Altars and Office Tables…

I am often frustrated with “traditional teachings” within the church. It seems as though many churches regurgitate the same rituals and themes year after year without thinking about them on a deeper level or considering what the passages or rituals may mean for them personally. The ideas are accepted without question. However, that is not me. I personally do not gain a lot spiritually from ritual, but I am fascinated with them from an academic perspective. Over the years, I have learned to question everything and ironically enough, when I began to question everything, I began to grow spiritually. I came to new ideas and my faith became my own. Often the process of questioning things, while painful, can bring us to a deeper understanding of a thing or idea. My thoughts today offer a deeper look into our own daily sacrifices and the altars of our hearts. In my office, I have an old altar table. It is kind of in the way and takes up a fair amount of real estate in my tiny office. I somehow inherited it when I came to work at the hospital and it has turned into a permanent fixture in my office. Inscribed on the altar table are the words : “In Remembrance Of Me.” Generally in a church service that offers communion, you hear those very words out of the 22nd chapter of Luke during the sacrament or ritual of communion. The idea of course is to be reminded of the sacrifice of Jesus embodied in the bread and the wine symbolizing the broken body and the blood shed in his death. Like many others, I have always just kind of accepted that meaning and went on. However, today, I was sitting in my office having a moment of meditation when that altar table caught my eye. As I sat there contemplating those inscribed words, I began to truly ponder their meaning. I noticed my papers and work related items resting upon that altar and initially, I almost felt bad about using the altar table for such a mundane task. However, the more I thought about it, the more appropriate it seemed. An altar is a place where sacrifices to God are placed. The further I went into the line of thought, the more I began to consider my work as “an offering” to God. So, it was absolutely appropriate to have my work papers placed upon the altar table. After all, my work is done “in remembrance of him.” We all have something that we have to offer. We all have gifts and abilities that were either given to us naturally or cultivated over years of practice and experience. I once heard someone say that “who we are is God’s gift to us, but who we become is our gift to God.” This beautifully illustrates how we use our talents in service to God and others. When we do this, we lay our talents upon the altar. To take the passage of Luke out of the context of the rest of Jesus’ life does not do justice to the passage. Jesus’ entire life and ministry was in service to God and others. In numerous places in the New Testament it is written to love your neighbor as yourself and that the there is no greater love for another person than to be willing to lay down your life or endure sacrifice to help them. The spirit of the entire New Testament and of Jesus’ teachings is love and only from that theme of love can we truly understand the meaning of “This do in remembrance of me.” Life is more than ritual. It requires us to act and to react. It requires us to make decisions, and we have a choice about those decisions. We can allow our decisions and reactions in life to be ego driven and hedonistic in nature or we can take the road of humility and realize that all that we have is a gift from God. If we choose the latter, we truly have something to lay upon the altar of our hearts in service to God and others. For it is only in the dropping of the ego that we can truly do things in remembrance of the teachings and the life Jesus. Take a moment to reflect on your life, your talents, and your gifts. How can you place those on the altar of your heart in service to God and others? Every talent, no matter how small, used in service to God has value, worth, and the potential to change the world. What are your talents and how are you using them? What is on your altar?-

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