DAY 1-  Cubbies and Camping.

 Who likes camping/ anyone camping?  Where have you been.

 What is the best part of camping?

 What about cubby houses?

 They are great fun arenít they?

 Why do we like cubbies and tents and bush huts?  Humans like to have a home and to build homes.  It is something God programmed into them.  We need homes for shelter, safety and somewhere to keep our stuff.  Kids like cubbies because they are their own places that they have built themselves and so they feel they own them.  Who has slept the night in a cubby in the lounge room?  Really uncomfortable but so satisfying to be able to sleep in something you have made even if the table cloth falls in your face in the middle of the night and you crawl back to bed because you are cold.

 Now we seldom go camping or build cubby houses on our own.  The best part is sharing the activity with friends and maybe even a sister or brother if you canít get anything better.  There is such excitement about sleeping in a new and strange and maybe even a bit dangerous place.  There is the challenge of eating raw sausages and burnt toast ďout thereĒ, even if out there is only the back yard.  Perhaps what makes cubbies fun is the challenge of actually managing the difficulties it presents.  Putting up the tent, making the roof stay up, managing the simple cooking methods, staying dry become part of the fun rather than a problem.  It takes life back to the simple things that really matter and puts us in contact with the earth and nature and away from our usual cares.

 Well did you know that God loves cubby houses and camping too?  He set up a special time of the year so His people could go camping with him.  When?

 At the Feast of Tabernacles, of course.  Now Tabernacles is just a big word for camping or a cubby house.  The Hebrew word is Succoth which is the plural word of Sukkah which means a small hut made of wood and branches and stuff.  Some people call it a booth so the Feast is also called the Feast of Booths.  It is just words that mean the same thing so we will be very clever and speak in Hebrew and call the hut a Sukkah and the Feast, Sukkoth.

 I wonder why God set up the Feast or Sukkoth.  Well, He likes to have a holiday too. It is serious business being God so He likes to take time out and spend it with His family veging out and eating and enjoying Himself.  The Feast is not just for us but for God too. 

 But it always happens after a lot of work.  God always had His holiday with His family after the harvest was finished and all the work was done.  We have our big holiday at the end of the year in summer when school is finished.  But, Tabernacles or Sukkoth is Godís end of year holiday when all the work is finished.

 But God never misses an opportunity to teach us something importnat at the same time.

 Can you guess what lesson God is teaching us at Sukkoth.

       Holidays are important.  You need a break to get your strength back after a lot of work

       It is important to spend time with people you love, especially God. That is one way they know you love them.  You give them the gift of your time

       Fun is good.  It is part of Godís plan for us but you canít have fun unless you have done your work first.

       It tells a big story too.  Our time here on earth doesnít last forever.  Our bodies are like cubbies in the lounge room when it rains or tents or even units, on holidays.  At the end of the rain, the cubby has to be packed away and after the holiday, the tent is cleaned and put in itís box.  Our bodies are just like that.  They are just temporary dwellings and God is reminding us that we are only here for a short time.  At the beginning of the holidays you think have a week of glorious days spread out before you.  In no time at all it is time to go home and you cannot believe how fast the time went.  It is the same with our lives.  When we are young we think that we will live forever but you soon realise that time flies by and that our earthly cubby has to be pulled down

 When we are kids we never think that we WILL die one day.  It is so far away.  But we all will.  Every single person who is here will die one day.  That is how it is but we forget that.  Now we shouldnít sit and worry about it either, specially not at The Feast but we need to ďbe mindfulĒ of it and make the most of the time we do have by thinking about how we live our lives so it can be the best way it can be.

 So every year God has special holidays with His family all over the world but Sukkoth is very special.  We love and laugh and enjoy Him and He enjoys us as we get ready for the next cycle of His year.  But the deep mysterious hidden meaning is that our lives here on earth are as temporary as the cubby or tent or unit we are staying in and that sooner or later we will have to leave.

 More important it is one way we have of showing God that we love Him.  The only reason we come to the Feast is because He has invited us. We didnít think it up.  It is Godís idea.  Oh we have a good time too but the real reason is to spend time with God.  Not just in services but when you are playing on the sand, when you are walking, when you are waiting to go to sleep.  Oh I know we can and probably should do that all the time, but at the Feast it is His special time.  It is like when your grandparents come to visit.  Your can talk on Skype any time you like or ring them up but when they come and you actually see them, it is nice for you but wonderful for them if you spend time with them.  God is the same. 

