Chuck Knows Church is one of my favorite United Methodist productions. There are over 100 videos that cover a wide range of topics. I have shown a couple of videos to Confirmation and New Member classes. Chuck has a wonderful way of describing how what we do and say as United Methodists has a rich history and tradition. Each video is about three minutes long and provides a starting point for delving into some of the practices we have. For me, those videos have reminded me to look at the elements of our worship spaces and the language we use in church as if I was seeing and hearing it for the first time.
I have never learned how the subjects featured in the Chuck series were selected or if there are plans for Chuck to talk about our faith journeys. I don’t believe that was the goal of the series. At the end of each video, Chuck encourages the viewers to talk with the pastor if they want to know more. I wish there was a video about the Sanctuary or Eternal Flame. It is common to many worship spaces, but we hardly ever mention it as we gather for worship, lift persons up in prayer, or preach a sermon.
Sooner or later, each time I participate in worship, my eyes are drawn to the Sanctuary flame or Eternal flame that is located near the altar. The light is usually housed in a red lantern and has a soft glow which reminds us that the light of our Savior is always with us. Today, because the light is powered by electricity, we really don’t think about turning it on or off. In all the churches I’ve served, I never remember the bulb for this lamp burning out.
When I looked up the history of the Sanctuary flame on the internet, I discovered that it was first mentioned in the Book of Exodus 27: 20-21 and again in Leviticus 24: 1-4. Aaron and his descendants were given the task of tending the lamp. The first lamps were fueled by pure pressed olive oil. I can’t imagine how often the oil had to be replenished in order to keep the light burning all day. In 1 Samuel 3:3, it appears that the oil wasn’t constantly replaced throughout the night.
The Eternal Flame has been a part of worship since God brought the Hebrew slaves out of the land of Egypt. The lamp honors our Lord and continues to show us how God’s light continues to shine in our lives. The flame is not bright or blinding, it never goes out and it hovers over us each time we gather to celebrate who we are and whose we are. This light is a reminder and an affirmation that God is with us always. And Amen.