Wilderness Tabernacle

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Last week I enjoyed visiting Messiah’s Mansion, a replica of the Wilderness Tabernacle, with the ladies in my Bible study. As the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, the portable tabernacle served as the heart of worship. The tabernacle was always placed in the center of camp, and the twelve tribes of Israel would set up their tents around it according to tribe. This temple was where the Israelites believed God dwelled and where they came together to worship and offer sacrifices.

Constructed to God’s precise specifications, the Tabernacle consisted of three main divisions -- Holy of Holies, the Holy Place and the Outer Court. Entering the courtyard through only one gate, the head of the family offered an animal sacrifice to atone for the sins of him and his family. Then the priest would make atonement and intercession for them inside the tent.

After washing his hands and feet at the basin, the High Priest would enter the Holy Place twice daily. There he would go before the Altar of Incense to offer prayers of atonement for those who had brought their sacrifices.

It was only the High Priest who could enter the Holy of Holies. Once a year he would move beyond the veil that separated sinful man from God to offer sacrifices for the nation of Israel. The only way to God was through the priest.

Jesus’ death changed forever the Old Covenant. When Jesus died on the cross, the veil that divided the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple was split from top to bottom.

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Matthew 27: 50-51a

Jesus’ death meant that the boundaries to God had been removed. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice and through his blood we all have redemption. We no longer rely on a High Priest to approach God each year. We can go boldly before God with our repentance, our petitions, and our praise as often as we choose.

After touring the Wilderness Tabernacle, I am even more in awe of God. He gave instructions for every detail of the temple. Every component of it was designed to symbolize God’s relationship with his people. He designed a clear path to approach him. Then he provided the ultimate symbol of God's relationship to his people - his son. God’s divine plan was accomplished when Jesus died to atone our sins forever. He ended the Old Covenant and began the New Covenant.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Hebrews 10: 12-21

Dear God, thank you for sending your son to atone for my sins and redeem me. Amen.

Wailing Wall

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is a coming of age book set in the South in 1964 with strong themes of love, redemption, and racism. After reading this book that celebrates female characters, I couldn’t wait to see the film adaptation. Last week my dad treated his women (my mom, sister, and I) to the movie based on the book we had all enjoyed reading. One of the female characters, May, resonated with all of us.

August Boatwright, with the help of her sisters May and June, runs a successful honey business. Since the death of their sister, April, the simple-minded May has become extremely sensitive and is given to bouts of depression. At the mention of anything sad, May begins to sing and removes herself to the “wailing wall” that she and her sisters built outside the house. May finds solace at the wall by writing her griefs on slips of paper and inserting them in the wall.

May’s "wailing wall" reminds me of the original Wailing Wall or Western Wall outside the Old Temple of Jerusalem. The temple is where the Jews believed that God resided in the Holy of Holies. The wall became a center of mourning over the destruction of the Temple and Israel’s exile. Jews and tourists of all religions go to pray at the sacred wall, where it is said you can immediately have the “ear of God.”

When I was privileged to visit this sacred site in 1999, I became both an observer and participant in the prayer ritual. I watched as hundreds of Jews, mostly men, approached the wall to offer prayers of thanksgiving and lamentations. Most read scripture, chanted Psalms, moved back and forth, and kissed the wall. Many stuffed their written prayers into the cracks of the blocks in the wall.

The most common prayer recited at the wall is from Psalm 79. Note these two verses that we could all pray.
Help us, O God our Savior for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake. v. 9

Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise. v. 13

Wanting to offer my own petitions to God, I moved to the extreme right of the Western Wall to the spot reserved for women. There I tucked my written prayer of thanksgiving and supplication into the cracks. It was a solemn and momentous occasion to prayer to our Father just outside the wall that had housed Solomon’s temple.

While that prayer experience is etched in my memory, I’m really comforted by the fact that I can pray to our Heavenly Father anywhere and anytime. I can take him my sorrows and joys. I can write my prayers, speak my prayers, or even just utter a thought and God hears me.
Like May, many of us find a special place to go to talk to God in prayer. Whether it’s in a church, a room in our house, or a quiet spot outside, many of us find our own “wailing” spot. Do you have a sacred spot for prayer? Where is your “wailing wall?”
Click on the image below to visit the Wailing Wall through a live cam.

