By Robin Rauh
When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Ezra 3:1-2
A first sign that people are coming back together following a traumatic event is when they come and gather around a place or symbol that defines them. We see in this passage from the Old Testament book of Ezra that the symbol was the altar. From there the Temple was rebuilt just a few years later. Ezra, a contemporary of Nehemiah, was a priest who helped call the people of God back to their place both in the land and with God. It started with reestablishing worship.
I don’t know that any of us had that in mind last spring when the Epiphany Woodchucks were commissioned to build a portable altar for our journey from 3301 Hidden Meadow to where ever God would lead. Since then, that altar has been central to our worship in a hotel, a public park and recently in a funeral home. Each time it has been the place of hope and spiritual life.
We don’t offer animal sacrifices on it like Ezra did. Christ has once and for all given Himself as the Passover Lamb for our forgiveness. Now it’s a place of promise- a taste of greater things ahead- a new Heaven and Earth, a great wedding feast with Christ and His Church.
The one constant in all of this for us as Anglican Christians is the centrality of the altar. At the end of the day, it’s who we are, and where we are going. God has done great miracles on our behalf- taking us out of an unhealthy denomination, ransoming us from financial demands of the judge’s order, providing for a place even when we didn’t know one week from the next where we were going, and finally opening up a place for us to find a temporary respite here at Dulles. Recently, we’ve seen miraculous moves of the Spirit with Fairfax County in moving toward a future permanent occupancy permit for us.
As we head into the fall we are blessed with a wonderful family of God. Our Father’s love in us gives us the strength and joy to celebrate His presence with us. And He has much, much more for us in the future as we follow Jesus Christ.
The Rev’d Robin Rauh is rector of Church of the Epiphany, Herndon, VA. This past month, Church of the Epiphany added an additional Sunday morning service. For service times at Epiphany, click here.