Summary: This sermon deals with religiosity, self-rightouesness and "me worship" vs. the true faith that God requires.
The Altar of “I”
By Fr. James Cloud
A young man entered a beautiful cathedral which was so ornately decorated that the very sight of it could make the hardest of sinners cry in repentance. He made his way down the aisle of the church and found it surprisingly empty except for a solitary worshipper bowing before a peculiar looking altar in prayer. As the young man approached this ornately dressed man in a solemn posture of prayer he quietly tapped him on the shoulder and asked what this altar configuration meant. The “righteous” man rose slowly and piously stated, “My friend, this is my altar.” Puzzled, the young man looked closer at the altar. Instead of the cross, the “righteous” man had been praying before an altar with the letter “I” upon it where the cross should be.
There are times in our Christian walk that we see men and women who come to church and expect personal biases of worship or style to be reflected in the service in which they attend. All the while they gripe, complain, and/or cause division within the church because it doesn’t fit in with their personal worldview of Christendom.
These people are usually the best dressed, well mannered, and “righteous” of the church. They love to walk in and feel as if they are GETTING something from God, rather than GIVING something to God. They have needs and, by golly, if the church isn’t exactly the way they think it should be, they throw a royal fit and throw a spiritual tantrum on the church floor.
We have people who sit in church and feel that since we live in the 21st century, Theology, Doctrine, Dogma, and even the Lord God Almighty must change with the times. They pride themselves on good deeds while neglecting the deeper matters of salvation, faith, and repentance.
St. Peter warned of this time of moral relativism, doctrinal “sugariness,” and religion worship. Let’s take a look at this closer:
1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
4For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; 5if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8(for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. 10This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority.
Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; 11yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. 12But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.
13They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. 14With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! 15They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. 16But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—a beast without speech—who spoke with a man’s voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
17These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." (NIV)