April 5, 2012

I am hungry for a taco. Or some ice cream. Or just to be able to taste something.

Yesterday’s photo challenge was to take a picture of someone who makes you happy. But I was at school and then at the grocery store, and the checkout clerk did not make me extra happy. So here is a picture of My Special. He makes me happy.

Also, the lady at the Judaica store knows me. We’re friends. I went in yesterday and she asked how I was and I told her I was sick with a cold. She told me about their new Passover products. She probably wondered why this crazy Gentile black girl keeps coming into her store to buy stuff for Jewish holidays.

So my small group is doing a Passover Seder tonight. Passover is actually tomorrow, but we are under grace, OK?! Like I mentioned yesterday, God asked his people to remember the Exodus every year by eating lamb and bitter herbs and unleavened bread. So each year, people use a Haggadah, which is the liturgy of Passover to go through the Seder meal. The liturgy includes a reading of the story of the Exodus — all the plagues and how God finally brought the people out from slavery. When you participate in the Passover meal, you do it as though you were one of the people God rescued from slavery in Egypt. Although the first Passover was spent in traveling clothes and eaten quickly, now people lounge and take their time because we have been set free.

You also eat elements from the Seder plate at the meal. You dip parsley in salt water to remember the tears of bondage. You eat a bitter herb — usually radish — to remember the bitterness of slavery. And you eat an apple mixture to remind you of the mortar used in building for Pharaoh’s kingdom.

One of my favorite parts of the Passover Seder is when we recount all the things God has done for us. It’s called “Dayenu” which means “it would have been enough for us” in Hebrew. You say things like, “If God had only brought us out of slavery, but not brought us to the Red Sea, Dayenu.” “If God had only brought us to the Red Sea, but not parted it for us, Dayenu.” “If God had only parted the Red Sea, but not drowned Pharaoh’s army, Dayenu.” And on and on. I love it. It would have been enough — but God continued to act, he continued to provide, he continued to do so much more. He is good to us.

Jesus celebrated Passover. I believe that the Last Supper was a Passover meal, which is cool because we see Jesus using the elements of the meal in order to institute communion. The cup he takes after supper, the cup of the covenant cut in his blood, is known as the cup of redemption in the Seder meal. It is related to God’s promise in Exodus to redeem his people. God did it through the Exodus, and here Jesus showed that he was doing it again, this time for the whole world to set us free from our sin.

It’s really cool, you guys. It’s awesome to remember how God has set us free, to notice the elements of Passover that Jesus used when instituting communion, to eat a meal with friends in grateful praise for all the Lord has done. It is good.

OK, I best be off. Hope you have a lovely day!



October 13, 2011

Yesterday I sat on the couch most of the day, sniffing and coughing and watching old episodes of Parenthood on Netflix. I did get dressed around noon, which was a really proud moment. Please hold your applause. After I got dressed, I returned to the couch and ate a cough drop. Then I thought about how I really needed to write a lesson, but my hands were tired and as I’ve previously explained my computer screen was taken up with the Bravermans. Anyhoo, today is a new day, and whether I feel awesome or not, there are things to do, people. After all, we’re celebrating a holiday!

So, Sukkot (Sue-COAT) is the next holiday commanded by God in Leviticus 23:33-43. We sometimes hear it called the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths. It’s a harvest holiday that lasts for seven days; on the first and last days you are to rest and do no work (I took advantage of that command yesterday). God also told the people to live in sukkahs (booths) for those seven days because that is what they did when they wandered in the desert for 40 years. God wanted the Israelite descendents to remember that time — how God brought them out of Egypt and provided for them in the desert. The Bible also tells the people to take ripe fruit and leafy branches and green palm fronds and rejoice before the Lord in thankfulness. He provided for all their needs in the desert, and he brought them into the Promised Land!

People still celebrate Sukkot by building little shelters in their backyards. There are all kinds of rules for building a sukkah — certain parts must be made out of natural materials and you decorate them with festive colors. (If you don’t want to make your own, you can buy one here.)

Here’s what a sukkah looks like. Aww, sukkah, sukkah now.

Here is a tent-like sukkah.

But what if you live in an apartment and don’t have a backyard? No worries — sukkahs can be built on your balcony.

Or even on a boat.

A lot of people don’t sleep in their sukkahs, but they eat dinner in them every night. The sukkah is a place to have fun and enjoy being with friends. Because it is a joyous holiday, your sukkah should have a roof sturdy enough to keep you shaded and comfortable, but not so solid that you are prevented from gazing up at the stars at night.

Sukkot comes right after the serious Day of Atonement, and it switches the tone up completely. It is joyful — a time of gratefulness and thanksgiving to God. Sukkot is also a time of showing hospitality — you can invite your friends over to have dinner with you in your sukkah. It’s also a time to be generous — you give to the poor and share with those in need. Part of Sukkot is remembering that our possessions are temporary and can come and go; it is God who provides for us, and God whose love and grace is permanent.

So, there’s a good article in the Washington Post that really summed up what we can learn from the seven days of dwelling in temporary shelters:

If one has been blessed — our profits outweigh our expenditures, our portfolio has grown and our wine cellars are full and satisfaction and trust fill our soul — it is at that moment that the Torah tells us to leave our home and dwell in a sukkah. The frail booth teaches us that neither wealth, good investments, IRA’s or even real-estate are life’s safeguards. It is God who sustains us all, those in palaces and those in tents. Any glory or wealth we posses came to us from God, and will endure so long as it is God’s will.

