17 Flames on an Altar


-An act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to God or to a divine or supernatural figure

-An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy

Many would argue that worship is important in this “Judeo-Christian” nation. Likely, many people who value worship automatically connect the concept to what happens in churches and synagogues and mosques each week. While I agree that the gathering of the religious body is important and, often, where worship happens, I also would argue that worship can be a more subtle and sinister concept. Because worship in this country also happens outside of the gathering of a religious body.

Some of my more conservative brothers and sisters may view it through the lens of idolatry. Technically, the two are synonymous.

Regardless, where you find worship, you find sacrifice, where something of value is rendered for something considered to be more valuable, more important, more worthy. It could be time. It could be money. It could be some other gift of self.

It could be a life.

When we worship the availability of guns, including those that should never be in the hands of civilians, a sacrifice is required.

When we worship standards of masculinity that are impossible and toxic, a sacrifice is required.

When we worship funding systems and institutions that privilege corporations, diverting money that could otherwise be appropriated for services like quality and affordable mental health care, physical health care, housing and childcare–things from which we ALL would benefit, a sacrifice is required.

When we worship the stuff and the money required to fund it so much that we are not available to be with one another in quality, intentional time, a sacrifice is required.


And on the altar this morning, there were 17 flames–tea lights scattered between the pillar candles and in front of the Bible open to the day’s New Testament passage. The names of each victim in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL on Valentine’s Day were read aloud inside the sanctuary and recorded in chalk on the sidewalk leading to it. Because as a nation, we. keep. putting. lambs. on. the. altar.