An Altar in the World

Published 9:43 am Thursday, April 30, 2009

An Altar in the World

By Barbara Brown Taylor

I wonder if God ever cringes?

I recently heard of an unfortunate incident in which an overly enthusiastic young boy was publicly reprimanded in a church for “disrespecting the Lord’s sanctuary.”

As if God did, in fact, live in temples made with hands. Not only was the child humiliated, I suspect God was embarrassed by the misguided corrective agent. It served as a reminder that wood, stone, steeples and pews are nothing compared to the Holy of Holies within the human heart.

In “An Altar in the World,” Barbara Brown Taylor eloquently drives this point home in chapter after chapter. God is not confined to Sunday mornings; not in time nor in location.

In Him we live and move and have our being, which means that He is everywhere, all the time. Whether we are working, creating, playing or loving, the sacred is always before us, waiting to be recognized for what it truly is. Our worship on Sunday should merely echo the altars of our daily, seemingly mundane life. The devil is not in the details of life, God is.

Contra those who limit the holy to churches, prayer and the reading of scripture, Taylor rightfully finds God’s presence in the gracious attentiveness towards the stranger among us, in her father’s hospital room on the day he died, and in the satisfaction of a class well taught.

She finds altars upon which she deeply worships God in the garden outside her home, in a poem, in a moment of silent reflection devoid of even prayer. “An Altar in the World” reminds me that though God’s presence is everywhere, awaiting my discernment, no physical location is more sacred than the person I just walked blindly past.

Darrel Holcombe is the owner of The Amen Corner Christian Bookstore in Pelham.

The Amen Corner is a retailer of Christian books, Bibles and music.