The Little Chapel That Stood

Sunday, October 19, 2008

St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City serves as a historic landmark and a symbol of America’s unwavering spirit. Built in 1766, St. Paul’s Chapel is Manhattan’s oldest public building in continuous use. The Revolutionary War brought violence to New York in September 1776 when the city was in flames. Although a fourth of the city’s buildings were destroyed when the fire was fueled by great winds, St. Paul’s survived.

In 1789 George Washington was inaugurated in our first capital, New York City. After being sworn in at Federal Hall, he walked a few blocks and worshipped at St. Paul’s Chapel.

Located directly across the street from the site of the World Trade Center, the chapel survived the greatest tragedy of its history on September 11, 2001. When terrorists attacked the Trade Center, St. Paul’s should have been destroyed or at least severely damaged. Instead, not even a window was broken as a large sycamore tree absorbed the impact of the debris. The church is now known as “The Little Chapel That Stood.”

On many visits to Ground Zero as I have looked back and forth between St. Paul’s Chapel and the site of Twin Towers, I am always amazed. You see everything else surrounding the towers experienced devastation, yet the church not only survived but also thrived to be host of an extraordinary eight-month volunteer relief effort. St. Paul’s became the site where Ground Zero relief workers went for food and rest. Volunteers served at the church around the clock. Hundreds of volunteers provided food, prayers, and encouragement to the weary crews.

Seven years later, “The Little Chapel That Stood” continues to remember the fallen through its “Unwavering Spirit” exhibit of memorabilia from the rescue effort. At 12:30 p.m. each day the church holds a “Pray for Peace” service commemorating those whose lives were lost on 9/11. Click on the link below to read St. Paul’s “Prayers for Peace” program, which includes peace prayers from 12 major religions. http://www.saintpaulschapel.org/PrayersForPeace.pdf

What lessons can we learn from the 100-year-old sycamore tree that protected the chapel? That old tree had roots deep enough and strong enough to help a little chapel withstand a violent terrorist attack. Roots. As Christians, we find our roots in Jesus Christ. How deep are our spiritual roots? Are we rooted in scripture and prayer? Are our spiritual roots strong enough to withstand attacks on our faith?

What lessons can we learn from “The Little Chapel That Stood?” The church, surrounded by debris, opened its doors at a time of great need and provided a refuge for the weary. Its members recognized an opportunity to show love and acted on it. Who in our world is hurting and needs for us to provide spiritual food, prayers, and encouragement? Are we willing to act when opportunities arise?

This week let’s strengthen our roots.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

Unwavering Spirit

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

One of my favorite stops on a recent trip to New York City was St. Paul’s Chapel, which is located right across the street from the World Trade Center site. For eights months after the tragic terrorist attack, this little Episcopal church was home to an impressive volunteer relief effort. Hundreds of volunteers worked around the clock making beds, counseling, serving food, and praying with fire fighters, police, and others who aided in the rescue efforts. The church has recently opened an exhibit called Unwavering Spirit that chronicles that history of St. Paul’s unique volunteer ministry in the weeks and months following September 11th. I remember visiting the church in the spring of the next year and was moved by the many loving memorials that surrounded the church. Banners, wreaths, teddy bears, letters, and many other items filled the iron fence surrounding the church. Now the church has displayed many artifacts sent by strangers from diverse backgrounds and faiths.

Aptly titled Unwavering Spirit: Hope and Healing at Ground Zero, the exhibit demonstrates the steady resolve of thousands of people who reached out in love to both those who were hurting and those who were helping. Isn’t that what Christ expects of all of us? He wants us to reach out to a hurting world and offer love and compassion.

