Sunday, Lana who is our regular blogger, couldn't post because of "too many redirects." So I posted on her behalf. Today, it is my turn. The internet is peeved with me! So I am now resorting to my phone to make my posting.
Please forgive all the potential weird formatting issues!
Daily Haiku and Bible Journaling
prayers rise like incense
customs of priestly service
Advent Day 17
Here we are! On our journey towards John and Jesus' birth!
Here is the proclamation that Zechariah and Elisabeth are going to have a child and name him John. Most of us within the Christian tradition are familiar with this story. What we may not be familiar with the offering of incense. I did a scholastic study of altars in Jewish and Christian tradition some time ago. What I found regarding the incense was that it was instrumental to the understanding of humans and of prayer in that the incense was believed to obscure the human imperfection that we come before God with.
Just a couple days ago, I referenced an article that talked about burning offerings on the altar and that the burning was seen as an act of returning matter to God, to a divine state. It was an act of uncreation, so to speak. Remember that the ancient people didn't really have an understanding of physics, so to their eyes, the offering disappears and floats heavenward to God. The ultimate gift. The smoke is also diffuse so it additionally represented how we are all connected together.
One of my favorite Psalms (and a Psalm setting) is Psalm 141 whose second verse is: May my prayers rise up like incense before you, the lifting of my hands, an evening sacrifice. Holden evening prayer has a beautiful setting of this Psalm:
There is something about the mystery of smoke, fire, and incense. And it is all well within Abrahamic traditions to use these elements in their worship. It preserves some of the mystery that modern life seems to strip away on occasion.
For leaders, remembering the mystery of our beginnings and our ultimate connection to one another can help us overcome divisions that separate.