New Church Life NCL May/June 2018 - Page 29

Four Sacrifices, Four Prayers A Sermon by the Rev. Scott I. Frazier Lessons: Leviticus 1-6 (portions); True Christian Religion 670 “It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.” W e are encouraged to pray to the Lord and communicate with Him. We know that He neither needs our prayers nor is ignorant of our lives, but we pray to Him as one of our efforts to conjoin to Him. While we now have only two sacraments – holy supper and baptism – the Israelites had many different complicated rituals of sacrifice with which to communicate with the Lord. These rituals were central to their religious identity and the Old Testament is full of warnings and encouragements to attend to the sacrifices in the correct ways. We are not supposed to follow these practices literally, but the instructions for the sacrifices have a Divine internal sense, even if we now find the details of their practices disturbing or confusing. By looking at the four basic kinds of sacrifice that formed the core of the Israelites’ religious life, perhaps we can find insights and directions to aid us in our religious lives as we pray daily to the Lord, as well as approach the sacraments. We find odd, specific instructions for sacrifice: particular animals were prescribed for particular situations; the Israelites were never to eat the fat or blood of the sacrifices; they were not to add yeast or honey to some sacrifices, but salt was to be added to every sacrifice; they were to lay their hands on the sacrificial animal and then burn the animal, sometimes entirely, sometimes only particular parts of the animals; the priest would sometimes get a portion of the animal in payment, but only according to specific practices. Keeping track just of the physical details can be overwhelming, and studying the internal sense of these rituals is the work of a lifetime. We can still learn a great deal about talking to the Lord from sacrifice. Just as we have different spiritual states that prompt us to bring different thoughts before the Lord, the Israelites were given different rituals of sacrifice for different situations. The beginning chapters of Leviticus describe four main rituals of sacrifice around which all other rituals were formed. We can call these: whole burnt offering, sin offering, guilt offering, and freewill offering. 205