I’m not a big, outdoorsy, guy. So, camping out was never something I really enjoyed, except for this one time. Me and my best friend, Mark, had a great “fort” in the woods near our apartment complex in Orlando when I was about 11 or 12. Being central Florida, the pine trees in these woods were kinda scrawny and they were lots of palmettos. But the clearing we had made seemed perfect for the two tents we set up, and we had even dug a fire pit so we could have some roasted marshmallows. What we didn’t appreciate was that, sometimes, central Florida had droughts and “outdoor burning bans.” We learned that lesson quite quickly one summer late afternoon as two deputies came out to our camp to “arrest” us for lighting a fire in the woods.
Bye, bye “fort.”
Look at our lesson today in Hebrews 9:1-7:
BRETHREN, the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. For a tent was prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence; it is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, which contained a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. These preparations having thus been made, the priests go continually into the outer tent, performing their ritual duties; but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people.
The Hebrews were prepared for the coming of the Messiah for centuries before Christ. And the primary way God prepared His people to receive Christ, to recognize Christ, was in the Liturgical life of the people. But, you say, they still missed Him. So, why didn’t the Liturgical life of the Jews convince them all? Because liturgy is only as effective as the educated and pious people who practice it! If you don’t know why we do what we do, it won’t be long before your kids don’t know why either!
But notice the Apostle starts off trying to correct their liturgical knowledge by teaching them anew about the powerful wisdom preserved in the original “Tent of Meeting” they had set up in the wilderness before they got to the Promised Land. He starts teaching them about the Tent!
We don’t have time to really unpack all this but I hope you take the time to do so! There is such a treasure of wisdom in each part of the liturgical furniture in the passage. What I do want to draw your attention to was the very nature of having a Tent as your worship space in the first place.
First, a Tent is Temporary. The whole reason for the Jews to have this Tent as they moved through the desert was to be able to set it up and take it down as the Lord guided them to the Promised Land. While today we have (semi) permanent places to worship, and that’s good, we also are called to hold within us the temporary nature of our earthly lives. We are matured to a sober life by the embrace of the reality of our own very temporariness!
Next, a Tent is Portable. The Tent of Meeting for the Jews was meant to teach them and us that we have to take our faith with us wherever we go. It is certainly a blessing to have beautiful temples where we can worship God in spirit and truth, but those temples will soon lose their value in our hearts if we don’t “carry” our faith with us into every aspect of our lives.
Finally, a Tent is a lot of Trouble. Set it up; take it down. Over and over again. We can never escape the necessary lesson that an active and daily practice of the Faith is hard. We live in a world where it’s easy to be unfaithful and hard to stay faithful. So, a powerful lesson of the Tent is that we have to make peace with the daily difficulty of practicing a purposeful Orthodoxy!
Today, are you ready to embrace the “Tent” of your own heart in staying focused on the reality of a mature faith? All you need to keep your own “Tent” of worship and piety in good order and ready to serve you in making you God’s intimate companion lies within reach by seriously being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, You made me with the capacity to know You! But the key to knowing You and even knowing myself is to escape the temptation to ignore the eternal and only focus on the temporary. You want me to make a space in my heart for You so that You can save me from focusing on those temporary priorities that blind me to Your eternal purpose for me! Forgive me for forgetting this wonderful truth and help me keep my priorities focused on eternal things! Amen.