Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Little Altars Everywhere

Yesterday I was told a story about a young pastor visited at home by an older pastor. The older man told the younger man that every table in his house should be an altar. By this, he didn't mean the young pastor should have a chalice and a silver platter of communion wafers on his bedside table and TV trays. Instead, he was preaching a kind of mindfulness. Pay attention, he was saying. Keep God in mind whatever you do.

This story appeals to both my love of order and my love of beauty. I believe God also loves order and beauty, and it is nice to be in accord with God from time to time, instead of always lifting my eyes to the Heavens and saying, "Huh?" or "Do I have to?"

(I will say, after my initial positive response to the story of the young pastor and the old pastor, an irritable thought nudged its way into my brain, whispering, This way madness lies! What if it starts with tables and ends up with sinks? Who could make an altar out of sink? Think of the globs of toothpaste, think of all those little hairs!)

So when I came home, I worked on turning my tables into altars. I straightened my sewing table and the coffee table. I neatened up the dining room table, which is currently being used for quilt-making. I never quite got to the kitchen table, but I eyeballed it a lot and thought about how un-altar-like it was, covered up by recycling and library books.

Looking around as I write this, I see that some of my tables have been re-cluttered, and so I must go make altars out of them again. I suspect making altars out of tables is a daily practice. But here's the funny thing: once you make your little altar, you look at it differently. An altar, after all, is a place for communion with God. And here's one right in your living room! There's one over there where you put your coffee cup while you're reading the morning paper.

Little altars all over your house. Like maybe God lived there or something.


The dB family said...

Very interesting. I've never quite thought of it in this way, but I think it's true. I just hope I don't have to make an alter out of the sink too ;o).


Tracy said...

What a great analogy.

And I suppose we really should be mindful of making those altars as a daily practice. After all, God isn't only interested in Sunday's.

Given how much time gets spent at sinks, perhaps they should become places where we commune with God? We might be less grumpy about doing dishes and enamored with ourselves.

GretchenJoanna said...

I really needed that story. I'm staying home from church tonight partly so that I can do some of this very sort of housework, for similar reasons, but not as clearly and graphically stated. Now I have the vision!

Angela said...

Oh dear, I have an awful lot of very cluttered altars at the minute! Longing for the end of term and time at home for tidying.

Sinks probably needed to be treated as baptisteries [I am a total immersion woman!]

btw - I have got on FINE with my bridge for over 10 years [apart from giving up eating toffees- but that was no real loss] I am a coward and couldn't face having anything embedded.

blessings x

Pom Pom said...

Great thinking, Frances. Bill was clearing tables for a meeting he had here yesterday and many of the piles went upstairs to my bedside table. Teetering piles of books and other riff raff . . . must altarize.

wayside wanderer said...

Interesting thought, Frances. I will be pondering that today.

I don't have many table tops in my home. My house is just too small for them. I can count 6 of them in the whole house and 5 of them are very small, the 6th being our dining table which at the moment is too clutter for more than 3 people to eat a meal. I'll be doing something about that today. =)

debbie bailey said...

I love Pom Pom's new word 'altarize'. Great post! I think I'll go eat a bowl of cereal before bed and then altarize my kitchen table. It really does change the way you think of a surface. Income tax papers are all over the dining room table. I can't wait to send that off. I'm tired of worshipping at the alter of the IRS!

Gumbo Lily said...

I liked this post. So many alter surfaces where we work or read or wash make me think that all we do at these alters could be made an offering or a prayer to God.

I'll be tidying my alters this week and think of you tidying yours.


Jaye said...

I read something once that said that tidying or cleaning your house is a gift you give to the house. Combined with your essay makes the thought of cleaning more appealing.

***** said...

Could a pagan accept these altars as sacred sites as well? I love this idea, and am suddenly mindful of mine.

Left-Handed Housewife said...

*****, I believe this idea is open and free for the taking by all. Although Wendell Berry isn't a pagan, he is a lover of the natural world who wrote,

There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

As far as I'm concerned, this is a good way for anyone, pagan or not, to think about everything.

Thanks for stopping by!