One of the most widely quoted truths of The Christian Faith was made by St. Augustine. He said, “Thou hast made us for ourselves and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” One of the most beloved pastors of Trinity, Sumter, Francis Cunningham, said it in a more contemporary way. His quote was that “there is a God-shaped hole in our hearts.”
The problem with contemporary society is that we try to fill that vacancy with things that please, but do not satisfy, little idols to pleasure which occupy so much of our time and thoughts but only serve to further alienate us from God. The history of Judea-Christian religion calls for sacrifice as a remedy. I remember, from my childhood, the minister presiding at Holy Communion and using words like “expiation” and “propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” I did not know what those words meant, as I do now. “Expiation” provides an offering as a means of making right some wrong, and “propitiation” is the payment offered to appease the deity against which the wrong is committed.
When I remember that The Apostle Paul wrote that “salvation is a gift of God, not of works lest any should boast,” and when I sing the favorite hymn lines,
“In my hand, no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.,”
I am comforted by the words in I John that tells me that Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.”
Knowing that, I am reminded that any sacrifice we accept during the Lenten season does not mean the purchase of forgiveness, but is rather is an expression of sorrow for our sins, and a way to approach God by expressing our faith in Him and seeking pardon.
PRAYER: Have mercy on us, merciful God, when we miss the meaning of our Lenten sacrifice. Enable us to concentrate on filling the “hole in our hearts” with Jesus. Amen
Rev. Dr. Regi Thackston, Pastor Emeritus, Trinity United Methodist Church