Saturday, September 29, 2012

Feast of Tabernacles and Thanksgiving Meditation

As the Feast of Tabernacles (FOT) or Sukkot approaches as well as Canadian Thanksgiving,  I am preparing my mind to reflect and meditate on the meaning behind these seasons. The seasons also have special significance to me today as an immigrant, as it was almost a year ago within the same period that I was reunited with my family on Canadian soil, after I left them in Jamaica to begin PhD studies. As such I can appreciate Thanksgiving and its message as well as identify with the Israelites as immigrants and the joy of the Feast of Tabernacles.

As I prepared my mind today by attempting to listen to a semon on Zechariah preached by a pastor at a  2010 feast of Tabernacles commemorative service (see FOT sermon from Ian Boyne on Zechariah), I had a spiritual refreshing conversation with a friend of mine who also observes the festival.

My friend asked me if I would be attending any feast site this year, to which I responded that I did not think so, but may rather just listen virtually and attend the feast in meditation and spirit. As far as I know, there are no such celebrations in my town apart from Thanksgiving. Observing the FOT is not in main stream Christian tradition, and contemporary Jewish observance keep it with only adult males living/sleeping and having meals in hand-made and home-made booths for 8 days. Herbert Amstrong introduced a Christian remake of the Feast of Tabernacles celebration which differs from the Jewish tradition, that in my past as a child member of the Worldwide Church of God, the feast site was usually a hotel where the entire church went for 8 days of services and activities together. It was like a church camp meeting plus family vacation (See a balanced Wikipedia entry on Christian Feast of Tabernacles and compare with The Restored Church of God's teaching on this ordinance).

I also get the sense that Canadians and Americans kind of keep a remnant of this feast in the form of Thanksgiving.  Canadian Thanksgiving in particular falls this year (2012) on October 7th, which is within the Feast of Tabernacles celebration. From my own experience, I have come to the conclusion that the early pilgrims felt their journey to be likened to that of the Israelites in their entering the promised land. However during that period, there was an apparent unity among the pilgrims and the First nation peoples, which reflects a future expectation that one day the entire world will be united in worshipping and celebrating God.

My friend also showed me his mini sukkah, which inspires me to have a perfect family activity to commemorate the season. I hope to build a mini sukkah with my daughters during the feast of Tabernacles and have the occasion to tell them about the feast (and make the link with Thanksgiving) and explain to them the spiritual and cultural significance of this feast, while helping them understand the ordinace in light of past, present and even the future. I know that my firstborn of four years will be very receptive.

John 3:16 and the ten commandments

I've taken a long time before publishing this post following a previous post  dissecting John 3:16. In that  previous blog entry, I expounded upon John 3:16, a beloved Bible verse of mine. I am also amazed to find out how many of the ten commandments are embodied in John 3:16. This entry follows up on the previous, making explicit how one can see the 10 commandments reflected in John 3:16.

1. For God: In the Ten commandments, the first commandment tells us to not worship any other than God. John 3:16 begins 'For God' also reminding us that God exists and is to be worshiped, honoured and respected. It tells of God's authority and identity.

2. So love: The second of the Ten commandments tells us not to make God jealous. Love and jealousy are apparently connected. Songs of Solomon 8:6 says it all about how 'jealousy is cruel as the grave'.

3. The world: As if in a message to the world system, the third commandment prohibits the misuse of God's name. How holidays such as Christmas uses the Lord's title, but is exploited by paganism and commercialism. Yet, is not using the name of God worse than using his name in vain? Are both not equivalent? For though the world was created by God, there is a great secular movement that takes offence to the use of God name (except as a swear word or for entertainment purposes). Using his name meaninglessly and the efforts to remove his name from the earth, seem like both actions taken to assert an indentity without him. Its like a son renaming himself and eliminating the family's surname, disconnecting with his family and their heritage. Not respecting God's name is the same as not rejecting his identity as Creator of the world.

4. That he gave: The fourth commandment speaks to the Sabbath day. What God gives is special and you must not treat it anyway, but must instead make the effort to take care of what he has given and preserve it. The Sabbath day was to celebrate God's act in creating the earth. Exodus 20:11  gives God's creation as the primary reason why God blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Hence like his name, the Sabbath is another symbol given to humanity that signifies God's identity and authority.

5. Only begotten son: is paralleled by the fifth commandment of giving honour to parents. In this case, we honour God the father, the parent of Jesus the son, by how we treat and deal with Jesus the son of God.

6. That whosoever:  is paralleled by the sixth commandment prohibiting murder. Do not kill anyone, as everyone, whosoever they may be, is valuable and of worth to God.

