Wednesday, March 3, 2010

An Altar of Dreams

It still seems weird to say "I'm celebrating Lent". Maybe "observing Lent" is a more appropriate phrase, but either way, being a Baptist celebrating Episcopalian Lent while attending Lutheran Lenten services has been quite eye opening. I've learned about the meaning of Lent, about Jesus spending forty days in the wilderness and being tempted by the devil with things like self-sufficiency and power. But most of all, I've learned about giving stuff to God. Lent is understood by most as being a time of giving something up. Even non-practicing Christians will sometimes observe the season. People give up coffee, chocolate, smoking, etc. then after forty days of re-defining and bending the rules (after Easter) they get it back. The concept of Lent reminds me of the story of Abraham in Genesis 22.

Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were old in age. They were in their hundreds! And yet, God told them they would have a child. When this child was miraculously born, they laughed so hard they named him Isaac (which means he laughs). Fast forward many years and God tells Abraham to take his precious son, Isaac, up to an alter and sacrifice him. In those days, people would sacrifice animals as a payment for their sins, but to offer up your son was bizarre. How hard it must have been for Abraham to obey God and offer Him Isaac. Abraham took Issac to the altar. He obeyed God. In the end, God told Abraham not to sacrifice his son. He saw what priority Abraham gave God in his life. Whew! What strikes me about Abraham is his willingness to give up Isaac for God. He put what he valued most on the altar. So often, we say we love God more than anything, but we let other things consume our lives. We let them become idols and, though we would never say it, we let them become more important to us than God. What do I need to put on the altar?

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