When I say the word “Altar” what comes to mind for you? Many people mistakenly call our communion table “the altar”, because in some churches that is what it is called. An Altar is a place where sacrifices are offered to a god. The reason they call it an altar is that in their minds when they are consecrating the elements, they are re-enacting Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. For Presbyterians, we understand communion to be a remembrance of what Jesus did on the cross, not a re-enactment of the sacrifice, because Jesus said “do this in remembrance of me.” Those elements for us remind us of what happened on the cross and, as I am found of saying, the great love that was behind his sacrifice for us. It is as I think of how much Christ love us, loved me, even though I was responsible for his death because of my sin, that I grow in my love and gratitude for Him. Thus, this table is not a “holy altar”, it is a common table that God uses for a holy purpose, each time we celebrate communion.
But just because our communion table is not an altar, does not mean that we do not have an altar in our lives. You see we carry our Altar with us. It is an altar that is there with every decision we make and every action we take. It is there whether we are in church, thinking about church, or church is the farthest thing from our minds. The altar is not unlike the one that Abraham faced in our passage today.