7. Believeth in him:  This is paralleled by the seventh commandment forbidding adultery. Again this is another statement about being faithful to God. Also one must have trust in God's covenants and agreements. Marriage (between man and woman) is also a symbol or a sacrament of that belief in God, established from Creation. Those that break such a covenant destroys the image of God

8. Should not perish: Do not steal is the eight commandment. Stealing when defined is the act of separating a thing from its owner. implied there is disconnection or preventing something that really belongs to someone else from being in that person's care and possession. This is the work of Satan who comes to steal and destroy (John 10:10). Similarly, our act of disconnecting from God, whether by ignoring his name, authority, identity, covenants or commandments is indeed akin to separating from him what truly belongs to him. We belong to God, but through his granting us free will, he allows us the choice to rob ourselves from him. In so doing, we become like Satan and will suffer Satan's fate. This involves being in hell fire which was never created for us in the first place (See: Matthew 25:41). Such separation from God will indeed lead us to perish.

9. But have: The ninth commandment prohibits lying or bearing  false information. Lies can be defined as beliefs that are not real or falsehoods. The Bible speaks about people making lies. In fact, in Revelations 22:15, the Bible discusses the fate of not only those who make lies, but also loveth lies. The Bible also speaks that in the last days, people will have itching ears to listen to lies (2 Timothy 4:3). People want to chase after things that are not true or real. They even chase after riches that are not real (Proverbs 23:5). God thus cautions us not to have false beliefs and hopes, but to pursue having truth that will lead us to reality and to true possessions. As Jesus declares, it is the search for truth that will lead us into true possessions (Matthew 6:33). Pursuing falsehood and our own ways will never lead us into possessing the earth forever.

10. Everlasting life: The tenth and final commandment forbid us coveting the possessions of others. God wants us to have correct vision. Not to look to what people have in this life, but to set our minds on what we can have in the life to come. Jesus tells us that we must store up for ourselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20). Our benchmark and measurements of our life should not be with our neighbours and what they possess. instead, we must covet the life that God the Father wants us to have and offers us through his son Jesus and the Holy Spirit (John 7:38).

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The parable of the zoo

As I emerge from my secular study of storytelling and folklore, I see great value in what I have learned in application to my faith. Jesus was a storyteller, who told many parables. Parables were stories based on cultural symbols and imagery, and the ordinary things that people were familiar with in their everyday life. These parables however drew on the familiar reality of the times to communicate spiritual truths.

I wish to be like Jesus and be able to cultivate my own parables based on the symbols and imagery of modern society, in order to communicate to people of my times and era spiritual truths. As such, I want to share this parable of the zoo.

There was once a zoo that had on exhibition a monkey and a man, side by side.

When visitors came to the zoo, many flocked the cage with the monkey to see it do tricks. They even fed the monkey treats. As such, the monkey was always the star attraction and the centre of attention, and subsequently well nourished and cared for.

Few visitors however stopped by to visit the man's cage. Those who did were able to be inspired by his work of art or by conversing with him about life in the zoo as well as about books he read. He was able to help people solve their personal problems, sometimes offering advice and listening to them pour out their personal stories and woes.

However, the monkey soon became overfed, and stressed out. It was getting old and no longer young and energetic, nor willing to perform tricks. People eventually lost interest in visiting the monkey and subsequently  lost interest in the zoo. Losing its attraction, the zoo keepers eventually gave it less of treatment and attention that they had paid it when it was the star attraction and eventually the monkey died, and the cage was empty.

The man on the other hand, though under-nourished, lacking in attention, lived on longer, writing and drawing and creating works of art to leave behind to inspire those who would in the future view and read his works. Eventually the man died. But unlike the monkey, the man's cage was filled with writings on the wall, and works of art telling about his history and life, and how he survived in the zoo and what life was like. He told of how the monkey got all the popularity and attention. He also told of how while he was living he was so desirous of meeting new people and talking with them so that they could realise their destiny. He wanted to ask and answer questions about life, purpose and meaning. Yet people, chose to be entertained by the antics of the monkey reacting to different stimuli.Hence few came to converse with the man about life, get insight or discover more about him and their common humanity.

The man recorded how he watched and observed the many who came and how he longed to share with them what he had learned from reading, conversation, revelation and reflection that would help make their lives better. For since being in the zoo, the man had gained much wisdom reading many books of knowledge, reflecting in silence on life and conversing with persons.

But at last, few paid any attention to the cage with the man. Few saw his works and conversed with him. Those few who did, left better off than they came.

Meaning of the parable:

The man in this story represents the human soul and spirit, while the monkey represents our flesh and body.

The visitors of the zoo represent humanity. Those visitors who only visited the monkey represent the majority of human beings who pursue the gratification of the body and flesh, or the ideas of science (physical and natural laws) and earthly wisdom. Those visiting the man in the zoo represent the seekers of God and his ways and spiritual truth. They settle not just for the contrived, artificial and entertaining reality, but the reality beyond the natural and man-made earthly systems. Instead, they seek for the unseen and unobserved reality that can only be attained through conversation and relationship with God and other truth seekers.

Let those who have ears to ear, let them ear.

And please feel free to share! No charge for this 1.  :)