 So that is why we have The Feast because God loves cubbies

 

DAY 2 Ė FRAMEWORK

 OK we are talking about Cubby houses this year and camping out and spending time with God.  I love cubby houses!!!!

 Now what is the important thing about a cubby?  A roof?  Yes.  So what is the problem with a roof?  How do you get it up there?  You need something to hold it up. SO what can we use?  My kids used the bar stools and the lounge chairs to make a framework.  Sometimes they turned them around so they made walls.  Sometimes they used them with the seats in so they could be beds.  Then they put a big old bedspread over the top to make the roof.

 But!!  The stools kept tipping over and the roof collapsed.  Or the bedspread would slide down under its own weight.  They soon learned that they had to get the stools in the right place and to weigh them down with books or tins of baked beans from the pantry to stop it sliding.

 So really the framework is the most important part because without that you donít have a roof or walls and you donít have a cubby.

 Now when you go camping and you put up the tent what is the first part you put up?  The framework of poles that tie together in different ways.  With a tent, the roof and sides are all in one but you still need a framework to make a shelter.

 Now in the Bible when God asked His people to come away camping with Him He suggested that they build what we call a Booth or a Sukkah.  They were really a cubby  or small hut because they were temporary and not very strong.  They were very simple and didnít give a great deal of protection.  We live in units but we only have a short time there.

 Now God never wastes an experience.  By doing this He knew that they all were going to have fun but that the people would have an opportunity to learn heaps about  God.  One of the big things they learned was that their life here on earth is temporary like the Sukkah.  We are all born and one day we will all die.  We all know people who have come to the end of their lives, either through old age or by some other reason.  We tend to forget this most of the time but by building a Sukkah each year God reminds us that we only have a certain amount of time here and we should probably make the best of it.  

 The second message is that unless the booth had a good framework it will fall down and so not give them the protection they needed.  Now with the kidsí cubby they had to position the chairs in the right place to make a framework.  With a tent, it is the poles you use.  With a Sukkah they used branches of trees or if you live in the city, post cut from strong wood

 Bring in the framework

 This message is the same for our life today.  So in the same way as the cubby fell down if we do not have a good framework for build our lives, we will fall down.

 

 If the roof is not fixed on a good framework it will collapse under its own weight, like the bedspread did  or the wind will blow the tent around or the rain will sag it down.  So too with our lives.  We will not achieve all that God has planned for us or we will make it hard work without Him.

 We donít see the framework after the cubby is built but without it everything falls down.  The framework of our physical life is the basic things we need.  These are usually boring like food, air, warmth, sleep, shelter and even something as ordinary as water.  But if we donít have these then our bodies fall down.  Someone who cannot breathe is not going to worry whether he has the latest IPod.  The framework of our physical life are these basic things and if these are not met then nothing else can happen.  Mum and Dad provide these for you in your home like food and water and clothes and somewhere to sleep that is dry and you donít even think about it.  We just think they are always there but they are not for every one.  Think how important  your Wii would be if you had no house suddenly and you were cold and wet and hungry. 

 For you older kids this concept is called Maslowís Hierarchy of Needs.  Research it if you are not familiar with it.  It is really wise.

 On the next layer, who can guess what the framework of our life should be?  God of course.  So how does He give us this framework?  Through His Love and His Law.  His Love is what made Him make the world and give us birth. Then He cares for us and makes sure that we are safe.  Maybe not always comfortable but safe.

 His Law is the framework where we live in safety.  If we obey His Law we will not get into trouble.  We will not sin.  If we do not sin, we are less likely to have things go wrong.  If you do not steal, the police will not come and get you.  That is simple.  If we live within Godís Law it is easier for Him to talk to us and us to Him.  You know what it is like if you have done something wrong at school and the principle calls you to his office.  You feel bad and donít want to go.  But if you have a clear conscience you are not worried.  You may be confused but nor worried.

 So a kid who has not had enough to eat will be too tired to do schoolwork or play the flute.  A kid who does not have water will die. 

