The Cast of Advent: December 4 – Abijah

The altar at St. Mark’s in Ridley Park where I first served

You are probably not familiar with the name Abijah, but he shows up in Luke chapter one as we are introduced to the priest Zechariah.

“In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest name Zechariah, of the division of Abijah” (Luke 1:5).

A long time before this, King David had organized the Levites, musicians, gatekeepers, treasurers and priests for service in the temple. The priests, who were of course all descended from Aaron, were organized into twenty-four divisions. Each division would serve for a week two times a year. Zechariah was part of the division of Abijah. Abijah didn’t know it at the time, but he was a part of the story of the advent of Christ!

A priest might only get to enter the temple and burn the incense once or twice in a lifetime, so this was a very important moment for Zechariah. It was made even more memorable when the angel Gabriel suddenly appears at the altar!

In the Sunday School opening for our smallest students, the preschool bunch, everyone wants a turn “serving at the altar,” that is, lighting and putting out the two candles on our small altar. One day, they will all probably get to take a turn serving as acolytes. I loved the moments when it was my turn to serve at the big altar, lighting and extinguishing fourteen candles plus two more on communion Sundays. And even thought I’ve consecrated the elements many times at the altar, I still treasure that moment when God comes to meet with us and feed us with his grace.

Thank you, Lord, for those who serve at the altar and the part they play in the advent of Christ. Amen. 

The spider and the acolyte

communion spider.jpg“Our Father, Who art in heaven…”


The (not so) whispered voice came from behind me as we began the Lord’s Prayer, just before the Words of Institution in worship a few weeks ago. I glanced behind me, and it was that Sunday’s acolyte.

“…hallowed be Thy name…”

“Pastor, there’s a spider!”

“…thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…”

I glanced back again and said, “Kill it!”

“…on earth as it is in heaven.”

“PASTOR, there’s a spider on the communion trays!”

“What?” I whispered.

“There’s a spider, right there.” He pointed to a 1/2 inch spider crawling up the side of the stack of individual cup trays.

“Give us this day out daily bread…”

I reached over, smooshed it with my finger, and flicked it across the chancel where it wouldn’t bother me any more.

“That’s your job,” I whispered.

“…as we forgive those who trespass against us…”

This true little episode is just one of the reasons why it can be difficult to keep your focus while officiating. It also highlights an important yet unwritten duty of an acolyte: dealing with arachnids. And it gives you a little window into the many unseen and unheard parts of a typical Sunday morning worship service.