Christian worship is God’s service to us.
Yet, Christian worship is sacrificial, and sacrifice appears to be a human act reaching toward God. That’s certainly how Luther understood the sacrifice of the Mass.
How to resolve?
Teresa Okure, Professor of New Testament and Gender Hermeneutics (!) at the Catholic Institute of West Africa in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, suggests this solution:
She suggests that Hebrews indicates a profound reversal in the significant of sacrifice: “Sacrifice . . . is the means by which humans seek to make themselves sacred, to penetrate into the divine realm and community with God. It is essentially a human activity undertaken to appease God or create a bridge between humans and God. The higher the relationship or favor sought, the greater the victim offered in sacrifice. But sacrifice in Hebrews essentially reverses this process. In the sacrifice of Jesus, it is not human beings who seek to establish a communion relationship with God, but God, who in the person of ‘his Son’ valuates us very highly and seeks to establish this relationship with us. God works to make us sacred by offering the divine self and life for us. . . . to reveal how much God loves/values us, Jesus himself valued us at the price of his own life. . . . The incredible value which God places on us, the divine commitment to establish and sustain an unbreakable relationship with us, is the comprehensive or all embracing framework within which the author of Hebrews understands the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice and shares it with his readers.”
Making allowance for that, Okure’s argument is plausible, and helps address the liturgical question of how to connect OT sacrifice with the Triune God’s new covenant service to His people.
There are some problems here. Her argument assumes that OT sacrifice was a “human effort to reach God,” but in fact it was a revealed system of approach. Perhaps the better way to state the argument is that the Bible as a whole reverses ancient notions of sacrifice – sacrifice in the Bible was always about God’s approach to us, which enables us to approach Him.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 6:16 pm
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