 So the framework of anything is very important.  We donít see it after it has done its job or while we are having fun with the nice bits but without the framework everything all falls down.

 So when God invited the Children of Israel and so us too, to go camping with Him he asked them to build their cubbies or tents or booths so we can all have fun together  and still learn about Him.  But remember.  It is Godís party.  He invited us.

 

DAY 3          ROOF

Why do we need a roof?  Well a cubby house is really all about a roof.  It is not complete without a roof.  A hut is not a hut without a roof.  It is a pen.

 So what does a roof do?  It offers us protection for the rain and the sun and some security.  Walls alone are not much use.  They might keep robbers and wild animals out but then they could come over the top couldnít they.  You need a roof to be safe

 But we canít have a roof with out a ????   A Framework!!!!  And the framework must be strong or else the whole thing will fall down.  If the tent poles are not connected properly the tent sags over.  So the framework is the most important part even though you cannot see it when the cubby is built.

 So how do we get a roof?

 We have to put some Stuff up there to make the protection. What happens if there is no roof on the house?  Durrh!!!  Everything gets wet and spoiled or it is too hot and our stuff gets ruined.  With a cubby the roof gives us a secret place, a hidey place where we can get away from all the trials of the world and live in a nice safe play world.  The roof protects us and makes us feel protected.

 The stuff we use on the roof depends on where we are.  At home we use a blanket for the cubby, if camping we use canvas or tent material.  The children of Israel had to use what they could find and so they used palm branches.  Now these make a thatch if you have enough of them and that keeps the rain out and is really cool.    Think about the thatched cottages in England made of rushes and the Pacific Islandersí huts which are made form palm leaves.  These roofs work well to keep out the sun and rain if you have enough of the leaves. 

 So what would the Children of Israel use to make the framework for the walls and the roof? 

 Olive trees.  They cut the bigger branches for the framework and date palms for the roof.  Now this was really clever of God because you need to prune the trees after the harvest so there were plenty of branches and leaves around.  See God never wastes anything.  Then they piled the palm branches on the top of the framework and made a deep thatch.  They hoped that the framework would be strong enough to hold the load or they would have to start again.  If they had built it properly they could sit inside their pavilion or booth and enjoy their creation.  Can you remember the wonderful feeling when you first crawl into your cubby house that has managed to stay up.  It is so good to have that safe space that you have made.

 So God has invited his people to go camping with Him and he has told them where and when the party will happen.  They have built a safe place with the framework and now can sit under their roof and relax.  They have food and water after the harvest and now they have shelter and safety.  These are the first two layers in Maslowís pyramid

 We can picture these layers like finding the layers in an onion when we cut it.  The deeper you go into the onion the more and more layers you find.  So the onion layers can be like a picture of our lives with all sorts of layers that we live in and have to learn to manage. 

 The first layer or level is the basic needs of food and water, the second is safety and so on.  So just like the onion has layers so do we in our lives and we can see a picture of these in the different layers of the Sukkah as we build it.

 If the framework of the Sukkah is our food and water in our physical life what does the roof of the tabernacle give us.  Protection or safety.  That is being protected from the elements or danger.  This protection involves, security, order, limits stability.  We get these in our everyday lives from the police, the army, parents, school teachers, boundaries etc.  This is the second layer or level.

 How does God show us this second layer in our spiritual life?  How does God give us safety?  What does the roof represent in our spiritual life?  What is it that provides our sense of protection?  What is it that provides for our safety?  What it is it that overcomes the enemy who would attack us, spiritually?

 Godís love of course.  It is His love that encompasses us and keeps us safe.  It was His love that He showed in the Pillar of Fire by night and cloud by day that covered and led the Israelites in the desert and kept them safe.  The Pillar stood between the Egyptians and His children as they escaped and it was the Pillar that led them to safety.  It is His love that we experience through Jesus Christ.  It is His love as shown by Jesus, Godís son when he died on the cross to take away the penalty for our sins  It is His love that protects us in the hard times we all have to live through, in the spiritual rain and snow.

 

Now just as the roof cannot stay up without the framework, and we saw that the framework of our spiritual lives was Godís Law, neither can God manifest His love to us unless we work in the framework of His law.  If we transgress the Law, we sin and God cannot deal with a sinner.  A repentant one that has the covering of Christís blood or who is under the roof of his love, yes.  But not one who is unrepentant.  They are on their own and they have no spiritual roof.

