Early morning October 30, 2006
Last Monday night I was up late completing a take-home test for Existentialism. Before I answered the final question on the test, I went into the chapel to think. I had to sort through Kierkegaard’s ideas in Fear and Trembling and try to apply them to real life Christianity. I was pacing around the chapel, talking out loud, frustrated because of my spastic thoughts. As I walked down the center aisle and neared the front, I was distracted by the altar. It was just a simple, blond table placed at the back of the small stage—and it was empty. I started thinking about the symbolism of that table, how in the days of the temple it was on the altar that animals were sacrificed to atone for our sins. It seemed funny to me that the altar had been transformed from a large, bloody stone structure to a simple table inside a chapel. But it makes sense theologically. The altar (like the cross) is there to remind us that our sins have been paid for already and are constantly being paid for. Jesus’ sacrifice was for all time. The altar and the cross are to remind us of Jesus’ enduring sacrifice, but they are free from a bloody victim (in the case of the protestant church) because he has been resurrected and is no longer dead. But then I had a horrible thought—what if it were just like the Emperor’s New Clothes? It is totally possible that some kid will stand up in the back row of the church and start laughing at us and point, saying, “The altar is empty! Don’t be silly! And there’s nothing on that cross at all!” What if everything we have been told by our preachers and teachers is a lie? What if they are just as deceived as the rest of us and there is nothing there? Perhaps we are all wrong. Perhaps we are seeing something where there is nothing. Perhaps, to our embarrassment, the emperor is naked.