Do you ever wonder at the Christian tradition of being married at an altar? Here is the bridegroom all decked out in formal finery gazing wistfully upon his beautiful bride in her white satin and lace while everyone is trying to see around the photographer and Aunt Judith is loudly blowing her nose. Happily ever after is just waiting to enfold the sweet couple at the end of the aisle.
I mean, historically an altar was a blood-stained place of sacrifice…
Okay, on second thought, anyone married for more than one year (how about one week?) gets the connection.
A good friend of mine made mention Sunday of what we use an altar for today. We come to an altar for prayerful intervention, commitment, worship. And then she asked the question—
“What in my life needs ‘altar-ing’?” That’s a pretty terrific play on words; in fact, one source mentions that altar and alter are frequently spelled incorrectly depending on the desired definition. Altar comes from a word meaning “high”, a place where an offering is presented. However, alter comes the word meaning “other”, as in to change something.
And yet, I find it uniquely interesting that for us to be altered, to be brought into a fuller meaning of who I was created to be, I must first bring all I am to an altar of sacrifice.
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
The question persists—what do I need to bring to the highest place of personal sacrifice in order for the necessary changes to take place in my heart, mind, and soul? When God asks that question, it is never rhetorical. It is always explicit, with personal precision, and sometimes very scary. Emotionally bloody, even.
Self does not go without a struggle.
And yet, there is a promise, also deeply personal:
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives.”
Just as Jesus was predicting His own exclusive sacrifice on the Cross, so also am I invited to submit to His altering by being “altar-ed” in ways that bring life to many others.
Galatians 2:20; John 12:24 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.