 So lets build a wonderful roof on our tabernacle. 

 Bring in the palm branches

 We may use palm branches here in our transitory world of flesh and blood but in the real world of our spirit let us cover ourselves with the Love of God through Christ His son.

 So when you remember that wonderful feeling of finally crawling into your cubby that has not fallen down and how safe and lovely that felt, or when you snuggle down in your tent, warm and safe after a wonderful day, think that that is how it is when you crawl into the protection and warmth and love of Christ.   You can be sure God will protect you there as long as you have the good framework of His Law.

 You do this by asking Him to live in your heart so your can live in His just like a cubby and you know you will be safe.

Day 4  Walls

 OK so we have built a framework for our cubby and put on a roof.  We need the roof for shelter from the rain and snow and too much sun but we canít have that without a good framework or it will fall down.

 We learned that the cubby house or the Sukkah or tabernacle whether they were built by the Children of Israel long ago or by Jews and some Christians today represents all the areas of our whole life.  The different parts of the Sukkah are like the layers of onion.  As you peel off the layers of onion and go deeper to the core, you learn more and more about God and how He deals with us.  Layer upon layer.

 The outside layer or the brown skin which we all see is the Sukkah or tabernacle or booth or cubby house and we can have fun in it.  Pretty simple.  Just an onion. Just a hut.

 But then we see that God is using this to show us more about himself which is hidden deeper inside.  We go down one layer and see that the tabernacle can make us think about the ordinary things we need all the time just to live.  God provides us with these things like food and water and air and clothes and just being warm enough to live.

 The framework which can makes us think that Godís Law needs to be the framework for our lives because that tells us when we sin and protects us from many dangers.

 On the next onion skin is the roof.  The roof represents His love for us through His Sonís sacrifice. It is Jesusí sacrifice that keeps us safe.  We can be protected from so many problems and be safe and know that those things that happen are under His control because He loves us and knows what we need to learn.

 SO what are we going to build today?  What is the next onion skin?  What do we need next to make our cubby complete?  Walls of course. 

 So what do you think the Children of Israel used for their walls?  They used branches of trees that were near.  Now these branches were usually made from some fragrant or nice smelling tree so they when they were cutting them and building the walls and every time they brushed against them they could smell their lovely fragrance.

 So why do we need walls on our Sukkah.  Well, to feel really secure and that the Sukkah is a whole building.  Walls protect you from wild animals or things that might hurt you.  You really feel safe when you are inside your own four walls.  It is your home because you can feel secure there and be really private and not have to worry about having to deal with hard things.  My kids liked me to knock at the door of their cubby before I could come in.  It was their place, just for them.  When you have the walls you can really feel secure.  The walls make it a home

 So a home should be a secure sweet smelling place.

 

So using our onion skins picture what part of our lives do the walls represent?  The framework made us think of life giving stuff like air and water, the roof of basic safety like the police and army and limits.  The walls make us think of our security and we feel that when we are part of a family or group of people who care about us.  These are called relationship groups and they are groups of people who are important in our lives.  Can you think of a few of these?  Family, church, football team, school, people at work etc.  It is important for us to feel that we belong somewhere, that we are part of a group.  Boring people call it the Herd Instinct.  We are just happier if we are part of a group, especially if we are involved in what it is doing.

 So going down one more onion skin.  What spiritual thing do the walls represent?  IF they represent the home where we live and the family we live in, what spiritual thing is God telling us from the walls of the Sukkah.  There is clue in the fact that the walls are made of branches that smell nice.  This is really important because God never wastes an idea.

 All the way through His Bible he talks about the ďsweet smelling savourĒ to use the old words or a fragrant odour or sweet smell when His people made a sacrifice to Him.  He enjoyed the aroma of their sacrifice but more than that He enjoyed the feeling of love and being part of their lives when they acknowledged that they had sinned and needed His forgiveness.  It is the same as that good feeling you get when you run into the warm house after being in the cold and rain and smell the hot soup on the stove.  That is a sweet smelling savour.  The smell tells you the food and warmth, safety and comfort of home which we all need so much.

