Today marks the beginning of the Alabaster Conference. This is a time where women offer themselves to the Lord for who they are seeking mercy and acceptance despite the brokenness in both the physical and spiritual.
The topic “living at the altar” refers to a constant dedication of the living as opposed to what was killed. God asks for total not partial devotion of body and soul. He first appeals that our lives be built on mercy. Sink your roots in this mercy.
And your new life will flow out with mercy. This mercy clearly bears fruit in Romans 12:9-21 where we experience the true marks of a Christian.
Paul calls us to a life of worship where our good deeds express the worth of God. Living at the altar is a self presentation, it is a language of worship from the Old Testament where the worshipper brought a bull or pigeon and sacrificed on the altar as a sacrifice to God. This sacrifice would grant forgiveness to an individual and ensure an ongoing relationship with God. These ongoing sacrifices of animals pointed beyond to the final sacrifice of for sin in the person of Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 5:7) “Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us”. The writer of Hebrews 10:12 says, “When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” Meaning that he finished the work and his death cannot be improved by anything.
Living at the altar is also pertinent with what 1 Peter 2:5b says “Offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ Jesus” — it is only because of Jesus that our sacrifice can be acceptable. It is through his perfection not ours. The body is not significant because of the way it looks, but because of the way it acts. The body is given to us to make visible the beauty of Christ.
And Christ, at the hour of his greatest beauty, was repulsive to look at. Isaiah 53:2–3 describes him: “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” The beauty of Christ is the beauty of love, not the beauty of looks. His beauty was the beauty of sacrifice, not skin.
Living at the altar as an act of worship demonstrates that God is your treasure. Every act of your living body shows that Christ is more precious to you than anything and a death to all lifestyles that dishonors Christ. In Romans 6:12-13, let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. We are called to Show the worth of Christ by the way we use our bodies. Hence at the altar we pour our dirty linen only to rise up as washed, cleansed, forgiven, accepted, restored, rejuvenated, revived, replenished, re-established and filled with joy. For in Christ we have no condemnation. Living at the altar is a clear indication of our powerlessness without Christ.
The Very Rev. Canon Dr. Rebecca Nyegenye