My three Gospels' classes tested yesterday, our fifth test of the new school year. It was a hectic week with Homecoming activities taking center stage but the kids handled it well. The material on the test consisted of what the Jewish people were looking for in a messiah, the calling of the first disciples, and Jesus' first miracle at a wedding in the village of Cana. As we talked about wedding customs in Israel at the time, we noted that after the betrothal, the exact time of the wedding as determined by the groom's father. The bride's new father in law had to approve of the room for the almost-weds built by his son as an addition on the family home- no wedding until it met dad's standards! That led into my sharing about the two weddings I've attended in Vietnam. I told them how two years ago, I was standing in the street and was invited into a wedding of strangers because of the belief that a foreigner coming to your wedding was lucky. I was wearing shorts, a Texans' hat, and a white t-shirt with a mustard stain. Two minutes later, I'm toasting with the bride and groom at the head table....and I'm not making this up! (PS; for those wondering- no alcohol passed my lips that night!)
As we discussed, I added that I was told that the dates of weddings are often picked with the use of numbers; birthdays of both parties and days that are considered auspicious or lucky. Sometimes, fortune tellers are consulted. I informed them most weddings I have preached here are on Saturdays and often in the summer for ease of travel and convenience. As we talked, I also told them about Theresa, one of my former students whose parents are from Vietnam. As we took pictures two years ago after I spoke at a CFS fundraiser in St. Louis where Theresa now resides with her husband, Andrew, she refused to be the middle person in a shot with three of us. Why? Theresa informed us, "Whoever is in the middle always dies first!" Justin, one of my students, commented, "I've heard that, too!" Guess where Justin's mother is from? Vietnam.
My students thought all of these superstitions we mentioned were quaint so I turned the tables. My female students like the tradition of the bride and groom not seeing each other until she walks down the aisle on their big day. But the point was nailed down to me in my seventh period class when I asked the fifteen or so girls in the desks, "How many of you would get married on Friday the 13th?" Only one, Stephanie, replied in the affirmative. No, we arent superstitious! Superstition is woven into the fabric of every culture to varying extents. When I was staying in Beijing several years ago, I found out in our apartment building, there was no fourth floor because four sounds like the Mandarin word for death. Also there was no fourteenth floor (same reason) or thirteenth so the floor numbers jumped from twelve to fifteen! But Americans do the same- no 13th floor in the high rise in the Houston Medical Center which houses my dentist's office!
In 1 Timothy 4:7, Paul taught his young colleague to, "Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness." Some myths/superstitions are part of athletics- no self respecting baseball player ever touched the foul lines when entering or exiting the field of play. Almost everybody acknowledges the fundamental silliness of that quirky behavior. But when we let superstitions impact our daily lives and more importantly, our faith, we contradict the scriptures. I find it interesting that non-believers believe Christianity to be simply the teaching of superstitions handed down from generation to generation, that the Bible is just a bunch of fairy tales. I cannot imagine life without the foundational faith in a loving God and His guidelines for our existence. That would be the saddest myth of all.
Applicable quote of the day:
"Superstition is foolish, childish, primitive and irrational - but how much does it cost you to knock on wood?"
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