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Altars Alter Life By Pastor Doug

Updated: Feb 7, 2021

Dear St. Paul's Family,

This week we are marking this season of Coronavirus Sheltering by shaping "home altars" as a way of fixing our own understanding of this experience. Not since the great flu epidemic of 1917 and 18 have we experienced anything like this in our land. The closest is the AIDS epidemic. The traumatic massacre of life by this virus is of such magnitude that we cannot really understand. More than 80,000 deaths in 10 weeks. This is what trauma looks like.

The temptation is to deny and bargain against trauma. So, we turn on the TV and remind ourselves that “I don't have it... and I hardly know anyone who does. So, what difference does it make?”

At least, that is what I find myself doing. It keeps me from having to feel the issue of the Boston newspaper where obituaries filled 21 pages one Sunday. It insulates me from having to sense the emptiness of persons dying alone in hospitals, gasping for their last breath.

For some of us, this season has been a nuisance. But for others in our own land, our own state, our own city, our own zip code... it was a cruel final chapter in the life of someone we loved.

Scripture invites us to live a life that is deeper than denial and bargaining.

Romans 12:15: "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."

You see, it is a sign of a disciple when we learn how to mourn with others. That is one reason why we are marking this season with an altar. It is a way of remembering and connecting with our community in its loss.

"You see, it is a sign of a disciple when we learn how to mourn with others." - Pastor Doug

But, in addition to sharing in the loss of our community, we need to mark our experience of this season. What were the negatives of this experience? Why did we choose to obey the government shelter order? Were we watching out for ourselves or for "us" - Albuquerque, the Northeast Heights, our neighbor next door? Has Jesus spoken to us in this "different living"? What have we realized is a "different” that we would like to make a permanent change in our life? Have we realized how important home is, after all? Was our "normal" a life that was often more busy than it was purposeful? Has this sheltering taught us that we were living lives with very little “margin" in them?

When we read a book and make a note in the margin - isn't that highlighting, marking, the most significant thought and/or the most meaningful insight, where the book has "spoken" a message to myself? If it is in the margins of the book that we have insights, what happens when we are so busy there are no "margins" in our life schedule? Does it mean that we have no room, no time, to make the really important insights into the narrative of our life story?

If it is in the margins of the book that we have insights, what happens when we are so busy there are no "margins" in our life schedule? - Pastor Doug

  • Exodus 12:26 And when your children ask you, 'What does this ceremony mean to you?' 27 then tell them, It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians."" Then the people bowed down and worshiped.

  • Exodus 13:14 "In days to come, when your son asks you, 'What does this mean?' say to him, 'With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

  • Deuteronomy 6:20 In the future, when your son asks you, "What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: "We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.

  • Joshua 4:20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21 He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, 'What do these stones mean?' 22 tell them, Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.'

The Altar


A broken ALTAR, Lord, thy servant rears, Made of a heart and cemented with tears: Whose parts are as thy hand did frame; No workman's tool hath touch'd the same. A HEART alone Is such a stone, As nothing but Thy pow'r doth cut. Wherefore each part Of my hard heart Meets in this frame, To praise thy name: That if I chance to hold my peace,

These stones to praise thee may not cease. Oh, let thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine, And sanctify this ALTAR to be thine.

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