Little Altars Everywhere
Encounter: Before entering into this time of reflection, take time to create a space that helps you feel close to who you know God to be. Maybe place art, a favorite chair, a candle, a cross, soft music playing, in front of a window where you can meditate on God's creation. Repeat the words "I will draw near to God and God will draw near to me." Now slowly repeat out loud the words of Psalm 84 in the New Living Translation. Underline or journal any word or phrases that seem to stand out from the others. Read through 2 more times, pausing between readings asking God to see and to hear his voice.
Jack and I found one of our favorite hiking spots while living in Tucson, Arizona. We could jump in our car and be out of the hot, dry valley and in 30 minutes feel the coolness of the mountain breeze while walking along bubbling brooks. Mount Lemmon's peak, at 9,171 feet, is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains and is one of the Sky Islands in Coronado National Forest and our souls would find refreshment every time we could wander in this special place.
The 5-mile Aspen Trail was our favorite because of the trees that towered over the dirt path up the incline to the pinnacle which would reward us with an amazing view of the expansive valley below. One of my favorite things about this challenging hike was the communal “altar” that was laid at the trailhead. On an old and rather large stump left by a downed tree years before, hikers would bring something to place on the moss covered weathered wood. There were heart shaped pottery pieces, uniquely shaped sticks, a bandana and a bracelet. There were stones with people’s names painted on them and words of perhaps something they were hoping to receive on their way up the mountain. There were little toys sacrificed from some child who was learning to lay something down to remember their time with their family in this special place and yes, there were crosses and saints and figurines of how this community “altar” had become a sacred part of someone’s life experience. The Aspen Trail had become a “thin place” for me and so many others..
Celtic Christianity has a term to refer to those moments when the separation between this world and heaven diminishes that we sense the presence of God. They call these moments “thin places.” In the history of God’s people, there were thin places created for God to meet with his people like the Temple and Tabernacle so that the invisible and the visible could touch. There is a long history of whenever people would have a unique experience with God coming near, they would build an altar in that place. Altars were also places of sacrifice. A place where God does what we cannot do. The last altar was the cross where Jesus gave his life as the ultimate sacrifice to restore what had been lost.
Isn’t that what we do whenever we place some rocks in a pile or create our own altar? We are seeking to be restored from what we lose in living in this incomplete world that many times feels like a dry and weary land where there is no water. And so we wander to find places and spaces of living water that restore our souls, where we can hope to experience a thin place. A place to thank God for His sacrifice and continue on this journey with His blessing.
This week, we are reminding ourselves to be curators of spaces where our sense of the “sacred” is heightened. Maybe it is nature or a sanctuary with stained glass or a body of water or a corner in a room you make your own with an altar made up of things that remind you of the eternal and the now coming together. A place to gain strength and meet with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Making "little altars everywhere" (or anywhere) can allow our environments to help us, providing important symbols and surroundings for wellbeing.
This Sunday we are going to create a community altar up front in the sanctuary. We are inviting everyone to bring something that reminds you of God's love for you, how you think of your relationship with God right now or something you would like to lay down or sacrifice at the altar. As we do this we will witness how it can bring unity and focus to our lives in community as God encourages us to give our lives because of all he has done for us and let us be a living and holy sacrifice—This is truly the way to worship him. What will you bring to the altar?
Curator of Sacred Spaces,
Reflect: Are there places in your home, a local retreat center or sanctuary or a place in nature where you can visit regularly to meet with God and find refreshing for your soul? Write down a plan to find space for these times.
Encourage: What symbols or surroundings would be encouraging to your spiritual growth and journey? Journal your thoughts and make a plan to create and/or visit on a regular basis. If you need help with this, reach out to Pastor Tammy or Matt for suggestions and/or consider an EPIC coaching session to encourage your finding “little altars everywhere.”
Gather: Creating “little altars everywhere” is also a community space that brings unity and focus around the ideals of life with God in our everyday lives. In your small group think about the ways you can create altars together. This Sunday, bring something that reminds you of where you are in your journey with God right now or what you would like experience and put on the altar up front in our sanctuary.