An Extended Metaphor (Gleaning from the Missionaries)

Last Sunday (20th) in our ward, we had two missionaries - one coming home and another leaving - giving their accounts and testimonies of the gospel, the Savior and of missionary work during Sacrament meeting.  It’s always edifying and uplifting to listen to the experiences and preparations of these young men and women.  The impression for most people of these missionaries being spiritually precocious is normal, considering their ages.  As usual, I tried to glean as much as I could from their testimonies, talks and reports. One significant and profound insight stood out.

The  returning missionary (an elder, who served in Guatemala) said that one of the difficult things for him while serving was having to carry firewood on his back when he and his fellow missionaries had to help a family.
Samoa, in many ways, is very similar to a lot of the places to where missionaries are called and assigned.  And so I immediately was able to relate to the task as I reflected on my own boyhood experiences growing up in Samoa where gathering firewood was/is a daily chore.  However,  something else was more immediate and spiritually assuring from my recollection of the image of carrying firewood on one's back especially considering the church setting and the spiritual context of the Sacrament meeting. It had something to do with Isaac, Abraham’s son (more on this later).  I thought about the connection after the meeting and during the week and how profound and inspiring  it would have been had the missionary made the connection, at least of service and sacrifice, in his comments.  These were just my own thoughts though.

But yesterday (27th) Dearie and I attended another “homecoming” (missionary was from her  family) at another ward.  In the evening we attended a fireside where he was one of the two returned missionaries who spoke.  Both were well spoken and articulate.  Dearie’s family’s missionary served in the Philippines. During his comments, he mentioned and discussed Isaac, the sacrifice and his obedience to his father Abraham.  Suddenly, for me, the connection was achieved and the two accounts seemed as if it was one continuous speech.

But the rest of the significance and relevance of the connection is even more profound and goes beyond what was mentioned.  So let me comment/editorialize on the more whole, complete and extended meaning and significance of the symbolic connection of the wood/firewood.

First, it’s common knowledge that Isaac was a type of Christ, being the “only son” and was offered as a sacrifice. But there is another even more important and key symbol in the whole story and allegory. It is subtle yet effective and consequential.  This key symbol, again, is the wood/firewood.

When Abraham prepared the journey to the place of the sacrifice, he placed the wood upon Isaac.

"And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together." (Genesis 22:6)

Isaac carries the wood on his back to the place of the sacrifice (Mount Moriah).  Similarly, Christ carried his cross  to the place of the crucifixion (Golgotha - "mount of execution").  Hence the wood is the symbol for the cross - a wooden cross.

Moreover, Isaac carried the wood which would eventually be used to kill him as he will be "placed upon" the burning wood

"And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood." (Genesis 22:9)

Likewise, Christ carried his cross (wooden) which was his instrument of death as he was "placed upon" that cross.

Interestingly, there is a similar pattern of reversal also. After carrying the wood Isaac was "placed upon" the wood.  Christ, after carrying his cross, was "placed upon" the cross.

Similar still, though different in some respects, is that wood comes from a tree and a tree is often associated with the cross according to the Bible:

Acts 5:30
The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.

Acts 10:39
And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:

Acts 13:29
And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.

1 Peter 2:24
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.


Big Game in Big House

No, it’s not the Manu and South Africa game - or any other RWC game.  Instead, it’s the game between the Cougars and the Wolverines.  I’m talking about the game between two college football teams here in the US between BYU and the University of Michigan.  It’s a BIG game for either team.  For Michigan it will be one that will test the progress of its torpid football program of recent years, and hopefully a resurgent one under their new head coach Jim Harbaugh - an alumnus and a former NFL/Forty Niners’ coach.

Michigan's fabled "Big House"

For BYU it’s another attempt to prove and validate (after wins against Boise State and Nebraska, and a close game against UCLA) its playoffs/championship caliber; hence against the seeming marginalization imposed by the college football conglomerate - namely the Power Five.  BYU, like Notre Dame and Navy, is an independent.  It does not belong to a football conference  and so it would have to have a phenomenal and impressive season to be considered for the playoffs.

The last and only other time BYU and Michigan played was some 30 years ago in San Diego.  BYU won the game, was undefeated (13-0) and sealed its claim for the national championship that year.  So in a sense, this game tomorrow is like a return fight.  The proverbial hatchet is being unburied.

And the "Big House"?  Yes. It’s the name for the Michigan University Stadium which holds 109,000+ people, but it can host crowds of 115, 000.  To put that in some perspective, it can hold about 2/3 of Samoa’s population that totals 180,000, but it can hold all of Tonga’s population of 105,000 - and some.  It is bigger than any present stadium in either Australia or NZ. The Big House is definitely going to be loooooud during game time tomorrow.  During its preparations, BYU streamed and blared loud music into its indoor football practice facility to mimic the noise they will encounter in the Big House.

BYU Stadium

So whichever team wins, it’s going to be BIG for them going forward this season!

Goooooooo COUGARS!!

UPDATE:  Many hours later...

The BIGGER team (Michigan) won and the smaller team (BYU) lost.  Gotta hand it to the Wolverines.  And for the Cougars, well, maybe next time.  I’m glad I didn’t watch the game; I had to go cheer and support our grandsons in their games (they all won).  So as far as BYU football goes, for now, I think I'll pass; instead I'll just stick with cheering for BYU RUGBY!  They are the real deal winning the national title three years in a row!