I was humbled today to be elected as male chaplain this year for Chorale. And while I am excited about the opportunity to serve the group in this capacity, I must admit it scares me a bit, too. I don’t know if it’s the fear of giving worthless devotions, or the fear that I can never speak my thoughts the way I can write them, or the fear that there are glaring blemishes in my walk that make me feel unworthy of being in such a position. All three of them are definite issues I am worried about, and I know all I can do is rely on God and draw from his strength…cliche, I know, but still true.

One of the things you may see frequently posted on Sunday and Tuesday nights will be my devotion as I am preparing it. I feel more confident if I write out things first before I just get up and talk about them, so hopefully I will get into a routine of writing my thoughts down, so they will be more organized and insightful the next afternoon in front of the risers. I know, some of you who read might actually see the devotion before I give it, but I’ll try and find some clever way to keep that from happening (or you could just not read it until later).

So here goes…
Genesis 12:6-9 says:

“Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev. ”

One of the things we fail to see in our cultural context today is what it meant to actually build and altar in the Patriarchal time. To us, we think of the altar as the place we go to kneel and pray, or maybe the table in the front where we put the big Bible, or the communion, or the offering plates. In our minds, the altar is a piece of furniture which already exists and rests in the sanctuary of the church. And there’s nothing wrong with that, for God instructed the Israelites to build a permanent altar that was a part of the tabernacle courtyard, and traveled with them wherever they went.

But before God established the sanctuary for his people, building an altar was a physical commitment that required the majority of a day, if not more. For Abram to build an altar to the Lord meant that he first searched out an appropriate location for the altar. Once he found one, he then set out to find stones large enough to be used in building the altar. Of course once he found one, he would pick it up, lug it all the way back to the hill which the altar was at, and set it in place. This went on for hours, while the stones slowly accumulated until Abram had built the entire thing.

While he most likely worshiped the Lord after the altar was built, the majority of his worship actually came in the work he was doing! Hauling stones is no easy chore, and by the end of a day it can be rather tiring and even painful. So Abram was not spending all day preparing for worship, but actually spending the entire day in worship. Abram’s hard work and his physical sacrifice was the offering he presented to the Lord.

There will be days in this room when you, quite honestly, will not want to be here. You may be sick, or tired, or preoccupied, or just have a bad attitude about the whole thing. I know, I went through a long spell last year where I was frustrated with Chorale every day. But it’s important to remember that while we’re in here on the risers, this is our worship. Each hour we spend in rehearsal is another stone on our altar. When we sing in a church, people will see that performance and tell us how wonderful it was, and how it ministered to them, and how they saw us worshiping while we were singing, and that is the goal we’re striving for as a choir. But as an individual, or worship happens every day, right there on the risers. So when this may not be the place you most want to be, just remember that we’re building our altar, in worship of the almighty God.