Altar – ations?!

The following is a short talk/sermon I will be giving at our mid-week service on Wednesday morning. Based on Genesis 12:1-9 it uses as it’s illustration the current activities in our household as we prepare for 5 months of building work! I have therefore illustrated it appropriately:

With imagination, you can see a utility area and dowstairs loo in this picture!
With imagination, you can see a utility area and dowstairs loo in this picture!

I’ve been packing up our belongings in boxes this week.
Asking myself tough questions like “do we really need it?”… “When did we last use that?” Worse still, I’ve had to ask G and C the same questions! Car loads have gone to the tip. There’s things on sale in Discoveries that are very familiar! [Discoveries is our church charity shop.]

I’m just glad we’re not actually moving, we’ve just got builders starting work next Monday! We believe God wants us to stay put in Yateley, so rather than move house, we’re extending the one we’ve got. We’re trusting what we believe God has said to us,
that he continues to have work for us here.

But my heart goes out to Abram and Sarai, and at this precise moment, to Sarai especially!! They were told to go! They’d already travelled as a family a huge distance,
all the way round the desert from Ur as far as Haran, but then they’d settled down for a bit,  and Terah, Abram’s father, who had originally received God’s call to travel to Canaan, had died.

But now they were back on the move. Packing up, keeping moving on.
Because God had told them to “go”. This time the call was to Abram himself.

“So Abram went.”
Apparently that little phrase is just one word in Hebrew. But when you’ve got flocks and herds, and camels and servants, not to mention a nephew called Lot with his own grumbling servants,that one word probably covers an awful … lot! (Sorry!)

But they did have their tents, and tents were important, they gave you safe place to sleep at night;an image of their safety, under God’s blessing. God’s big blessing;a blessing that would give them a home, a land,a family, and a future, with God.
Those tents represented Abram’s utter reliance on God. It’s an image that I could do well to remember in the next few weeks, even though I don’t possess one! I guess for us, our extension is a bit like us pitching a family tent.

Our lives as Christians are a pilgrimage, based on our trust in God, our faith,our obedience (whatever our doubts and worries) that God is guiding our journey through life, that he will show us when we get to where he wants us to be, show us where we can pitch our tent to do his work. Because for Abram, God stopped him on his journey and said “This is where I want you, as a people, to be.” And for us, God does the same.

Now, God isn’t in the habit of getting people to do things for no reason at all. My past experiences have shown me that when I’ve got where God wants me, he tends to confirm that I’ve done the right thing, that I’ve listened with obedience to his voice. Usually, I admit, he does this by getting me to do something once I’ve got where he wants me! That was certainly true when G and I moved to Yateley. I’m praying that God will give us the same reassurance over my families sense that we’re meant to stay here! That the extension will help us be where he wants us to do.

Here you can of course see our new front hall, front room and a little bit extra on the top!
Here you can of course see our new front hall, front room and a little bit extra on the top!

Now when Abram got where God wanted him to be, where God let him rest in the places to which, despite his traditional nomadic lifestyle,he would keep returning,
Abram builds an altar to God. A place that represents his fellowship with God,his relationship with the Lord who blesses him and whom he has obeyed.

You see it’s quite interesting;if you read right through the stories about Abram and Sarai,the places of their obedience to God, are marked by altars. When they have moral lapses, like in Egypt, Abram doesn’t build altars to God. But he does build them at Shechem, and between Bethel and Ai, and later at Hebron. Places where God speaks to him, where God shows him something important,where he is in tune with God’s will.

It’s like part of the act of obedience to God, that Abram does something that will last, makes something that will show people that God blesses those who follow his commands. He makes a place where he can pray, where he calls on the presence of the Lord, and acknowledges God’s importance in his life.

So, if we have a place where we’ve pitched our tent in obedience to God, what are we going to do, or make,that will be a symbol of our relationship with God that others’ can see? Where do we make our prayers, acknowledge God’s importance in our lives?

What and where, if you like, is our altar to God?


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