One warm and sunny August day, I sat by the lake and talked with one of my dearest friends. The conversation progressed to altars. She had heard a man with a prophetic gift talk of having the word altar embedded in his thoughts. He was seeking God to know the know the meaning. Shortly after that day, I learned that my husband has lymphoma. I have continued to ponder altars during these months of helping him cope with his illness and treatment.
In the Old Testament we learn of Moses who was instructed by God to build a tabernacle for the children of Israel. We learn that God met with his people in that dwelling place. We read that inside the tabernacle was an altar on which sacrifices were offered to cover the sins of the people. In the New Testament we learn of Jesus who came to be the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. We learn that that those who trust in his sacrifice for them become tabernacles for the dwelling of his Spirit.
I am a tabernacle, and my heart is an altar. My passion, my love for Jesus is the fire that burns on my altar. Paul exhorts us in Romans 12 to be living sacrifices. He tells us that this is our only reasonable worship. I am called to worship the One who gave his life for me by the sacrifice of myself. In the flames of my love for him, my pride, my rights, my agenda die that Christ might live in me, might fulfill his purposes in and through me. These are fine words, lofty purposes, but what do they look like when applied to my life as I walk with my husband through the valley of the shadow of death? I ask the Holy Spirit to show me. I ask him to make these words a reality in my life by his power at work in me.
The words of an old hymn play over and over in my mind, as a prayer:
“Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love, One holy passion filling all my frame. The baptism of the heav’n-descended Dove, My heart an altar, and Thy love the Flame.”*
* Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart, verse 5, music by Fredrick C. Atkinson and lyrics by George Croly from The New Church Hymnal