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Monday, 9 November 2015
Thursday, 5 November 2015
Incense was a common part of Jewish worship, just as songs and chanting, and words of call and response were. In a sense to use incense in worship is no stranger than singing hymns, choruses, anthems or songs. Or for me to say ‘The Lord be With You’, and for you to respond ‘And also with you’.
Jewish worship in the temple would have included all these things, as well as brightly coloured robes and decorations.
The early Christians did not see their worship of God as a radical departure from their ancestors. The book of Revelation gives an insight into the worship of heaven and of the early church. There are robed elders, bowing, an altar, and hymns that we still sing to this day.
And in the book of Revelation (8:3) we also see incense
Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne.
Incense then is a symbol of prayer and worship. The smoke rises heavenward, from us to God. Although our prayers are rooted in earth they are focussed on God’s will in heaven.
With that smoke rising heavenward comes the scent. A pleasing odour. And so should be our prayer and worship – sweet and not bitter. How we pray is important and should not be judgemental of others.
Finally beneath the smoke and fragrance is a hot coal, a burning fire. Our worship should be inspired by the Holy Spirit and the fire of God’s love.
And when all is said and done, all the grains and coals are burnt up – an offering. Just as the Jewish people made burnt offerings.In the Old Testament Malachi 1:11 prophesised a time when:
From the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering.
As Christians, we believe our worship fulfils these words. In Revelation, there is a heavenly altar and the Lamb of God. Here on earth countless Christians throughout the world gather at earthly altars to make a pure offering, the Lamb of God in bread and wine.
May our worship always be like incense. Sweet and not bitter, looking towards God, and inspired by his Fire!
What does it mean to Remember? We remember all sorts of different events and happenings in our lives, we remember our loved ones. And we remember those who have made great sacrifices.
In Christian theology we have a special sense of remembering, drawing from both Greek and Jewish ideas. It is summed up in the Greek word Anamnesis. It is the word used in the Gospels for the remembrance of the last supper. It does not just mean to recall or to look back, but something deeper.
When the Passover is celebrated the Jewish people did not just remember that they were delivered from slavery in Egypt, they sought to remember as if they were there with their ancestors on the night before they fled for the desert, sharing lamb and unleavened bread.
For the Greek philosophers following Plato the word meant remembering in a way that changed who you are – a process of becoming through remembering.
So as we remember we do not just acknowledge a past event that has limited impact on ourselves, our personalities, our way of life. But rather we acknowledge that through remembering we are made who we are, we are changed, and we participate in the events that happened in the past.
This is Remembrance. Not to simply acknowledge the sacrifice made by others on our behalf, but to be shaped by that sacrifice. Not to glory in the suffering of others but to take their offering of themselves to heart that we too may be willing to offer our lives in service and love.
Such love is as strong as death and burns like a blazing fire, a mighty flame, the very flame of God’s passion. It is God’s love that burns in the hearts of those who gave their lives for others, and it is God’s love that calls us to remember
So let us make our Remembrance this November. Through formal actions and words yes. But also with thankfulness and love for others. For this community, for those who gave their lives.
In whom we live and move and have our being,
Who remembers the sins of his children no more.
Transform us by this remembrance that we may burn brightly with your loving Spirit.
That in your son Jesus Christ, we too may be remembered in his eternal Kingdom. Amen