 We donít burn sacrifices any more to God so how can He experience the sweet smelling savour today at this Feast when we sit in our tabernacles?  Well, we are told in Ephesians 5:2 our lives must be controlled by love.  Just as Christ loved us and gave His life for us as a sweet-smelling offering and sacrifice that pleases God.  Then He sent His spirit so we could become part of Godís special family. We have a family here on earth made of people and one in the Spiritual world.  We are always welcome to be part of that family but we have to decide that we will join it by asking Jesus to be the King of your life.

 So if we show Christís love to Him and other people, by the way we live our lives then God experiences that like a sweet smelling savour.  And we do this by linking with the Holy Spirit who will keep us secure.  We can do this by praising God with singing and meaning what we say, praying to God every day, consulting Him in all we do.  We can do this by living our lives the way He wants us to.  Then we will be like a lovely perfume to Him and to other people who will want to find out what perfume we are wearing and want to get some too.

 We can make Him part of our family so He can enjoy that lovely feeling of belonging.  Well actually it is the other way around.  We actually become part of His family which is much better because sometimes human families are not the best places to be but in Godís family it is always safe and warm and loving.  And Godís family include all the people in the world who accept Jesus Christ as His Son and their Saviour and are led by His Spirit.  So it is one big big family.

 So we have onion skins of framework, roof and walls which tell us about Godís Law, His Love and His Family.  What do you think will be next?

 Day 5 Ė Stars and Sandflies

 

Well we have built our Sukkah.  Isnít it wonderful.  Do you feel as if you belong to a group because you have been involved in making it.  Wouldnít it be nice if we could all sit in it, or sleep in it?  Do you think we would fit?  Wouldnít that be fun?  We could lie awake in the dark with torches and tell scary stories about snakes and monsters and Yowies.

 Our son used to love camping out in the back yard with his mates.  (Photo of Evan and Doug).  Once they just strung hammocks up in the courtyard to sleep.  One night Doug slept in the tree house which sacred me a bit as it was quite high.  Another night there were three of them in the tent talking with the two dogs ďto protect themĒ.  Over dinner we had told ghost stories and horror stories and had had a lovely time.  When they were nearly asleep, my husband put a big sheet over himself and crept down through the bushes behind the tent making ghost noises.  There was muffled talk in the tent and then Douglas looked up and saw Peter through one of the windows.  He jumped up and ran straight over the top of his two mates stomping on oneís stomach and was up the drive as fast as he could go.  The dogs were with him.  The two mates just bellowed.  We thought it was very funny and Doug does too Ö now.

 It is so nice to see the stars in the sky, maybe see a falling star, or watch the moon move across the sky or maybe even see the Apollo pass over if you are really lucky.  Maybe you can pick out the Milky Way, the Southern Cross, or Orion.  Maybe you can make out some of the planets or the constellations in the Zodiac.

 Do you know what a constellation is?  It is a group of stars that live near each other and have a special pattern.  Did you know that God put all the constellations in the Zodiac in place at creation?  I am not talking about the star signs for fortune telling which can be dangerous but mostly are just silly.  I am talking about the constellations of stars in the sky that are there and follow a fixed pattern.  Space agencies still use them today to fix locations in space as they real and stable because they always stay in the same positions relative to each other.  They change for us but not to each other so they are like a boundary fence around the universe

 

God tells us in the Bible that He named the stars and the constellations and even today, the names of the stars in the constellations of the Zodiac are the same or mean the same thing in every language Ö well pretty close.  Now if we look carefully at the names of these stars and their position in the zodiac, they tell a story.  Can you guess what the story is?  Yes.  It is the story that God wrote for His universe when He created it and we are almost at the end of it.  If we put the clues from the stars and those from The Bible together we can work that story out.  We know what has happened up to now and so we can have a good idea what is still to come. 

 So when God invited His people to go camping with Him and they saw His stars in the sky, they knew they werenít put there just to look pretty.  They have many purposes as well as this hidden message.  Can you people think of any other stuff that the stars can tell us?  What about navigation?  Up until about the last century using the stars was the only way people could know where they were at sea.  Indeed, people still do navigate by the stars. You can tell what season it is, though we can see that from the trees etc.  If you add the moon in, you can know almost what day of the month it is.

