A Song of Sacrifice

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I rather like the Kyrie in the ELW’s Setting 10. That’s why I chose it. No other reason really. I’d like to think I’m neither drawn nor repulsed by sacrificial soteriology, although I’m coming to understand more and more how non-Christians cringe at the staggering number of songs we sing about blood — being cleansed in blood, being washed in blood, Jesus shedding blood — or our practice of drinking blood. Without context, it really does sound more like a Bram Stoker novel crossed with some of the more disturbing themes of H.G.Wells.

The Kyrie sings our plea of “washing away our sin”, but the stronger sacrificial theme begins to build in the Gloria: “Glory be to Christ forever, Lamb of God and Lord of love…on the cross you died to save us…”, or (if we’re so inclined) “‘Worthy the Lamb that died,’ they cry, ‘to be exalted thus!’…’Worthy the Lamb,’ our lips reply…”.

The culmination strikes a resounding chord during the Lamb of God (ironically so-called in all other nine settings where sacrificial soteriology isn’t as strong a theme): “O Lamb of God, you bear the sin of all the world away; you suffered death our lives to save: have mercy now we pray.”

Perhaps we needed a setting wholly devoted to declaring “once for all”; perhaps we needed to remind ourselves that, in the shedding of blood, there is life for us now; perhaps some of us needed a setting declaring that in our forms of oppression, God suffers with us.

Perhaps.

Perhaps it’s simply accepted tradition and we may have felt rather naked without it. Perhaps it’s both. Whatever the original purpose of the setting, my deeper inspection has brought me to a place where I’ve realized that, even if I don’t always like sacrificial soteriology, there is a voice within me that hopes that it might be true:

Once for all. Salvation and life.

  One thought on “A Song of Sacrifice

  1. Dr. Kayko
    September 17, 2017 at 11:04 pm

    Thank you for sharing, Erin. It is interesting to see how you, like many contemporary theologians, move from the sacrificial language to solidarity-in-sacrifice language. I wonder if this is necessary for us, now that we have moved beyond seeing punitive justice as effective…

    • September 18, 2017 at 1:39 am

      I could certainly agree with that. On an individual level, I have seen how the sacrificial model has done personal damage.

      No model for anything anywhere is or can be perfect. Yet when literal life and death are so fused to personal punishment, there will be damaging outcomes that easily overpower the healing outcomes.

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