Let’s think today about tangible ways we can express the love of God. What comfort a note of encouragement, a prepared meal, or a kind word can bring to a troubled friend. Consider a random act of kindness for an unsuspecting stranger. A loved one may need to hear a word of praise. Or a co-worker could feel a special boost with a pat on the back. In other words, let’s be ministers with an unwavering spirit in Jesus’ name.

If anyone ministers; let him do it as with the ability which God supplies.
1 Peter 4:11

The 9/11 rescue and recovery volunteers were surrounded by a fence filled with expressions of love; let’s surround our brothers and sisters with expressions of love.

To browse the artifacts or view the chronology of St Paul’s, visit their website at http://www.saintpaulschapel.org/pyv/.

Setting Sail

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters is a series of short biographical poems about the people who lived in the fictional town Spoon River. One of the characters, George Gray, looks back over his life and compares it to “a boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.” George was offered many opportunities during his lifetime and was hungry to find meaning in life. In reflecting, he knew he should have left the harbor and set sail in order to fully experience life. However, George was afraid. He feared becoming disillusioned, and he dreaded taking chances. So…George never set sail. He longed for the sea yet was afraid.

George Gray’s life describes the life of many Christians. Let’s imagine that we too are like ships in the harbor. What are the destinations, the opportunities, that Christ has for us to explore? In what ways does he want to use our spiritual gifts, our skills, and our passions? Are we sitting in the harbor or have we set sail?

You might consider these questions –

What is the next step in my spiritual growth?
What area of service or study or support should I consider?
What is preventing me from "setting sail?"
What do I need to do in order to “launch?”

After a short time in the harbor reflecting the direction God would have us go, we must then set sail. Often this means we will feel like George, afraid of taking chances and afraid of becoming disillusioned. However, we should always remember that a ship must be in motion to be guided. How can God guide a ship that stays in a harbor and never sets sail?

In our spiritual walk, we must set sail. We must be in motion. Then we should look to our Captain to guide us. He is waiting for us to leave the harbor.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

To view the poem, "George Gray," click here http://spoonriveranthology.net/spoon/river/view/George_Gray

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Hurry Sickness

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Have you ever heard the adage, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get?” Coined back in the 1950s, “hurry sickness” describes the discomfort of a person who feels chronically short of time. He typically performs tasks faster and faster and then gets flustered with any kind of delay.

You might suffer from “hurry sickness” if you…
Try to put on your make-up, drink your Starbucks, and answer your cell phone, all while driving to work.
Consistently play the game, “Who can get into the car and buckle your seat belt the fastest?” with your kids.
Repeat the word “hurry” four times in a row to each family member every Sunday while getting ready to go to church.
Usually drive 10 or more miles per hour over the speed limit.
Get really impatient with people in the checkout line who wait until the cashier has rung up the last item before digging into that bottomless purse to find the checkbook and finally write the check. (Why isn’t everyone using a check card by now anyway?)
Dart around in traffic passing everyone going slower than you even though it will only get you one car length ahead at the traffic light. (Well at least you get a little ahead.)
View “hanging out” as a total waste of time.

I suffer from “hurry sickness.” Unfortunately, I actually choose to hurry because I think I can get so much more done if I hurry. Can’t I get more done for the kingdom if I hurry? (Note my rationalization.) I often get caught on the treadmill of life by over planning, over scheduling and over committing when I need to be overcoming. I need to overcome the temptation to speed through life and spend more time abiding in Christ. Ultimately, the constant need to hurry can become an addiction and rob me from what I really need to be doing – abiding in Christ.

Abide in me, and I will abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. John 15:4

This verse is a reminder that we must abide or “remain” in him and he will “remain” in us. In order to “remain,” we need to be “still” in him. And how can we avoid the exhortation in Psalm to be still? It’s hard to be in a hurry when we’re still, isn’t it?

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10

The Greek word kairos refers to the moments when you let go of time and become totally absorbed in what you’re doing. I know I need a little more kairos and a lot less hurry. Fellow sufferers, let’s unite and try to find the balance between seizing every moment and dwelling in the moment.

Have a kairos day!

Check out the this site for suggestions to overcoming “hurry sickness.” http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/practices/features.php?id=16794

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