Becoming a living sacrifice

Becoming a living sacrifice

A teacher remembers an encouraging message that helped guide her decision to continue studying for the ministry.

It’s a tedious job, but one I knew needed to be done. So I pulled out the drawer and started to weed through the many files I had collected through the years. It was quite the walk down memory lane. I discovered some old lesson plans from my student teaching days, a few pictures of former students, and my college papers.

The encouragement

There it was, the beautifully written article: “Me? A sacrifice?” by Richard Lauersdorf (see original article below). Oh, yes! I remember. I saved this article because it meant so much to me. I was immediately taken back to the younger me: the tender sophomore studying to be a teacher at Dr. Martin Luther College (DMLC) but struggling to find herself and her future.

The article was based on Romans 12:1, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” In response, Pastor Lauersdorf wrote, “What kind of sacrifice does God desire from us? . . . Everything I am and have is to be offered willingly to God. God wants me, period!” Those words spoke to me.

Next to that article was a letter. It was a copy of the one I had sent to Pastor Lauersdorf after I read the article in 1991. I had written to thank him for his article and to tell him how much it meant to me. I wrote, “I had been doubting whether or not to continue here at DMLC. I had prayed very hard for the Lord to lead and guide me. Through prayer and meditation and an article written by you in the Northwestern Lutheran, the Lord led me to stay at DMLC. The article really made me realize that this is exactly what I needed to do. I wanted to live my life fully and completely for the Lord and him alone.”

The ministry

I can honestly say that becoming a teacher has fulfilled all of my deepest desires. My first call was to teach first and second grades at St. Andrew in Chicago. It was there that I met the man I would marry, Gary. He was the principal at St. Andrew. I would never have met him if I had not become a teacher. God knew we were meant to find each other.

The Lord led Gary to serve at Riverview, Appleton, Wis., for 11 years where I had the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mother and teach music classes and piano lessons. After that, Gary took a call to St. Peter’s, Sturgeon Bay, Wis., to teach fifth and sixth grades. I was called to teach kindergarten in 2007. It is a blessing and privilege to teach together. We hold hands in morning meetings and encourage one another on a daily basis. I cannot thank God enough for allowing me to have a Christian partner in both marriage and ministry.

I absolutely adore being a teacher. It allows me to love the children every day. I find joy daily, whether it is giving underducks on the swings, leading junior choir, tying shoes, or developing young readers. I agree wholeheartedly with Mother Theresa who said, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

Teaching kindergarten keeps life and all of its challenges in perspective. I am humbled every day by the pure and beautiful faith of the precious children God has entrusted to me. Their beautiful witness strengthens my own faith.

I was recently humbled by the sweet faith of one of my students. We had just finished a scavenger hunt where we looked for pictures of Luther’s Seal throughout the church and school. One of my students was excited to share something else she saw. We walked together down the hall and came to a spot where four floor mats were in a pattern on the floor. “Look,” she said. “Do you see it? There, on the floor! It’s the cross of Jesus!” Indeed, there in the middle where the floor mats came together, was a cross. I can honestly say that I had walked past that spot countless times and never saw it. It took the faith of a child to point it out.

I am eternally grateful that the Holy Spirit led me to become a teacher. In response to all of God’s goodness I shout with the psalmist, “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart. I will tell of all your wonderful deeds” (9:1). My prayer is that the Lord will give me many more years in the full-time ministry to share the love of Jesus with precious little souls.

So, here I am, once again reading the beautiful article. It causes me to rededicate myself to Christ and his ministry. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will use this article to lead others to consider becoming living sacrifices and serve in the full-time ministry as well.

Author: Rebekah Thoma
Volume 108, Number 1
Issue: January 2021


 


“I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1).

Sacrifice. What a total word it is, leaving no room for “maybes” or “mights.” No leeway for “now you do” and “now you don’t.” Somehow half-way efforts and half-hearted attempts just don’t fit that word sacrifice.

Look at Calvary. That was no half-way sacrifice. That was God’s Son completely given by a God of total and complete love. Now our grateful response is to run in a similar vein.

What?

What kind of sacrifice does God desire from us? Paul’s answer almost takes our breath away. “Offer your bodies,” he says, “as living sacrifices . . . to God.” Of course, when he says “body,” he means me and all that I am. Everything I am and have is to be offered willingly to God. God wants me, period!

Me? A sacrifice? Is that how it went this past year? Was it really, “Take myself and I will be, ever, only, all for thee?” Did I tell him, “Take my moments and my days,” but then came a few snowflakes, a little rainfall, a late Saturday evening, a summer vacation, and I had trouble finding 60 minutes of worship time for him? Did I sing, “Take my will and make it thine,” but then that pet sin worked its way into the fabric of my daily life and it became, “Keep your fingers off, Lord. There your will and mine part company”? Did I vow, “Take my hands, my feet, my voice, my lips,” but then sidestepped with, “Lord, you know I’ve done my share and how busy I am. Besides, why don’t the others do something more”? And we haven’t even said a word about “my silver” and “my gold.”

Me? A sacrifice? You must be mistaken, Lord. That’s not quite what I see when I look back at my life last year in closer detail. Maybe a bit here and a bob there. A short burst here and a slow crawl there. But me, totally, all the time? Lord, is that really what you wanted?

Why?

That’s the main question, isn’t it? If we are convinced about the “why,” then the “what” will follow. Why should I serve my church and spend all that time when so many seem to do so little? Why should I think about preparing for the teaching or preaching ministry when so many other careers seem to demand so much less of me and offer so much more for me? Why should I save myself for my marriage partner when all around me others are moving from partner to partner and seemingly with so much pleasure? Why should I show concern for my family, my church, my country, my world, when others laugh at what it seems to cost? Why should I be concerned about what God wants when it’s much easier and pleasing, at least so it seems, to do what I want? In short, why should I offer myself as a living sacrifice to God?

Nobody can force us into offering ourselves more fully to God. There’s only one force that can make us want to be living sacrifices for our God. “In view of God’s mercy,” Paul says. With that phrase he takes us right to the foot of the cross.

For me God’s Son felt the rough wood of the Bethlehem crib and the even rougher wood of the Calvary cross. For me he was wrapped in swaddling clothes and weighed down with sin’s sordid load. For me he sweat drops of blood in Gethsemane’s dust and sighed life’s last breath in Golgotha’s darkness. For me he paid sin’s debt in full, pushed open heaven’s door, prepared an eternity filled with joy. For me! All this for me!

Now what will my response this year be “in view of God’s mercy”? God help it be, “Me! A sacrifice!”

Author: Richard E. Lauersdorf
Volume 108, Number 1
Issue: January 2021

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