Make for me an altar…I will come to you and bless you in every place where I make sure my name is remembered.
He was frail and weak as he spoke to me from his hospital bed. He wanted to talk about his relationship with Christ, starting from the beginning. Mr. Lee came to the church where I was the pastor. Everyone knew he was a Christian; he lived a good, clean life and had a big heart for children, especially the ones who attended the school where he was principal.
On this day, as I sat by his bed, he wanted to explain how his Christian faith had evolved from a humble beginning as a young man kneeling in our small church. He recalled the spot at the altar where he had knelt years before and gave his heart to Christ. That spot, the third post from the left side, is where he experienced the transforming power of God’s grace. That particular place on the cushioned kneeling rail became a sacred space for him. Every time there was an important decision to be made, or some tragic event in his life, Mr. Lee could be found at that spot, seeking God’s presence again as he felt it at the first. Mr. Lee knew that there is power in going back to the places where he had met with God in special ways.
A few days after I had shared this sacred time with Mr. Lee, he died. At his funeral, I took a basket of flowers and placed it at that particular post on the kneeling rail. I wanted to honor Mr. Lee, but more importantly, I wanted to honor God who had given us all grace and redemption.
Often in my own life, I travel back to where I experienced the fullness of God’s presence which is a little church in Birmingham, Alabama, where I gave my heart to Christ. As I knelt at the altar, there was a spotlight in the ceiling that seemed to shine only on me. Its light covered me with the warmth of God’s forgiveness and grace. In times of confusion, doubt, trouble, or fear, I hurriedly go back to that place where I have never doubted that God’s Spirit infused with mine.
May each of us hold dear in our hearts and minds the places and times where we have personally met with God. If God seems far away from you, venture back to the last place where you knew God was present.
Most gracious and loving Father, thank you for meeting us in those sacred times and places of life when your transformational power is unmistakable. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.
The Rev. Allen Black
Pastor Hermitage UMC, Tennessee Conference