In today’s vernacular, we refer to a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others as a scapegoat. The term originates from Holy Scripture and is one of many references to atonement theology. The holiest day of Judaism, Yom Kippur, is a day to atone for your sins and repent. Included in the Yom Kippur rituals noted in the Torah, specifically Leviticus 16:21-22, a pair of kid goats are deemed to carry the sins of the people, with one being sacrificed to God and the other released into the wilderness to cast out the community’s sins. The released goat eventually became known as the scapegoat.
The other goat loses its life as a sacrifice to God. Sacrifices were acts performed in the earliest known forms of worship in all parts of the world. The religious purpose was to present an object as an offer to a deity to establish, maintain, or restore a right relationship of a human being to the religious order.
In antiquity, sacrifices were not limited to animals; human sacrifice was practiced in many primitive societies. While today we may find such action horrific, earlier civilizations deemed the act as an ultimate pledge of allegiance to the gods.
Today, we generally talk about sacrifices as suffering a loss of some kind, such as giving up one’s time, energy, or possessions for the benefit of others rather than giving up a life. The upcoming Independence Day celebration will render images of the sacrifices made by our forefathers to establish our nation. But the observance highlights the dawn of the Revolutionary War, where many patriots sacrificed their lives for liberty and justice for all. We remember these sacrifices.
As Christians, we celebrate the greatest sacrifice ever – Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior each Sunday. This Sunday, July 2, we will also observe an “almost” sacrifice. Our Old Testament lesson, Genesis 22:1-14, shares God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Can you sacrifice some time this Sunday for worship at 8:00 AM (spoken liturgy) or 10:15 AM (traditional liturgy)?