Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me save that thou art
Thou my best thought by day or by night
Waking or sleeping thy presence my light (Ancient Irish Hymn)
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and make good your vows to the Most High. (Psalm 50:14; context)
There are fourteen verses written on my old guitar case, which means we have five to go. Today’s verse is one of the verses that we use in the Episcopal Church for something called the “Offertory Sentence” (which is what we read right before bringing up the bread and the wine to be blessed). One day during college, I finally heard this verse in the midst of its natural habitat – the rest of Psalm 50 – and hearing it there completely changed my understanding of it.
Psalm 50 is about God indicting the people of Israel for simply going through the motions of worship and the practice of the law, but not letting those motions and practices invade their hearts and change them into better followers of God. By the last third of the psalm, God gives evidence of all the ways the people have strayed, which proves how empty their animal sacrifices have been.
I don’t want those animal sacrifices, God says. I don’t need to be fed. Those animals are mine anyway. What I want is the sacrifice of your thanksgiving. These are the key words of the psalm. At first glance, they don’t make much sense really. How is giving thanks a sacrifice? Or perhaps a better question is this: what are we sacrificing when we give thanks? I’m glad you asked!
Every time we thank God for something – an ability, an event, another person, ourselves – we are acknowledging that God is the shaper of that gift. God is the force behind and beneath and within that gift. This acknowledgement is the first step in removing from ourselves the delusion that we are somehow responsible for our own gifts and relocating them to their proper source, which is God. So, in the end, we are sacrificing our pride, which is the presumption that our gifts and abilities come from ourselves rather than God.
When all is said and done, the act of giving thanks is part of the practice of humility. And humility involves the sacrifice of all the delusions and presumptions that stoke our self-importance, our vanity, and our pride. When we give thanks, we properly attribute our giftedness to God’s movement, and then we find that movement swelling up from deep within us, propelling us to serve.
Dear God, you invite me to locate my gifts in you. Help me to let go of my pride and find your presence within me that animates all my gifts. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
I leave this moment with you, God, but I take with me your word, which settles deep in my soul and speaks life into my being.