 Isnít He an amazing God to think all this out and plan it all for us from the very beginning?  He must love us sooo much to bother to do that.  We must really matter to Him.

 Now, He is the most important person in the universe and what He thinks has got to be the most important thing there is.  He loves you enough to make all this stuff so can live and feel safe and belong and become the person He planned us to be.  So  just as He planned the story of the whole universe at the very beginning, He planned a story for you at your beginning so you must be important to Him.  He must esteem you a lot, to use a modern term.  So if God esteems you a lot, you make sure you esteem yourself as well and remember that any time you may think that you are not of value.  If God thinks you are valuable, then you are.

 So the stars are wonderful.  The holiday is wonderful.  The sun and the swimming and the walks and the ice-cream are wonderful but is it always fun out camping?  Well no. Doug ended up getting rained on when they were sleeping in the hammocks and when the possums came to eat the avocados above the tree house, he was inside like a shot muttering something about Yowies.  What about mosquitoes, sand flies, ticks, leeches, sunburn, sand in the sleeping bag, too hot, too cold, wind, and rain, not to mention singed steak and melted butter and wilted lettuce.  The roof of the cubby falls in during the night and you cannot remember where the door is.  Everything in life has a downside.

 But you know, it is the actual overcoming of these problems which makes camping such fun.  We joke about the bad times.  We tell stories about the tent falling down and the rain wetting the sleeping bags.  We tell the story about the snake in the wine carton over and over, even though at the time it was REALLY SCARY.  So the bad times are there for us to overcome so we can continue having the good times.  In fact it is the overcoming of the bad times which makes camping such fun.  The bad times are good for us and become the good times, even though they were bad times.

 So camping has a wonderful side and down side.  Just like life.  Our lives are full of good things and bad things.  Usually we have both together.  But just like God mapped out His story for the universe in the stars when He made it, He mapped out a story for you before you were born.  Now that must show how much He esteems you.  He knows what challenges you are going to have because He designed them especially for you so you could learn just what He wants you to learn in order to grow into the person He planned you to be.  Now, you have choices in this and you may not do it perfectly.  Donít worry.  He can work with that. 

 So if you are feeling that you are not good enough or you are not part of a group or that no one cares, remember the Sukkah and all the wonderful things God has prepared for you and planned for you and still has planned for you.  You are already especially important to Him because He has invited you to go camping with Him.  And when you look up and see the stars at night remember that God created them, He put them in place, He named them, He set them to move in a pattern so His people could live in safety and security.  If He can manage something as big as that I think He can manage to take care of you.

 Only problem is.  You have to agree to go camping with Him.

 Day 6 Ė Fruit

 Now God has invited His people to go camping with Him since the beginning of time. That is a lot of camping trips that He has enjoyed with lots of people over the world.  Can you think of some of the places where God is camping out with His people that we know about?

 Now none of these places or groups will be doing the same things at their Feasts.  Some are by the sea, some in the mountains, some in cities like Jerusalem, some in the bush and they will all be doing different activities.  With some they all stay in a holiday camp and eat together, some stay in units like we do but the basic Feast is the same.  Being away from home and spending time with God and His people and looking back and celebrating the completion of another year and looking forward to the beginning of a new year is what it is about.

 Godís people in the Bible did not ďdoĒ their Feasts in the same way as we do now.  When they were in the desert and they had the Tabernacle which housed the Ark of the Covenant, they built small tabernacles away from their own tabernacles.  The Big Tabernacle, then their tents, then their Sukkah.  They had their services with everyone standing out in the sun around the big Tabernacle.

 We know that they had Tabernacles when they settled in the land but the Sukkahs were around their houses and villages, in their courtyards, on their roofs and in the streets.  The Sukkah always has three parts, the framework made from a substantial tree, the roof of palm branches and the walls. Initially the walls were of willow branches by the time they had returned from exile, they were using fragrant branches for the walls.  We have built our framework out of timber that came from asubstantial tree in the form of planks, palms leaves and a fragrant Australian bush branch.  How we build it doesnít matter much as long as we keep the Feast.  The important thing is time with God to worship Him and camping out.