And if our toil has not resulted in great blessing — our investments went south, we lost our job and nest-egg, our cellars are empty, and we face the approaching winter with mounting debt and bills, living off credit from month to month, forlorn and fearful for how we will survive— then as we enter the sukkah we find rest for our troubled soul. Divine providence is more reliable than worldly wealth which can vanish in an instant. The sukkah will renew our strength and courage, and teach and inspire us with joy and perseverance even in the face of affliction and hardship.

So, Sukkot started last night at sundown and continues for the next week. I’m planning some hospitality for the week, and, although I will not be building a shelter, I do plan to have dinner on my deck at least a couple of times. Any ideas for ways we can serve or help the poor this week?

There’s lots more cool stuff about Sukkot, but we’ll get to that tomorrow. Come back, OK? Bring your friends. Remember today that God provides for us because he is good. His love endures forever!

Yom Kippur

October 6, 2011

It feels like fall today, you guys. There’s a breeze, and leaves are swirling around, and most importantly, new episodes of my favorite shows are back on TV! I cried at Parenthood this week. Yeah, I cry at fictional characters interacting in fictional situations. Jealous?

Here is how God celebrates fall.

So, we’ve got another biblical holiday this week! Although, that exclamation point is probably a bit much because it’s the one somber holiday that God commanded. Yom Kippur (or the Day of Atonement) starts this Friday at sundown. It is the holiest day of the whole year for the people of God. In Leviticus 23, God commanded the Israelites to abstain from work and to deny themselves (fast) for a whole day. People examine themselves and their sins, asking God for his forgiveness.

Yom Kippur is the day, each year, when the people of Israel must atone for their sins. There are very detailed instructions in Leviticus 16 — the high priest must sacrifice to atone for himself, and sacrifice to atone the altar and the Most Holy Place. God dwelt there, among sinful people, and it needed to be made holy. Then the priest would bring two goats — one to sacrifice as a sin offering for the people, and one to be a scapegoat. The priest would symbolically place all of the sins of the people for the past year on the scapegoat. A man would then lead the goat, heavy with the burden of Israel’s sin, into the desert and let it go — the scapegoat would carry away, upon its head, the wickedness of their hearts.

It’s a fascinating story. Please, please take a second to read Leviticus 16. I hadn’t read it in awhile, and it’s amazing to look at the process required to atone for our sins.

First Fruits of Zion wrote a newsletter about Yom Kippur, reminding us that Hebrews 9 parallels this process by showing us that Jesus, the Messiah, has become our high priest. He is the one who made  atonement for us, not through sacrificing a bull or a goat or a ram, but through sacrificing his body — broken, burdened, crushed under the weight of, not only the sins of Israel, but the sins of all humanity throughout all time.

The Bible is cool, you guys. There are so many parallels, so many stories that get retold and fulfilled and given new meaning. It’s like a much, much cooler Lost. Or maybe Lost is like a much less cooler Bible. Or maybe … OK, the analogy isn’t working. Let’s move on.

You are not supposed to work during Yom Kippur, and you are supposed to fast. I plan to do a fast, and I’ll talk about my reasoning more tomorrow, but I wanted to let you know so that if you want to consider doing it,  you could start praying about it today.

OK, I’ve gots to go, folks. Have a good day, friends, in grateful remembrance of Jesus who atoned for us.

Let’s Feast All Year Long!

September 27, 2011

Hiya, hi.

How’s your Tuesday? I should probably be going to the library today, but I think it might crush my soul if I do. I’d rather hang out here. It’s better than the library.

It’s been a busy few days. My best good friend Micah got married in Arkansas, so we flew down for her gorgeous wedding. I will post a pictorial essay very soon. We did a flash mob dance at the reception. I was wittle scared at first, but it turned out to be so fun. We’re pretty impressive dancers.

So, I’ve decided to celebrate each of the biblical feasts this year. The feasts are holidays that God commanded his people to celebrate as lasting ordinances. Most Christians don’t celebrate them, but I don’t see any reason why we can’t or shouldn’t. They were for God’s people to remember how he had provided for them, and why they were to be thankful to him. Each feast also represented a shadow of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who was to come.

Anyway, I’d love it if you’d take this journey with me this year! I’ve never celebrated all of the biblical feasts, although I have celebrated Passover for the last few years. There are seven biblical holidays — three in the fall (Rosh HaShanah, Day of Atonement and Sukkot) and four in the spring (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Pentecost). There are others that are not commanded in the Bible, but that many Jews celebrate, including Hanukkah and Purim. I may throw those in as an added bonus. I know you’re excited.

The first fall holiday begins this Thursday at sundown. It’s Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish new year, and it begins a period of 10 days of self-examination before the Day of Atonement (also known as Yom Kippur). I’ll blog about it probably Thursday and Friday, but if you want, you can read a bit about it here. If you really do want to participate in some of this with me this year, I encourage you to look for a Messianic Jewish church that has a Thursday evening Rosh HaShanah service this week!

OK, gotta go. Work is calling. Actually, it’s yelling. Kind of rude. Shalom, y’all.