Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me… and so I said, 'See, God, I have come to do your will. - Hebrews 10:5-7
Those who follow the increasingly popular “prosperity gospel” want to believe that the more they give to their church, the more God will give them. Prosperity gospel preachers tell their followers that God not only wants to rid them of their sin, but also all illness, suffering and poverty, and all it takes is giving more to the church to get it. It reminds me of the system of indulgences in the middle ages. You’d pay the church in order to receive salvation in the afterlife for yourself or a loved one. A transactional view of sacrifice and offering like this turns God into some kind of deal maker who’s willing to bargain to remove our suffering if we’re just faithful enough.
But the author of Hebrews, referencing Psalm 40, turns that idea on its head. In it, the psalmist declares that God doesn’t want that kind of sacrifice or offering. Instead, God has given us life in an earthly body, and what we are called to do is not sacrificing a certain fatted calf or dove or offering an indulgence as a payment for more abundant life. Rather, what is asked of us is to listen, to follow, to do God’s will with these hands, feet, minds, voices and hearts we’ve been given. To let God live in and through us as we live our lives.
This Sunday we’ll hear the beautiful Magnificat - the Song of Mary - in which Mary proclaims how God has turned the world upside down for her. Those who she thought were rich and had it made find themselves out in the cold, while she, who is poor, has been filled with good things. Mary’s interaction with God was not transactional. She opened her soul to being the bearer of God’s love into this world. She said yes out of love for God. We look to Mary as the shining example of our faith because of her love filled and trusting yes.
How will we receive God’s word into our God-given bodies this Advent? How will we say yes to God?