Saturday, March 17, 2012

Supreme Sacrifice Day? Really??

Supreme Sacrifice Day?  Really??

At the start of March I received an email that had a calendar attached to it.  The email was related to cultural diversity and the calendar had listings of various “holidays,” noting something particular and unique for each day of the month.  Some days even had two events for that day.

The calendar had some things that might have been expected, such as the Jewish festival of Purim, on the 8th, Girl Scout Day, on the 12th, the date of their 100th birthday, and of course, St. Patrick’s Day on the 17th.

There were also much lesser known, to me, days, such as Multiple Personality Day on the 5th and Something on a Stick day on the 28th.  Minnesotans know that any day commemorating food on a stick should only fall during the state fair.

Now normally I wouldn’t even open something like this cultural holiday calendar but I believe that doing so on this occasion was an example of God’s hand at work in my life, and I pray that what the thoughts I write in the remainder of this blog are pleasing in his sight and bring glory to his name.

As I looked over the calendar March18th jumped out at me, for it was labeled Supreme Sacrifice Day.  A label like that is something that captures this particular Christian’s attention.  So I clicked on the link and read these words:
“Supreme Sacrifice Day recognizes the ultimate sacrifice made by some for the good of others. History is filled with examples of people who offered the supreme sacrifice for other people.
We offer these examples:
  • Jesus Christ gave the supreme sacrifice when he died on the cross for us.
  • Soldiers in battle gave their lives to protect our freedom, our way of life, and to keep us safe.
  • Fireman and police officers have given their lives in the line of duty, while saving and/or protecting people.
  • More often than you think, a young man or a young women caught up in a love triangle, gave up the chase for the sake of their loved one.
  • The list goes on and on and on.
Today is a day to reflect and offer thanks and appreciation to those who made the supreme sacrifice for us.”
And my response on reading that began, “Supreme Sacrifice Day? Really??”

Prior to opening this calendar I had never heard of Supreme Sacrifice Day, so I did a little bit of looking online.  And I didn’t learn much.

Virtually every entry I found for this Day had the exact information I cited in italics above, word-for-word.  When I looked more specifically to learn its origins, I came up empty.  So we have a specially designated day which “exists,” although with absolutely no information on whom created it or how it came to be.  And while it may be a ‘Day’ it is such a minor one in the pantheon of holidays that not even Hallmark has a card for it.

In the description for Supreme Sacrifice Day we are given a general definition followed by several examples, all of which, to my eye, are portrayed as relatively equal. 

I will agree that what I would classify as the supreme sacrifice is basically as stated, i.e. “the ultimate sacrifice made by some for the good of others.”  To be more specific I believe that the “supreme sacrifice” one can make for another is the giving of one’s life.  There is nothing else that a person could possess that would even come close in value to surrender for someone else than their life.

Many of us can think of examples where we might consider such an act.  As a parent I would throw myself in front of a car to save my child.  As a husband I would donate the last drop of my blood to save my wife. 

I agree that the examples above of someone in the military, law enforcement or fire-fighting giving of their life for someone else, someone whom they don’t even know, is an unparalleled sacrifice.  While my military service was in peacetime and I did not have to wrestle personally with that possibility, my son served one tour in Iraq with a Marine battalion.  As I prayed during the time he was overseas I recalled reading from the Marine magazine, Leatherneck, when my cousin was a Marine, which had an entire section in each issue devoted to telling the stories of Marines in Viet Nam making the supreme sacrifice for their fellow Marines.

To give one’s life for another is truly the greatest thing a person can surrender, and I think the examples I’ve outlined above demonstrate that.  In John 15:13 Jesus says,

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Jesus speaks these words in his final teaching with his disciples before his arrest.  And while he teaches them something important about devotion and self-sacrifice he also points our vision towards himself and the unfolding of the final day of his life.

We can talk about the “supreme sacrifice” but I believe that in all of history there is only one “Supreme Sacrifice,” the act of Jesus giving up his life on the cross, a sacrificial act of love for his people.

In John 10 Jesus uses the metaphor of the Good Shepherd to prepare his disciples for what was to come, saying in verses 11 – 18:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

The sacrifice of Jesus is unique in several respects, particularly in that it is a sacrifice that didn’t save a human life for a period of time, but in that through his sacrifice those human lives that are touched by it are touched eternally.  Though their human life will one day end they know in Jesus the promise of resurrection to an eternal life with God.

In a way, the folly of Supreme Sacrifice Day has the ability to open our eyes to something that is perfect and true, the unique and defining moment in history from Good Friday to Easter. 

Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, let go of his life so that those who call on his name in faith would know the resurrection with him to eternal life that Easter foreshadows.

Here is a link to a version of the hymn What Wondrous Love is This.  I invite you to listen to its testimony of God’s profound love and ponder in your heart how God might be calling you towards him.  May you know God’s deep and abiding love in your soul, now and forever.

My friend, Mike Manning, has also written about Supreme Sacrifice Day on his blog, to be posted on Monday, March 19th.  Click this link to read his perspective.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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