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A Church without an Altar

March 26, 2019, 11:00 AM

One thing you are not likely to hear in the context of a Presbyterian worship service is “Let’s come to the altar!” Presbyterian Churches don’t have altars. We are a church without an altar. In all truthfulness…you’re not likely to hear much language concerning sacrifice in our worship or our sermons. There is good reason for that and it is what I want to write about today.

The main reason that Presbyterian Churches don’t have altars is because we do not offer up sacrifices to God. The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us over and over again that Christ offered himself up...a final sacrifice…once and for all. Christ’s offering was so perfect that it brought the sacrificial system to a halt. In Christ we see what ransom and atonement really look like. An altar is a place of blood and death. Christ offers us life and renewal. We present ourselves not upon an altar waiting to die but as LIVING sacrifices who seek to bear witness to the Kingdom of God breaking into our reality.

So where do Presbyterians meet with God???? Presbyterian Churches don’t have altars but we definitely do have places where we meet God.

Presbyterian Churches have pulpits. We are reminded that God still speaks to us today. We come into God’s house expecting to hear from the scriptures. We come expecting to meet the Living Revealed Word through the preached and written word.

Presbyterian Churches have fonts. It is at the font we celebrate the sacrament of baptism. We meet God in the water where we are reminded of the promises of the forgiveness of sins and the renewal of creation. It is at the font where the Holy Spirit seals upon our hearts these promises given to us in Christ.

Presbyterian Churches have tables, specifically a table upon which we celebrate the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. We meet God in bread and wine.  At the table Christ himself offers us his body and blood and the Holy Spirit seals these promises to our hearts, and by faith we find our union with Christ in the partaking of this means of grace.

Having an altar would emphasize what we bring to God. However, when we look at what God has given to us we quickly realize we have nothing to offer. The pulpit, font, and table emphasize God’s welcome to us. These places remind us that it is God that calls, God that redeems, God that sustains, and it will be God that brings this whole creation to completion. When you come to worship this Sunday come, not to the altar, but to the pulpit, the font, and the table. Be reminded of what it is that God offers to you. Be reminded of the promises that God has made and that God will fulfill. Be reminded of the grace that is yours in Christ, not because of the sacrifices you have made but because of the work that Christ has completed.


03-26-2019 at 10:23 PM
Eileen Norman
Great idea to have the blog. And this one was both informative and inspiring. Thank you for taking the time to touch us that have been having a difficult time getting to church.
03-26-2019 at 12:18 PM
Rev. Mike R
Beautifully said! Congratulations on getting your blog started; I'm working on the same goal. Keep those keys clickin' :-D
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