PART 2: PERSONAL GROWTH LESSONS IN THE STORIES OF THE BIBLICAL PATRIARCHS

Presented 13 April 2016 at the 104 Open Learning Community

 

Say the following words a few times in your mind or aloud.  Roll them over in a discerning way.

SUFFERING            SACRIFICE              SACRAMENTS             SACRED

How did you feel about them before and now that you have heard Margo’s interpretation of the Hebrew Bible and Rabbinic discourses?

How does your inner being respond to these words? Can you differentiate various emotional responses you have? Next, think of your FOO and how they interpreted these words. How have these words played out in your FOO and to what degree are you a bearer of these family legacies?

 

SACRIFICE AND SUFFERING

Historically sacrifice was and is done throughout the world to alleviate suffering.

 

In tribal magical times (Spiral Dynamics Purple) people didn’t understand where illness came from or how weather systems occur and so, when confronted with natural disasters and sickness, the thought is “we must have done something to offend the gods; we need to do a sacrifice to appease the gods and to be put right with them.

 

Today we still have the need to put ourselves right with God and with each other, especially when we feel that we done wrong; when our conscience tells / nags us to put things right. Then sacrifice becomes an outward demonstrate of an inner regret. Think lent, Passover, Ramadan. You give up something that is significant to you and with that you also do something for the greater good; you play it forward e.g. donate the money you would have spent on meat, etc.

 

Even in the Animal Kingdom there are stories of sacrifice. Wendy tells me about recent scientific discovery that blood sucking bats will regurgitate some blood for those bats that did not manage to feed in a night. The bats not willing to do so are ostracised in that they are not mated with and thus ensuring their genes are not continued.

 

It seems the human psyche is hard wired for sacrifice; the practice is deeply embedded in all cultures but it is a double-edged sword! We can get it totally wrong especially when it comes to human sacrifice. Think Boko Haram using young girls on suicide missions in markets. Think the Mayans and even worst, the Aztecs who ripped hundreds of thousands of beating hearts out in sacrificial ceremonies; some Polynesians tribes still practice human sacrifice today. Is sending soldiers to war not also a form of sacrifice?

 

The big question concerning Abraham sacrificing Isaac is: Was it at YHWH’s behest or in YHWH’s name?

In ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt and surrounds, as in many households to this day, each household had its idols and altars. When human sacrifice became an in thing in Canaan, could it be that Abraham became so influenced that he too thought he needed to offer to God what was most precious to him? He thought this is what God demanded and God ‘corrected’ him by giving him an alternative. This explanation would be far more acceptable to me than the notion of a God demanding a human sacrifice to test Abraham’s faith. To my mind it is as though Abraham was actually testing himself on the principle of God first in all things. When up on Moriah (a place of higher consciousness where you have a vision of God) he realized this kind of sacrifice is not needed.

 

This brings us to Jesus and his crucifixion. Is it indeed so that our Loving Father demanded JC be sacrificed as an atonement of our sins?  Although Deuteronomy, Leviticus and other ancient documents suggest child sacrifice continued in ancient Israel for a few more hundred years, all human sacrifice had been outlawed in the Near East by the CE.  Yet we believe that God asked for the sacrifice of his ‘only begotten son’. How does this find fit with you? Truth be told I never questioned this thinking until about 15 – 20 years ago. It is so ingrained in my culture and how I was raised that the thought did not even come up. When I began to examine my sense of guilt around Easter time and acknowledged my total discomfort whenever I see Jesus depicted on the cross, instead of gratitude I felt anger. My response: “I take full responsibility for my own sins.”  I wondered if this was just me as I get to SD Green? I began speaking to others. It is especially the modern upcoming generations (the green 20 and 30 somethings), not keen on emotional blackmail, who disconnect with traditional Christianity right here. This is the point at which they walk away.

 

Is there another way to understand Jesus’ crucifixion? I think….

             In the mind of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Romans & Pontius Pilot Jesus’ crucifixion is punishment. In the mind of his disciples, Mary, Mary Magdalene and many others down the ages, his crucifixion was a sacrifice (some say organized by God).

 

             I believe it was self-sacrifice. Jesus knew exactly what he was doing and he was totally at peace with it, even if it was hard. He was prepared to compromise what he had been teaching or the recant his claims. He was totally focused on God and his allegiance to Truth is unquestionable.

 

             Furthermore, being a fully realized Divine being who had performed many miracles, Jesus could have got down from the cross but he chooses to completely take on the human condition, man’s suffering, and sacrifice himself.

 

Then something amazing happens. On the third day Jesus rises from the dead. Without his crucifixion, there would be no resurrection and ascension; there would be no assurance of an afterlife. Jesus proves God’s power of physical death.

             One wonders if Jesus and his teachings would be remembered, if he had not chosen this route.

 

Both Jesus and Abraham demonstrate FREE WILL. They choose to go up a mountain (Moriah and Calgary) and to stay tuned to TRUTH; to obey their inner voice, Inner Knowing, HS.

 

Jesus and Abraham represent the archetype of PERFECTION. Sacrifice is a process of PURITICATION that takes us to wholeness. We become SACRED. We are all also en route to the Perfection.

 

SACRAMENTS TOWARD THE SACRED

In the Second Temple period, Jews were so taken up with rituals in the temple, especially the sacrificing of animals that an entire industry had sprung up around it with some of the meat given to the poor and even more sold. There must have been the realization in some along the following line: “This is not working; the temple is becoming a political, religious and economic festering sore!”

Let me rephrase that: there was a slow dawning in human consciousness that all this animal sacrificing was not needed and it is locking the people into Jerusalem. After the destruction of the Second Temple animal sacrifice was no longer done and that class of high priest fell away. 

We do not have to go to temples and alters to make physical sacrifices but, the holy mystery of the SACRAMENTS (communion and penitence) offers us a way to re-establish ourselves in a right relationship with God. These rites - outward signs of inward grace – can be solemn oaths to uphold Truth and to practice Right Thought and Right Action as we journey in consciousness. Holy Communion can be thought of as a metaphysical repeat of the sacrifice Jesus made and the upliftment that comes with it. Penitence, or more simply put, forgiveness is another deeply felt human need. There are a host of ways forgiveness may be obtained, the point here being that it is a practice central to our evolution in consciousness.

                       

CLOSING REMARKS ON SACRIFICE

Sacrifice should always be personal. You have no right to sacrifice another person to obtain personal righteousness i.e. for personal gain. In fact, this leads to bad karma and mental illness.

 

Sacrifice teaches non-attachment. We become less beholden unto the world and more Christ conscious. Our focus shifts. We can let go and let God.

 

Sacrifice is a common theme throughout the ages. Think of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk who set himself alight to protest the Vietnam war, the hunger strikes of Gandhi and many others, Mandela not willing to renounce his allegiances in exchange for his freedom, Mandela supporting SA rugby for the sake of nation building knowing it would make him extremely unpopular with his comrades, Galileo’s house arrest because of his unwillingness to recant his scientific discovery, and many more… the list is very long. Now think of your forefathers; what sacrifices were made in your family of origin? How has this legacy panned out? What is it that you sacrifice regularly or as a once-off?

 

Remember that sacrifice can relieve or add to personal and collective suffering. When our motives and intentions are right, sacrifice can be done lovingly and joyously.

 

The biggest and best sacrifice we can make is to sacrifice our ego’s; to say “Thy will and not my will”; to align with our Highest Self.

 

Jean Mathews Wildervanck

 

Recommended reading: 

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/2010/01/child-sacrifice-a-traditional-religious-practice-in-ancient-israel/