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AIRPORT SECURITY AND THE PRESENCE OF GOD


Airport inspections are more thorough than they used to be, and lines are longer. They also have X-ray machines for the checked baggage. Fortunately the standards aren't so stringent for that category, so you may arrive at the other end still owning a nail file. But the inspectors are a lot more thorough than they used to be. You have to take both your coat and shoes off. There are layers and layers of security before you can get where you're going. And getting picked up isn't that easy, either. You can't wait at the curb for a traveler to come out; you have to circle and wait, or go to the cell phone waiting area. Your checked baggage may had also be picked for a manual search (they leave a card in your suitcase in case you notice that things aren't in quite the order you packed them in).


And once upon a time it was just as difficult to come into the presence of God as it is to get onto a airplane. First of all, you had to buy your ticket... that is, you had to bring a sacrifice. And there were pretty specific rules about what you had to bring depending on whether it was a sin offering or a thank offering or one of the other categories. And then of course it had to be inspected for blemishes, and accepted by the presiding priest. And of course your own identity was up for scrutiny, too - only Jews could come beyond the court of the Gentiles. That's where the money changers that Jesus drove out were located. Think of it as where Thomas Cook and American Express had their booths... The next layer of

protection was the women's court, where Jewish women in a state of ritual purity were allowed to worship. There were donation boxes there, but no vendors. Remember the widow's mite? That's probably where she made the offering Jesus commended. Jewish men could go through the Nicanor gate into the next room, the Court of Israel, to gather for daily prayers; it was also where the lambs and doves and other sacrificial animals were slaughtered. Beyond that was the priests' court, where they washed their hands and feet before approaching the sanctuary. Think of it as having a large "Employees only" sign on the door. The next level, the sanctuary itself, was approached by 12 steps and divided into two parts. The vestibule held the lampstand with its seven lamps - the origin of the

Menorah used in today's Hanukkah celebration - a table for the bread of the Presence, and the altar on which incense was offered each morning and evening. And at the center of everything was the Holy of Holies. I suppose you could think of it as the cabin of the airliner, meaning no disrespect, but the curtains separating the vestibule from the Holy of Holies were the last layer of security. Once you made it past those, you were home free. NOT.

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