 

Now we know why they needed the three trees but then they started to hang fruit in their Sukkah.  You need to remember that the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem is held in autumn.  Here in Australia it is in Spring.  Autumn is the season when all the harvest is gathered at the end of the year and is stored until the next harvest comes around. They didnít have any supermarkets or fridges.  If it is a good harvest then they will have an easy year.  If it is not, then they are in trouble.

 So The Feast of Tabernacles is really a Harvest Festival and a Thanksgiving Festival. The US holiday of Thanksgiving where everyone comes home for the day and they eat turkey comes from the Pilgrim Fathers who held a Feast of Tabernacles when they settled in the US in the beginning.  They ate turkey because it was wild there.

 So at all Thanksgiving Services in all churches people  all over the world bring all the stuff they have produced into the church and have a special service of thanksgiving to God where they sing special hymns. They bring everything from wheat to wine, bread to butter, bananas to babies who are dedicated to God.

 The Hebrew people hang citrus fruit in the Sukkah, possibly because these are the last fruit of the season and they are fragrant and we can learn a lot of lessons from them  too.  They are bit like our onions in that they have a hard skin on the outside but it is the inside part that is important.  Our onion comes in layers but a citrus fruit comes with segments.  So the fruit may look like a single thing but it is made up of many parts, just like we are with our needs and the different areas of our lives.

 Now another thing about citrus fruit is that they have an aromatic skin that smells strongly.  Do you remember what we said about the fragrance from the leaves being like our prayers and our praise and sacrifice to God.  Well, here is another example.  If you break the skin of a mandarin, every one around knows that you have because they can smell it.  So God uses them as a picture of what we are supposed to do with our lives.  Just as a fruit tree produces fruit, so God wants us to produce fruit and this fruit will reflect THE God of our lives whatever or whoever that may be so it may not always be good.  Our Christian walk should be like a citrus fruit.  People should be able to tell we are part of Godís Kingdom by the way we are from the outside.  And one of the best ways we can do that is to live by His Law and be thankful to God and give him credit for what He does for us.

 A tree can bear nice juicy fruit that tastes great.  Or it can bear dried up wizened or even rotten fruit that is no good to anyone.  So if you are part of Godís Kingdom then your fruit should be His fruit which will always be good.

 A man named Paul saw the fruit hanging in his Sukkah each Feast and used it as an example of how we should live.  He tell us in Galatians and Ephesians that our lives need to produce The Fruit of the SpiritÖ Christís Spirit, The Holy Spirit because He knew that our lives would produce the fruit of the God we follow and that often is not Christ. 

 So what are the Fruits of Christís Spirit?  We did them a few years ago.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faith

 This applies to all the areas of our lives.  We produce good fruit in our bodies by respecting them with what we eat, exercise etc like the framework of our Sukkah.  We produce the good fruit of safety in our society by respecting the Law of the land and Godís law which is the roof of our Sukkah; we produce the good fruit of security in our community and family, by contributing to and respecting our families, churches schools etc, These are like the walls of our Sukkah we keep ourselves secure spiritually by following Christ and living His way.  The stars we see from our Sukkah remind us of Godís plan for us.

 If the parts of the Sukkah represent the layers or segments of our lives, what is the level of Maslowís Hierarch of Needs that the fruit represents?  What is the best we can expect from this world after all our needs have been met?  Maslow calls it ďpersonal growth and fulfilmentĒ.  What does God call it?  Wearing a Crown of Righteousness.  So all your goals and all the achievements for your life, every aspect of your personal development need to aim towards that crown, the Crown of Righteousness.  It is the only one that lasts past this world.  It is not temporary like The Feast.  If your goal is this world you are just wasting your time and you will end up with wizened or rotten fruit which will be thrown away like last years Tabernacle.

 

 Day 7 Ė Onion Skins

 So this year we have been talking about the Feast itself and why God planned it for us so long ago.  There are lots of lessons for us to learn from it, all of which are different yet true at the same time.  Just like with our onion with layers of meaning,  as you get to know God better you will find that His entire world is like that.  Layer upon layer, Different yet always the same.

 Now God instituted the Feast way way back in history at Creation and it has occurred right up to now and will occur right to the end of His plan, whenever that is.  He set out all the Festivals like Passover and Pentecost and Atonement to give all people a framework for their lives which linked them to God and His world.  So every year, generation after generation, Godís creation has told His people about Him and His plan for them through the Festivals, through the stars and through the seasons.  At Sinai it was written in stone.  Later it was written on scrolls of leather, later on scrolls of papyrus, then parchment, later in a book we call the Bible and now it is written in computers and He hopes, it is written in our hearts.  See more onions skins.  Different but yet the same.

