Thursday, January 4, 2018

Building Altars

Revelation is an interesting vision for the end of the world, and most of what we find in there is, at the very least, strange. For example, we have been talking about the Book of Life and the name that God has given us, which will be handed to us on a stone when the account of our life is read on that day. And that raises an interesting question:

What are we supposed to do with a stone?

It is an odd eternity-warming gift. That much is for sure. Welcome to Heaven, here's your rock. A real rock, not that Rock. We would think that perhaps this rock might become the cornerstone of all that we have in Heaven, of that mansion that God has promised us. But I tell you, I do not want a mansion built on the cornerstone of my own creation - even the most perfect idea of my creation - not when the Cornerstone Himself walks among us. I want everything that I have in Heaven to be His, to be centered on Him, to be rooted in Him.

Which brings us back to the question at hand - what are we supposed to do with a stone? Certainly, we should not be expected to carry it around with us for all eternity. In worldly terms, a stone is often associated with a burden. It is either lugged around as a reminder of something grievous that one has done, a weight one simply cannot shake, or it is tied around one's neck as an assurance that one should drown. The God who has told us to take His yoke upon us, the God who shouldered our burdens once for all on the Cross, cannot also be the God who gives us a burden forever. That doesn't make any sense.

Again, we are brought back to the question - what are we supposed to do with a stone?

We are to build an altar.

This is what God's people have historically done with stones; they have built altars with them. They have drawn them out of the bed of the Red Sea, taken them from the shores of the Jordan River, carried them from lands where they have been persecuted, lands where they have been saved, battles they have fought, blessings they have harvested - everywhere that God's people have gone, they have taken stones and stacked them into altars as reminders of God's tremendous blessings.

They have called their altars witnesses; they have named them testimonies.

And I think that that is what happens here. When we come into the presence of God, we are given this stone with our name on it, the name that God has given us, the name that we have, through our best moments and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, written in the Book of Life, but it is not a stone that we are to keep. It is a stone that we are to lay down, right at His very feet.

Heaven seems like a strange place for an altar, admittedly. Why should we need an altar when God Himself walks among us? But we are not, of course, talking about the kind of altar that is in the Temple, which John tells us will no longer be necessary. We are talking about the altar of the sojourner, an altar that stands as a witness and a testimony.

The act that sums up our lives and our first act in Heaven will be that of a witness, as we lay all that we are at the site of this altar and proclaim that God is there. That this....this is the place where Heaven and earth meet. That we join together with all creation in recognition of our God, His power, His promise, and His love, and add our testimony.

Our witness.

Our stone.


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