Gather to me my faithful ones,

   who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.

Psalm 50: 5

When Asaph set down this psalm, what he was discussing by way of sacrifice would have seemed clear. There were sacrifices that all righteous people were required to make, and they were done in a specified manner at certain designated times. Yet, even that formal or ritualistic idea of sacrifice would have been limiting and so only partially true for what the priest had in mind here. It is the general idea of sacrifice that is on display in this verse rather than the specifically assigned obligations that came due as a part of the calendar of events or occasions. This matters for us as due to Christ’s sacrifice we are no longer required to make the ritualistic sacrifices, but God calls us to follow Christ into the sacrifice of all in order to fully serve Him and to follow His will in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to all of the world.

The act of gathering before Christ leads to sacrifice. This act requires those who seek to do it to change direction in life and to set out on a new course that has its navigation oriented upon the cross and its objective established as eternity. This new heading may take its followers into dangerous waters and along the edges of deep and precarious precipices. It might cause us to travel far from the company of loved ones and outside of the comfort of familiar places and their customs. This journey might also be one in which relationships define risk and wherein entering into closely connected and caring interaction with strange or with difficult people is exactly what Christ is asking us to do. There is enormous variety in the places that He might send us and in the tasks in which the Lord might ask His people to engage, but their commonality will be found in the need to make personal sacrifice in order to follow Christ’s will.

However, we are not alone in this process as we are never asked to do something without the care and the support of the Spirit and by extension of His holy body, the church. Sacrifice is a personal decision and an individual act of faith in Christ, but it is generally carried out in the company of other followers of Christ, and so it is also supported and encouraged by those people through tangible support, words of truth and encouragement, and in prayer. It is in this way that the modern practice of sacrifice is most like that of the ancient world. In those times, sacrifices were made by individuals in the public setting of the temple. Now, we follow Christ and exercise faith in Him by means of living in a manner that leads to sacrificially giving up of ourselves in service to Christ and to His gospel; yet, we do this in the context of fellowship with others who follow Christ, and it is always best for us to make sacrificial decisions in relationship with that faith community. In serving God today, sacrifice is no longer an event, it is now a way of entering into the new life that comes to us in and through Christ.