Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Feast of Booths, New Testament style

At first I thought it sounded totally weird.  But after an evening seeing it firsthand, I'm impressed.

A church near my home, Beaver Creek Baptist Church, is observing the Feast of Tabernacles (aka Feast of Booths) this week.  Sort of.  

Hopefully your theological alarm bells are already going off.   There are "Torah Observant Messianic Jews" who try to do things like that nowadays, and usually wind up losing the Messiah.  Then there was the heretical Worldwide Church of God (founded by Herbert Armstrong) that had as one of its tenets the keeping of Levitical feasts, including Tabernacles. 

But BCBC is not doing this to obey the Old Testament (or the New Testament, for that matter).  It's clear that the Feast of Tabernacles is one of the shadows that was no longer necessary once the substance (Jesus) had come.  (Colossians 2:16-17). 

Rather, they have extracted key benefits of the Feast of Tabernacles and imported them into the 21st century church.  What this looks like for them is this:
  • Inviting members to come and camp at the church all week.  Some are camping in RVs, others in tents. 
  • Preparing and sharing meals together (all three meals, every day for the week) outdoors. 
  • Lots of unscheduled, unstructured time to just talk with each other.
  • Public reading of large portions of Scripture, without commentary.  About 2 hours of it each day.  (An hour after lunch and an hour after supper.)  Some people just come to these Bible readings.  A schedule of Bible passages has been prepared in advance (by the pastor?) and people sign up to read a chunk.  They have a microphone, speaker, and lights outside to facilitate this.
You can't tell from the photo, but this man is actually standing outside the church, on the steps in front of the main entrance.  He was one of this evening's Bible readers.

 Tonight my parents and I went to the after-supper Bible reading.  It was very simple: 
  • A woman read Psalm 139 and 134.
  • A man led singing of three short songs (using only a guitar).
  • A man read Mark 8-10.
  • Another man read Mark 11-13.
  • A third man read Mark 14-16.
  • The pastor prayed.
About thirty people were there, sat mostly on folding steel chairs, and listened remarkably attentively to over an hour of straight Bible.  Some followed along silently in their own Bibles or on their electronic devices.  The reading was mostly monotone and the readers stumbled over their words frequently.  But there was something strangely beautiful and compelling about this unprofessional, unadorned meeting.  The only attraction was the Word of God itself.

I hope more churches will experiment with this idea.

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