Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:Sacrifice is one of those divisive terms in the Scripture, upon which edifices of theology have been erected, building up, and demolishing, elaborate and at times oppressive doctrines of atonement and satisfaction. But actually it is quite simple, as Jesus' own life demonstrates. Sacrifice is to do the will of God, and all other sacrifice takes place within that overarching purpose; and it is so in our own lives as we go on seeking to become more like our saviour.
"Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Then I said, 'Here I am - it is written about me in the scroll -
I have come to do your will, my God.'"
All that we are to become reflects Jesus' own choices at every turn, finally shown in the olive grove at Gethsemane when he prayed, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done." (Luke 22.42) It is this sacrifice which is present again with us in every Eucharist; but it is the choice that is ours in each of our own lives.
This sacrifice of choice, if I may be forgiven for using the phrase, lies at the heart of our following Christ, but it is not necessarily and in every case a choice, like Jesus', for personal pain and deprivation - inevitable though that may be somewhere along the line. It may in any particular case be a choice for something we want to do. A priest who wants to serve a country parish may in fact be called so to serve; just because she does not want to be a missionary in some far-off place that does not mean that that is necessarily God's will. I think our choosing God's will is likely to be found in much smaller choices than this: the discernment is likely to emerge unsought, almost, from the concatenation of little choices, each one quite simple - if not necessarily easy! - in itself.
The pattern of love is to move towards trust. This is what lies at the heart of all our following - as Jesus was prepared in his love for his Father to move towards trust even at the cost of his life, so each of us moves towards him in trust; and so the Kingdom is built out of our small acts of trust and love, one by one; imperceptibly, often, but inevitably (Hebrews 12.28).