 Now the Feast, Sukkoth, is based around a little hut called a Sukkah.  So we are at The Feast of the Huts where we have built our own hut.  It is sort of a mixture of a cubby house, camping out, a gazebo, a pavilion, a patio, and we have seen that God has hidden a lovely story inside the Sukkah.

 Now the first time we hear about these Sukkoth is when the Children of Israel are in the desert and God has written down the Law for them on the tablets of stone.  They were living in tents because they were travelling a long way to the Promised Land.  Just like when we go camping the tent was the only covering they had to protect them from rain and sun.  At that time God was also living in a tent with them.  He is always with His people but at this time He was actually camping out with them all the time as they travelled to the land He had promised them.  

 So every night when they went into their tents to go to bed they saw the canopy of stars over them like an enormous tabernacle.  And every morning when they got up they saw the cloud of smoke go from the  Big Tabernacle in the centre of them.  This tabernacle was a smaller version of the one where God lived in heaven.  God would lead them on the next dayís walk and every night when they camped the pillar of fire would go back to the Big Tabernacle where they worshipped Him.  Then there were their own tents where they lived with their families.  Then, at the Feast of Tabernacles they would build small huts, just like we did, and they would eat and sleep in them and have some time off from their journey.  More onion skins. Different but the same.

 So this little hut tells a very big story as it represents their journey in the wilderness which was temporary.  It can also tell the story of our life here on earth which is also temporary like the Sukkah. 

 The Children of Israel would get up each morning and not have any idea where they would be going that day or even if they were going or if there would have enough water to drink or food to eat.  They would have to look and see where the pillar was going to lead them and then follow it.  That way they would be safe.

 

So it really is the same with us today even though we seem to have plenty of everything we need here in our society, but that can all change very quickly.  Just ask the people in Victoria who were caught in the fires.  In a few seconds they had nothing at all in the world.  

 So every time we come to the Feast or we go camping or build a cubby we can learn Godís story from the picture hidden in the Sukkah.  We can remember that when we pull the chairs into a circle to build a cubby or put up the framework of the tent, that we have to have a framework in our lives.  We donít see this or think about it but it is like food and water and air to our bodies and Godís Law is to our Spirit.

 When we add the blanket to the cubby or the roof to the tent we need to remember Godís love that surrounds us and keeps us safe like the Police and the army or houses keep us safe in our bodies.

 Then when we add the walls and make our little house complete, we remember that we all need to feel secure within our groups like our family, or school or church.  We need other people.  It is good if the walls are made of something that smells fragrant.  This reminds us of the sacrifices that they made in the Temple which were sweet smelling to God and The Holy Spirit.  If we want to have sweet smelling relationships with other people we need to think of them and not ourselves.  Our sweet smelling sacrifice is when we let the Holy Spirit operate in our lives and think and do things which are pleasing to God.

 Then we saw that we need to be aware of the stars because they remind us that God had a plan for the whole world from the very beginning and that it contained wonderful things but also some pretty awful things that had to happen so His people could develop the full potential He planned for them.  He has a plan for us all too and that plan contains good things and hard things like sand flies and ticks etc. but that it is the overcoming of these hard things that makes life really worthwhile.

 Then we saw that the harvest fruit were to be included also.  While the Sukkah represents the barren place of the wilderness where the Children of Israel lived and we now live too, the fruit signals abundance and completion that would come to the Children of Israel when they reached the Promised Land and to us when Jesus returns with His New Kingdom.  But it also reminds us of the fruit of the Spirit which are produced in our lives.  These are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faith

 So our simple little hut contains layer upon layer of meaning and helps us to see God and to understand how He loves us and that He has great plans for us.

 Isnít He clever to think up such a beautiful complicated and yet so simple  thing so long ago that tells us the same story it has told His people since the beginning of time and will do so till the end of time.

 And I will let you into another secret.  The Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkoth, will continue when after Jesus comes back.  It is the only Feast that will.  Guess God really likes camping.

 

 

 

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