I have been asked, what exactly does the Tabernacle Journey look like. That is a good question because it probably will not look like anything that you familiar with unless you have some background in Theatre for Living which most people do not. Theatre for Living is a way of communication, using theatre games, and exercises to enable communities to come together and sort through complex and intractable issues. That is one definition of many. Though Theatre for Living is not utilized or well known in the church, it is at it’s heart just another language, namely the language of theatre, and it can be used to communicate spiritual truths just as it is used to communicate secular and political truths.
The language of theatre is the language of image. Whereas verbal language asks of life , tell me in words, theatre for living asks, show me in images. These images are not pictures or videos but rather living images that the participants create themselves. They are living tableaus and although the visual is predominate in this process, these tableaus can also speak in words. These images are surprising powerful, and take the participants down into the depths of the experiences and truths they convey. A picture is worth a thousand words. An image is worth a thousand pictures. A living speaking image is worth a thousand images. This language is incredibly powerful.
Values and Priorities
The Tabernacle Journey is like a hike up a spectacular mountain and just like such a hike, there will be some spectacular breath taking vistages , but also some steep or difficult and obviously dangerous traverses. On the journey one may encounter things about oneself or about God that are almost too painful and difficult to deal with . Therefore, just as in real hiking, the first priority is safety. Emotional and personal space and safety are paramount. No participant is required to do anything they are uncomfortable with. If at any time, a participant needs to take a time out they are free and encouraged to do so. Although we will be creating tableaus, and doing physical things together, ( such as foot washing ), no participant will be touched, unless by their expression permission. Propriety and personal safety will always be encouraged and respected. Participants always have the choice of who they wish to partner with in the exercises we go through. We will all go up the mountain together , and we all come back down together, in one piece.
The Tabernacle Journey is a pilgrimage into ever increasing holiness. It is an extremely holy experience and must undertaken with reverence and awe. No person will be taken on this journey unless they are already dedicated Christians. This is not an academic exercise and arguing or debating will not be allowed during the journey. There will be opportunity for debate after the journey is complete. I do not even feel free to write about the most holy elements of this journey but I will try to give a sense of what we will be doing in this essay, and hopefully I will not do damage to or in any way profane the holiness of this experience.
The basic theological premise of the Journey is that the Tabernacle prefigures Christ. The Tabernacle is the embodiment of the law and Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. Therefore almost everything in the Tabernacle is, in one way or another , Jesus. The only symbols in the Tabernacle that are not directly about Jesus, in my opinion, are the images of the angels and cheribim. Furthermore inasmuch as Jesus is, so are we in the world, and as God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of Jesus, the Tabernacle is therefore, indirectly, the image of who we are in Christ. And so as we engage with the Tabernacle we experience it on several levels and from various perspectives, each level and perspective teaching us something different and perhaps deeper about both Christ and ourselves. The Tabernacle Journey is for me a regular discipline and as I grow more and more into Christ, the more I find that it has to teach me.
A second presupposition is that each station of the journey is associated with tasks, what i like to call faith works, and that the fulfilling of these tasks is the prerequisite for being allowed to proceed to the next station in the journey. This is a spiritual principle. We can certainly proceed to the next station in our imagination or if it were possible physically, but we can never proceed the next station spiritually unless we are granted the grace to do so by the Holy Spirit. Our goal in this journey is genuine spiritual progress.
Tools for the Journey.
Each participant will be asked to study the Tabernacle on their own before the journey. What we experience during the journey will consist of what each participant brings to the journey. This will not be a lecture or a travelogue. Besides a thorough know of the Tabernacle, the participant will also be asked to bring a treasured note book and a treasured blanket. I expect this journey to be a highlight of a person’s spiritual experience and therefore the personal record of it will be very valuable. The treasured blanket will represent the comfort and safety of home, and should the going get rough, the blanket is for reassurance and comfort and healing.
A sample of the Journey
As I have written, this journey is extremely holy, and I am not comfortable writing about the experiences past the altar of sacrifice ie the cross. The cross however is the one spiritual experience that is for all mankind, no matter how profane or sinful.
As we journey into the Tabernacle the first ” station ” we will encounter is the brazen altar of sacrifice. The participants will be asked to describe the scene in terms of what we are looking at , what is going on , what we are hearing, smelling, and touching and how we feel about it. I will ask one of the participants to be our sacrificial lamb and would have them sit in a chair representing our personal lamb. We may go through a ritual of putting our sins on the lamb. We will be asked to think about what the lamb means to us personally. As the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, is explicitly connected with the sacrificial lamb we will engage with the cross. Participants will be asked to take turns being the sacrificed Christ, standing on a small stool with out raised arms. The idea of this is to get inside of the experience. One perspective of the cross we are familiar with is kneeling at the foot of the cross. It is entirely a different matter to be Jesus on the cross. Moreover this is something scripture commands us to do, ie taking up our cross and following Jesus. Using our theological presupposition, the lamb prefigures Christ. Christ is the lamb of God. In Christ we are crucified to the world. We become the sacrifice, the drink offering poured out upon the sacrifice and service of your faith. We will ask the experience to teach what what sacrifice means.
A major consideration of the journey will be the tasks that each station expects of us. At the cross the major tasks are to 1. believe on the name of Jesus, and 2. to confess and repent of one’s sins. We will spend much time on the latter task, for all of us have probably completed the first task long ago. A list of possible sins will be given to each participant and they will be asked to go thru the list and confess and repent of , before God, those sins which apply to them. This can be an arduous and lengthy task, far beyond the scope of any workshop, but for our purposes the participants will be asked to do their best within the scope of the time allowed for the journey. As stated previously this workshop is designed to teach the participant the process of the journey so that they can revisit it on their own and go through tasks at their leisure. We will “collect” a bowl of the blood of Jesus, in mime, which we will bring with us until we at last we will sprinkle it upon the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant. When we have finished our tasks at the cross, we will proceed to the next station the bronze laver. At the cross the Holy Spirit unclothes us. The old tattered garments of sin and self righteousness are removed and we stand naked, spiritually speaking, before Him with whom we have to do. . At the Bronze lavor we experience washing, and the purification of sin and there we are clothed in the clean, white garments of His righteousness, his purity, in preparation for our ministry within the Holy Place.
Between each station we will take a few minutes to debrief ( not debate ) to collect our thoughts, to perhaps capture some memories and to share with each other the insights and blessings the Holy Spirit is giving to us. We will be enriched both by the Tabernacle and by the experiences of our fellow pilgrims in the Tabernacle .
We journey in this manner through the holy place and into the holy of holies . We will reverently and spiritually examine, experience and savor each artifact, each space in the Tabernacle, and will journey out of the Tabernacle in like manner. We will divest ourselves of the holy garments at the bronze laver and will journey past the cross and back into the unreal world in which we live.
We will spend time debriefing the journey and finishing our notes, and then say goodbye to our brothers and sisters of the Tabernacle as the sun sinks slowly in the west.. as it were.
I hope this answers most of your questions regarding what the tabernacle journey will look like. As I have said before the Tabernacle Journey is very holy. Even I am still in the process of trying to come to grips with how holy this actually is and how careful I must be not to throw His pearls before swine. This journey is a high privilege and honor and I am quite sure the Lord will reserve it for those he knows are truly ready.