'One is not enough,' Buddhist woman says at lantern ceremony [Excerpts]
I'm surrounded by thousands of suspended paper lanterns that look like glowing jellyfish in a black ocean. I reach out and touch one. It bounces off me, awaiting its ascent heavenward.
Fireworks explode overhead. Green, red and blue sparklers provide a magical backdrop as the golden dots begin to float into the distance.
It's easy to get swept up in the magic and beauty of the moment, forgetting the real meaning -- releasing one's sin -- behind this northern Thai festival called Yi Peng.
A Thai woman standing next to me, Som Mookjai, says this is the one time of year she feels light and beautiful from the inside out. The 48-year-old mother of two has been practicing Buddhism her entire life and never misses this November full-moon ceremony. She literally counts down the months, and then days, until she can release her sins through these traditional lanterns.
Mookjai spends most of the year making merit, or doing good works, for her various sins and wrongdoings. She takes food to the monks, but feeding the orphans is where she finds the most joy.
"You can never do enough merit," Mookjai says as she picks up a lantern for herself and one for me.
I thank her for the gift and explain that I don't need it. My God already sacrificed for my sins. She nods, not really interested, and continues with the task at hand -- preparing the lantern for launch.
"I release lanterns just enough for my sin," Mookjai assures me, then explains that as the lanterns float higher and higher, she feels lighter and lighter. "I do not do too many, just enough for the year."
Lanterns all around us begin standing straight up; it's time for another mass release. Mookjai's lantern is ready. She places my hand on the bamboo frame to feel its gentle tug. It's ready to ascend. She whispers another prayer to Buddha and slowly releases the balloon.
We watch the beautiful lantern rise lazily, joining thousands of others in flight. They move as one in the dark sky, drifting higher and higher. When a wind current whisks the glowing mass away, we are left standing there, engulfed in darkness and empty-handed.
"I still feel heavy," Mookjai sighs. "One is not enough."
(Sprenkle, MISSIONS CLOSE-UP: 'One is not enough,' Buddhist woman says at lantern ceremony, Baptist Press, 12/16/10).
[TBC: Praise the Lord for the biblical Gospel. "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool" (Hebrews:10:12-13).]