Sukkot is Active Worship

     Some people assume that we think with our minds, but if that was true wouldn’t all of us be in shape? Most people I meet “think” healthy living means living an active lifestyle, but they don’t live that lifestyle. Why is that? I would argue that thinking is much more than a mental process; and specifically I would argue that the best worship is constructed on a frame much bigger than mere thinking and speaking. Worship exists best in real life (obedience).
     Those people who think that we learn only with our brains and we speak with only our mouths have never tried to get back in shape after 10 years. If you have tried such a miserable exercise you will discover little ‘mouths’ all over your body screaming things like, “I am aching”, “This is bad”, “You should stop now.” Your mind knew it was going to be tough before you bought the gym membership, but now every little part of your body has to learn what your mind thought it already knew. It takes discipline moment by moment to get up and go to the gym, and every step takes a renewed commitment to this task of getting back in shape. It is a physical and a mental thing. Worship is the same way. The more we interact with our bodies the more we can actualize our worship.
      Sukkot is a glimpse of a truth that is best experience and not just thought about. The reason we dwell outside is to communicate to the corners of our body, not just our brain. Sukkot is learning with your whole body. It is a movement away from the Gnostic-internal-hyperemotional-mentailistic worship that is so popular today. Let me share three ways that Sukkot promotes active worship: The Decoration, The Dwelling, and the Partying.
 
The Decoration:
Creating and decorating a Sukkah takes physical work. Creating not just the structure, but putting reminders of thanksgiving takes creativity and artwork. This is a chance to really break out of the normal pattern of worship. Throw yourself headlong into creating a space that communicates to your family and friends “God has been faithful to us.” This can go beyond words. This a place of art as worship.
      Have you ever heard someone say, “When I get to heaven, I can’t wait to sing”? I think they say that for one of two reasons: one because their singing stinks, or two, because singing is such a predominant way that we have been taught to praise the Lord. It’s the number one method of “praise” (much to the chagrin of our Lord who said He desires obedience). But none-the-less most every ‘church’ I have attended prioritized singing for worship. Well I can’t sing very well. If you can’t sing, then Sukkot is for you. Sukkot is a time when you can show thanksgiving. Think of it like worship meets HGTV. You can use plants, paintings, decorations, scents, decorations, baking, wine knowledge, etc to declare your thanksgiving to God. Take your love for God and your love for your neighbor to farmers market.
Bake with thanksgiving.
Shop with thangsgiving.
Cook with thanksgiving.
The reason I LOVE Sukkot is that I have always been better with my hands than my mouth. So I love the chance to worship in meal, in decoration, and in fellowship. I encourage all of you Martha-Stewardites to bring some fresh creativity to your home for this celebration. This is a time to worship through decoration.

The “Dwelling”
      Sukkot promotes active worship through the command “to dwell” in our Sukkah. We aren’t going to get legalistic as to what ‘dwell’ means, but rest assured your body will. One reason that we don’t try to define what it means for each person is because people’s physical limitations often require a different meaning of “dwell” than another’s. Some people live in tents the whole week. Some eat dinner in tents. Some people eat at restaurants. Some people do not go inside their house even in the rain. There is no “right” answer to what it means to dwell, however, whatever you define as dwell your body will want to be included in the negotiations.  There will come times when your body does not want to celebrate Sukkot. It will remind you that your home has a heater? It will remind you that your favorite chair is much more comfortable than your camp chair. It will remind you that per ‘permanent’ life is much better than this ‘temporary’ one.
        Here’s what usually happens with me on about Wednesday: I love the dinner outside, it is usually a wonderful temperature; but at the end of dinner the sweatshirt isn’t quite enough. I pull out my jacket but soon it is really cold. This is when I have the conversation with God about why He didn’t choose August for the festival. I sit outside my sliding glass window staring at my comfortable chair in front of the TV. I can hear the chair telling me, “The TV and I won’t tell anyone if you come inside. It’s warm in here. Everyone outside is asleep.” But the cold is a wonderful reminder of the changing seasons. While my skin doesn’t at first like the fact that the seasons are changing, my heart jumps for joy to know that God is changing the seasons of my life. My body (through aches or cold, as well as through beautiful sights, smells, and tastes) acts as a worship leader constantly bringing the truth God into my mind and life.
This conversation with my desires is the place where much of the meditation of Sukkot is meaningful. Let me tell you a short story that has deep significance for the believer in Christ. One year we were preparing for Sukkot and a friend asked if I was going to bring my TV outside. We were discussing a sporting event that I really wanted to see during Sukkot (which as it turns out will be during sukkot this year). I thought about it and at first it seemed like a cool idea. I was going to drag out my arm chair and TV. I thought through where I could position the TV outside, but then I remembered that it rains sometimes during Sukkot. If it rained I would lose my TV for good. So much for that idea! I mean, I kicked it to the curb in less than one second flat once I realized that I could jeopardize my permanent living for the sake of my temporary living. Do you see the parallel? As soon as I recognized that it could damage my more permanent dwelling I chose to live differently in my temporary dwelling. This is where the scriptures speak to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven that do not rust (or get ruined by rain) because it doesn’t make any sense to compromise the eternal for the temporal. This is worth the weeks meditation. The temporariness of the Sukkah and the temporariness of our lives remind us of the permanent reality of the Kingdom of God already at work in this world and the world to come.
 
The Partying
The last benefit of Sukkot in creating active worship is the party itself.
I took a lot of writing classes in college and grad school and one common theme that makes a big difference in writing is to show action and not tell about it. I can still see my teacher tapping his pen on the desk saying, “don’t tell me; show me.”  Let me give you an example:
      Tell me: “An old man is happy.”
       Show me: “We could see the creases on the old man’s wrinkled face deepen. Could it be a smile? We didn’t know until the he wiped the sweat out of his face and as his fingers pushed up his sunglasses.
       Which one is more fun to read? People would rather be shown than told anyway. So it’s more fun and it has a greater impact. Showing is better than telling. Sukkot is a great chance to show God’s faithfulness.
        When the preacher asks you if you love your neighbor and you nod, but this is a chance to show the Lord that you love him. Love is not a feeling, it’s a verb. What have you done for your neighbor? Let me ask it another way: If you invite your neighbor to a meal, do you love your neighbor enough to serve him two buck chuck or do you love him Stag’s Leap Cast 23 2006? Do you love your neighbor enough to spend some time and money on your meal together? Don’t merely say that you love your neighbor. Show the world you love them. Invite them(everyone) to a feast. Let them contribute. Show the world that God has been faithful to you by inviting everyone and eating and drinking the finest. This is a week where I say to you, “don’t tell yourself you love God. Show the world that God loves us all!” I talk to people who say things like, I love my neighbors. I just don’t know how to show them.” Here is a way to show them—a God given strategy for loving your neighbors: one word- three syllables: PARTY.
       I would love to see city blocks overtaken with festival. All humanity is loved by God. I yearn for the day when I can see it. This festival is only a glimpse of a greater reality. I enjoy the glimpse. Are you beginning to see it?
 
Don't forget to check out the other pages on Sukkot here at The Well.
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