butchertown

Before moving to West Tennessee in January, Beth and I spent almost three years living in Louisville so that I could attend seminary at Southern Seminary.

For about a year and a half of that time we lived in Old Louisville, which meant that virtually every weekday I would drive north on I-65 and then cut across to the west on I-64. The exit before I turned off of the highway to the seminary lead to a part of town known around Louisville as Butchertown.

The first stockyard and slaughterhouse in Butchertown was the Bourbon Stockyards.  Today, it is Silverman Foods that continues the long heritage of slaughterhouses pungently perfuming the Butchertown area.

Most consider the slaughterhouse to be a blight on the area.  The odor of slaughtered pigs fills the neighborhood most days of the week, blowing north across the interstate and leaving drivers lurching to roll their windows up or regretting their choice to leave the top down on their convertibles.

20081201-slaughterhouse

warning: if this photo is too graphic for you, I don't recommend reading the Bible - you probably won't be able to stomach some of the important parts.

I was a little different.  I am a little different.

When I would drive by Butchertown on my way to class, most days I would roll my window down to smell the horrible aroma.

In the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, God commanded his people, the Israelites, to build a house of worship so that he might dwell among his people.  Along with the command to build the Tabernacle and, eventually, the Temple, he commanded his people to come to him in worship bringing sacrifice.

These sacrifices would be slaughtered in the temple.  The throats of the animals would be cut, their blood spilled on the ground and sprinkled on the altar.  Certain parts of the animal would be cooked on the altar, producing a “pleasing aroma to the Lord” (See Leviticus 1:1-9).

As I write this blog entry, I am watching a program on the National Geographic Channel called “Taboo” – this episode is entitled “Spilling Blood.”

As the makers of this television series make very clear as they show footage of animals being slaughtered for worship of Hindu gods, for food, and even for sport, there is nothing pleasant about animals being sacrificed.  It is a bloody, revolting. disgusting, and vile thing – hard to watch, hard even to smell the aftermath as you drive by on the freeway.

How is it possible that this kind of sacrifice, this kind of odor, would be a “pleasing aroma to the Lord?”

Its the same reason I would roll my window down as I drove by Butchertown.  The smell is not pleasant in the way that perfume is pleasant.  The odor of blood is pleasant because it reminds us of the goodness of the sacrifice.

The smell of the blood, the image of the flawless animals being slaughtered, it is a reminder of how heinous and vile our sin truly is.  These images, these smells, these slaughters – they are the rightful consequence that we deserve for the way that we disdain and despise God by failing to worship and adore him as our Creator.

The odor of death reminds us that God has provided forgiveness for our sins.

The odor should ultimately point us to the horror of Christ’s death, to the incomprehensible reality that the pure, spotless, and holy Son of God, Jesus Christ would lay down his life as the sacrifice for our sins.

The odor of Christ’s substitutionary death, for the Christian, is a “pleasing aroma” just as the horrible news that the Son of God has been put to death, for the Christian, has become the Gospel – the Good News.

Thanks be to God who has provided us forgiveness and cleansing from our sin.  Praise the God who has risen from the dead to show that, through death Christ has brought life to all who believe.

———

Dialogue: So here is my question for you, Christian and non Christian alike.  How do we respond to ongoing blood sacrifices that continue today?  How do we explain why the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sin continues on?  Leave a comment and let’s talk it out.

Editorial Note: If some of you neatnicks out there had a snicker at a picture of a slaughtered pig near the section on Old Testament sacrifice, quit snickering.  I know pigs were an abomination and would never have been acceptible in sacrificial rights.  The picture connects to the slaughthouse in Butchertown.  (in fact, please refrain from snickering – ever – you will never get a girl if you are a known snickered)

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  1. December 2, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    I was asked in one of those sessions to determine fitness for ministry, “you’ve mentioned the blood of Christ several times. What do you say to those who are offended by the thought of a bloodthirsty God?” I was totally taken aback by the questioned and stumbled around a bit, and finally quoted Hebrews “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.”

    On hindsight, I wish I would have said, “you are right to be offended by the shedding of blood–it shows us how seriously God takes sin. But God isn’t bloodthirsty in that He delights in causing suffering, instead, in love He took the suffering on Himself on our behalf”

    I guess I’m not surprised that such sacrificial practices continue among those who do not know of Jesus’ sacrifice–perhaps it shows that deep down in human spirits the truth of God is known: “without the shedding of blood, their is no remission of sins.”

  2. December 3, 2008 at 1:39 am

    Okay, I’ll take a “stab” at it. Mama K did a great job of referring to Hebrews 9 insofar as the benefit of the “once for all’ quality of Christ’s sacrifice and importantly that blood was the requirement.

    As far as ongoing blood sacrifice…I suspect that this practice happens far more often in other cultures than we know, or would like to think, and I suppose that Mama K’s speculation on the deep seated belief that blood is required for the forgiveness of sins may very well be held even by people who do not worship the One True God. While those sacrifices are of absolutely no eternal value, they do at least stand as testament to the unbeliever’s understanding of the seriousness of sin and the cost of its “cure”, even if they have a misunderstanding of the price already paid.

    There are other blood sacrifices that are made, not to God, or gods, but rather as some act of the “worship” of evil. How should we respond to these forms of sacrifice? A first step would be to call it what it is…demonic.

  1. December 3, 2008 at 11:57 am
  2. December 3, 2008 at 5:10 pm

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