The sacrifice

What I find most surprising about the tabernacle recreation at Saddleback is the size of the box-like dais for sacrificing animals. It sits directly in front of the main structure, the very first thing you encounter as you approach the tent’s opening. Taller than the average person, a small ramp leads to the top where sheep and goats were tied to the “horns” at each corner. Originally made of bronze, today’s version looks like plywood spray painted to mimic a charred patina. I knew killing animals as a show of gratitude to God was an ordinary practice among ancient Jews, but so much time has elapsed since it was abandoned due to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem that it’s easy to overlook or downplay this history. With this re-creation, it’s impossible to ignore. The proof stands front and center.

It’s a little jarring, the transition from the dark and quiet ancient house of God to the big and bright worship center of today. The main sanctuary looks like a building one might find on a college campus—not the older, more distinguished stone structures, but the brand new ones that go up in a year and have tons of windows. They may not last as long, but they offer a breath of fresh air after being cooped up in the dim classrooms of yesteryear. Light floods in from either side of the stage where the walls are glass with doors that lead to additional rows of outdoor seating. If this were an academic building, it would be the biggest lecture hall on campus, the ones for courses like Organic Chemistry 101.

The auditorium quickly fills up as the band plays, and I find a seat closer to the back where the rows are raised. On the way in, I was handed a packet of materials, glossy and packed with colorful pictures. Today’s sermon is the second in a multi-week arc given by Rick’s wife, Kay Warren, entitled “All Access” that ties to the theme of the tabernacle. Here, the sophisticated marketing I’ve tended to find at newer churches is bumped up a notch: not only does the church have a logo, but this small series of sermons has one too—it looks like an old-fashioned ticket stub, the kind that gets ripped in half before a carnival ride.

At first I’m disappointed that Rick isn’t giving the sermon. Then I see Kay, blond and confidant, and that dissolves. Her eyes shoot laser beams of intensity and suddenly I understand that hers is the steely determination of a woman like Hillary Clinton whose drive propelled her man and made all this possible. She emerges from the back of the stage like a benevolent queen at the end of our singing, the last lines lingering on the big screens as she greets the audience, her voice amplified by an invisible mike. “The tabernacle and what it represents has always been one of my favorite portions of the Bible,” she says. “It gets to the heart of what Jesus did for humanity.” I would never have guessed that a portable worship tent created by Jews was the key to understanding the significance of Jesus, but if Kay says so, I believe it.

12 thoughts on “The sacrifice

  1. “…but if Kay says so, I believe it.” (which I took you meant tongue-in cheek).
    Reminds me of “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it”. or worse. “Rome said, I believe it”. The blessings of blind faith, releasing us from the pesky duty of thinking for ourselves…

    • I suppose a little tongue in cheek, but her conviction was pretty darn persuasive. More in the next post on how she explained the tabernacle’s role in the Jesus narrative, and you can decide what you think…

  2. Well, I’ve heard of the tabernacle and its associated sacrifices being used as an analogy for Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. And in most liturgical churches, the space reserved for the consecrated bread and wine is called the tabernacle…

  3. It is not generally in my nature to trust anyone who has all of the “answers,” and I am doubly uncomfortable and suspicious of anyone who has the answers and is darned persuasive, too. I like to find my own questions and my own answers. MET

  4. Something about this sermon reminds me of an old joke.

    One Sunday a pastor was using squirrels for an object lesson for the children. He started, “I’m going to describe something, and I want you to raise your hand when you know what it is.” The children nodded eagerly.

    “This thing lives in trees (pause) and eats nuts (pause)…” No hands went up. “And it is gray (pause) and has a long bushy tail (pause)…” The children were looking at each other nervously, but still no hands raised. “It jumps from branch to branch (pause) and chatters and flips its tail when it’s excited (pause)…”

    Finally one little boy tentatively raised his hand. The pastor quickly called on him. “Well,” said the boy, “I know the answer must be ‘Jesus’ … but it sure sounds like a squirrel!”

  5. Corinna, is the tabernacle recreation a permanent structure on Saddleback’s grounds? or a temporary display? Is it sort of like at a museum when the “egyptian mummies” come to town or something, and you can walk through a recreated tomb, and then when it’s time to move to the next museum, they take it down?

    • Hi Shelley, It was just a temporary display. I think it is owned by Saddleback, though, and wasn’t going anywhere else that they announced. I was there right before its stay on the lawn was over. I think it was coming down that week. Maybe they put it up once a year. I don’t know.

  6. I don’t know … I really have a problem with the potential shortsightedness and loss of depending solely on myself and having the answers (and questions) only in myself. I don’t think that’s necessarily more reliable than trusting others or taking in another person’s perspective. I’ve learned most of the important stuff I know from the insights of others. Obviously some people thrive on misleading others but I don’t think this is the general rule. We as a culture seem so suspicious and untrusting. Wonder why?

  7. Kay would have a lot of support for that statement within the larger Christian community, both scholars and popular preachers pointing to the same thing, but you have more on it in the next post, so I’ll wait. We studied the Tabernacle a lot when we went to a Bible school in 1972. Some overdraw the analogies, literally pointing to every little part as having some spiritual tie in, even the color (ex: blue = heaven), etc.
    But the point is that Kay was not relying on her own insight there to make that statement.

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