Friday, February 23, 2007


When God won a great victory for the Israelites against the Amalekites, Moses built an altar. When the waters of the Jordan walled up on both sides so the Israelites could walk through, Joshua built an altar. Just before Jesus was turned over to the Pharisees for judgment, he instituted a sacred meal and said, "Do this in remembrance of me."

The purpose of an altar is to provide a visual reminder of the faithfulness of God, and every time we partake of the Lord's supper, we look toward our altar: the body and the blood of Jesus shed for us. This act of remembrance refocuses our hearts on the sacrifice it took to cleanse us from sin and helps us to look forward to the day we'll drink the fruit of the vine anew in the kingdom of the One who died for us.

So why does God put so much stock in remembrance? Namely because he knows that we are so forgetful. And when we forget how good God is, we often run to idols, lovers who coax us with empty promises but never fulfill our longings.

Right now I'm taking a class on the Qur'an, the Islamic holy book. Muslims view it as the physical manifestation of the uncreated, direct word of God as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad over a period of 23 years. According to the tradition, Muhammad did not write down the contents of the book. During the first instance of revelation, the angel Gabriel came to him and commanded him to "recite" the words he was given. The Qur'an was not compiled in full physical form until after the Prophet's death, when all those who had memorized the Qur'an came together and somewhat standardized it.

To this day, Muslims still emphasize memorization of the Qur'an, and they advocate what they call dhikr, the remembrance of God. According to my teacher, Islam has no doctrine of original sin. Adam and Eve's fall was a result of forgetfulness rather than outright rebellion. People are basically good, but they are also inherently forgetful. While we as Christians will take issue with the theology of these claims, one thing is for sure: When we remember the greatness of God, we are less likely to sin. Don't wait until the next communion of service to remember Jesus. Build an altar every morning, and make every day a celebration.

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