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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Incarnational Reality of Sukkot

In my mind there is no greater holiday than Sukkot.  Some of my best childhood memories come from celebrating Sukkot with my family and congregation.  Building sukkot (both at home and for the congregation), eating in the sukkah, praying in the sukkah, and sometimes sleeping in the sukkah.  In college we built a sukkah every year and in my senior year I got some of my buddies to sleep in it with me until it began to rain.  One midrash says, "A man who sleeps in a Sukkah while it is raining is an idiot."  We took this to heart and retreated back to our house.  I have so many great stories and memories wrapped up in the celebration of this wonderful holiday.

View from Congregational Sukkah
Yesterday, I had an awesome experience as I sat in our synagogue's sukkah and wrote my sermon for this coming Shabbat Sukkot.  One Rabbi wrote, "there is a midrash that says that sukkot are not buildings at all but the glory of God." And that got me thinking.  As I sat in the Sukkah, reading and praying, I had the opportunity to sit in the glory of God.  It is easy in our sukkah because it is right by a lake and, though it is getting cold the sound of the leaves, wind, water, birds and corn stalks on our sukkah led me in a quiet peace that I have not experienced in a while.  The sukkah is a physical representation of the presence (or glory) of God; to sit in it during Sukkot while reading and praying was to invite God's glory into my life, even if just for a moment.  I played "Show Me Thy Glory" by Marty Goetz on my iPad and of course, as only Marty Goetz's music can, I felt the presence of the Lord with me.  

I know, cheesy right?  I agree.
But, it was also real.

During the middle Shabbat of Sukkot we read Exodus 33-34 (A curious passage for Sukkot since the holy day is hardly mentioned).  Moses says to God, "show me your glory."  And God does.  He warns Moses that no one will see God's face and live.  So, instead He passes by Moses and shows him His back.
Moses' desire is to see the glory of God and God obliges. 

This is Sukkot: If you want to see God's glory all you have to do is ask; then take the time to sit back and enjoy it.  

There is an incarnational reality that so many people miss regarding Sukkot.  We call Sukkot "the Feast of Ingathering", "the Feast of Tabernacles", and "the Time of our Rejoicing".   God's desire is to gather all the exiles back to Himself as a farmer gathers all the crops in the Autumn (feast of ingathering).  He wants to "tabernacle" with us.  Tabernacle means "to dwell" or "to live" and that is precisely what the God of creation wants to do.  He wants us to tabernacle in His presence (feast of tabernacles).  He did all this so that we can rejoice in His presence and let the cares of this world fade away (time of our rejoicing).  The incarnational reality of Sukkot is that God gives us the opportunity to Sukkot (tabernacle) in His presence. 

We can take it one step higher in the person of Yeshua.  John 1:14 says, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling [sukkot; tabernacled] among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."  John is using imagery from the Feast of Sukkot.  The Word, Yeshua, came to Sukkot among us.  Just like we do every Sukkot, John turns to the concept of the glory of God. "We have seen His glory. the glory of the one and only Son..."  The incarnational reality of Sukkot is that Yeshua left heaven, was born as a baby, grew in stature and knowledge, and brought the glory of God into a human body (the incarnation). 

Why would God do such a thing? 
He was answering the cry of Moses for all of Israel.  We say, "show us your glory" and God in His wisdom sent "the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." Amazing!

Beit Messiah's Sukkah in Seattle
The whole point of building sukkot is that they are temporary.  Sitting, eating, sleeping and all that we do in the sukkah is temporary because we only do it for eight days out of three hundred and sixty five.  As with all of the feasts in scripture we are called to remember what happened in our past but also "remember" what will happen in the future.  There will come a day when we will only be in the presence of God and there will be nothing else...
No sun, moon or stars...
Only us (those who call on the name of Yeshua) and the presence of God.

During this Sukkot, take the time to sit in the sukkah and enjoy the glory of God.  If you don't have a sukkah, no worries; the presence of God will go anywhere and at any time.  All you have to do is want to see it and ask God for it.
It is temporary.
You will have to ask again.
But, it is a wonderful picture of all that we hope for. 

The prophet Zechariah writes (in another special reading for Sukkot), "On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which lies to the east of Yerushalayim...Then ADONAI will be king over the whole world. On that day ADONAI will be the only one, and his name will be the only name...everyone remaining from all the nations that came to attack Yerushalayim will go up every year to worship the king, ADONAI-Tzva’ot, and to keep the festival of Sukkot" (14:2-16 CJB).

You are a sukkah and you can house the presence of God.  Just as Yeshua became the God/Man we, not being God, can have the glory of God reside in us. 
We become His sukkah.

Just as a sukkah is temporary so, we are temporarily on this earth as foreigners and strangers and the God of Israel is calling us home.  He, through Messiah Yeshua, wants to ingather us (Feast of Ingathering), so that He can dwell in us (Feast of Tabernacles) so that we can rejoice in Him (the Time of our Rejoicing)!

Chag Sukkot Sameach (Happy Sukkot)!