Baptist church and see how non-Liturgical we are!). We wear our nicest clothes, we are on our best behavior, we dutifully file in and file out. Christianity is safe and sanitary in America.
We read the passages (if we read them at all) about animal sacrifice and think: well that was Old Testament, and yeah it seems barbaric now but we have Jesus and all of that old, gross stuff has gone away. But the truth of the genesis of our faith tells a different tale. Ours is a faith that had it's birth on a cross, in the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ. Nails through His hands, the marks from the scourge on His back and the wound from the soldiers spear in His side. Before there could be an empty tomb and the joyous declaration "He is not here, He is risen!", there had to be a death and it was not a clean, dignified death. He chose to come when society was at it's most barbaric, when His covenant nation had fallen away and at that moment in history He came, born in the humblest of circumstances, living a poor life and dying a criminals horrible death. But He did it all, He suffered it all for the sake of His sheep. That is love, that is grace, that He suffered a penalty He didn't deserve to spare those who so richly deserved that fate. It was not His crime that was being punished on the cross, it was the sin and disobedience of every Christian, it was because of our sin that God poured His wrath upon His Son and it was His sacrifice that paid the price, His blood that redeemed us, His suffering that brought us joy.
I certainly don't want to go back to the days of animal sacrifice and rivers of blood. Church attendance would certainly go way down if we did! But we sometimes need to be shaken, yanked out of our comfort zone. When we hear Paul speak of knowing nothing but Christ and Him crucified, it is not a hyopthetical but a real person on a real cross bleeding real blood. May we remember that the sanitized, safe services we enjoy commemorate a very dirty, bloody sacrifice. But from that dark day of blood sprang forth a new day of light, when never again would the blood of an animal need to be shed. He has done it all, once and completely.