"...the fires of their altars."
"Do not worship the Lord your God in the way they worship their gods, for in the worship of their gods they do all the disgusting things that the Lord hates. They even sacrifice their children in the fires on their altars." (Deuteronomy 12:31)
While recently driving through a very small town in West Virginia Patti and I came upon a group of burned-out buildings. Something about the starkness, disarray, and contrasts of burned wood and good wood caught my attention so I stopped to take pictures. A gentleman living across the street came out of his house to check me out so we struck up a conversation. It seems this fire was the work of an arsonist. As I looked at the strong beams that had once been carefully assembled with pride of workmanship I began to consider the heart of the builder of this structure versus the heart of the destroyer. One worshiped at the altar of construction with hard work, determination, and pride. The other worshiped at the altar of destruction with bitterness, hate, and irrationality.
With all the recent shootings I'm reminded that there are those who worship at the altar of destruction. They thrive on hate and the desire to destroy anything that is not like them. They offer their "sacrifices" (their energy and resources) at their altars with passion, fury, and irrationality. We look at the extreme examples, shake our heads, and give thanks that we're not like them. We wonder how they ever got to be members of such a "religion." True, some of them might suffer from severe mental illnesses that drive their misdirected rage to mass shootings. However, many of the other members of the cults of hate are simply confused, lonely, maybe bullied young people who never felt like they belonged until someone invited them to worship with them at the altar of destruction.
We are not innocent in all of this. Any time we spew hateful thoughts about others we help fan the flames on the altars of destruction. We might say hateful things with what we consider to be absence of malice, but some of those hearing can easily interpret our words as confirmation of their irrational urge to destroy. Each of us must carefully choose at which altar we will offer our sacrifice - the altar of construction or the altar of destruction. It's hard for us to image that people in the days of the Old Testament could be so misguided as to offer their children as sacrifices on the altars of other gods - or is it? After multiple mass shootings maybe it's not so difficult. If we're not staying focused by worshiping at God's altar of love, compassion, tenderness, and peace it's so very easy for us to head down many paths of irrational, foolish, and destructive actions.
I pray that God will help me always worship at the altar of construction, the altar of divine love for all made known by God in Christ, and look for others who might not know they are invited to join me.
Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church
Cross Lanes, WV
Help save lives! For more information on my new book, "A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression," visit www.survivingteendepression.com.
Check out my new video, "Teens Surviving the Storm"
"...the fires of their altars."