There were some opening comments (in Chinese and English, thank goodness!) and then the Jade Buddha was dramatically unveiled amid clanging bells, firecrackers, and the oohs and aahs of the crowd.
After the unveiling they released balloons and pigeons which in some strange way felt spiritual. Sitting there amongst amazed people some of whom had devoted their entire lives to this, I could definitely understand how people could feel like Buddhism is a viable religion.
After the balloon and pigeon release, young Buddhists presented flower offerings to the statue. They all looked very lovely and I could tell who the proud parents--the flashing cameras gave them away.
They also set off a whole lotta firecrackers which Jathan was no so impressed with. He kept looking out for the dragon which Jackie had said might be there. No such luck, however, with the dragon!
At the end of the ceremony, there were prayers and chanting. They were praying for Universal Peace (maybe aliens are fighting in space wars?) and also for the victims of natural disasters such as Katrina and tsunamis. Their prayer was that these "wandering souls" would be able to be reborn into a better world. As they chanted and chanted and chanted Ryland curled up his sweet little head on my shoulder and I closed my eyes and thanked God for him. My prayer for peace was a little different than theirs.
I looked around at all these devout followers promoting peace among religions, praying for wandering souls and I was overcome with a sense of sadness. "Yes, Lord," I prayed, "They do have noble intentions and kind hearts. But how I wish they knew that good intentions isn't the ticket to being reborn." In John 14:6 Jesus is recorded as saying, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me." John 3:36 says, "He who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
There is a great divide between us and God: "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) Jesus stands in that great divide and bids us to cross into the presence of the Lord. (1 Timothy 2:5, 1 John 5:11-12) We can't be "good enough" and we'll never get "close enough" to meeting the standard which God sets in His holiness. The Law showed us that! There was a NEED for Jesus or God would not have willed Him suffered and die.
The peace that I prayed for today was that the Holy Spirit would stir in the hearts of all these people that they might know true peace.
I sat there looking at the beautiful Jade Buddha overlaid with gold, surrounded by gorgeous flowers and colorful banners and I knew that it couldn't compare to Heaven.
Yes, we should pray for universal peace but not we chants and clanging bells and maybe not even with words but with that groaning of the Holy Spirit within us crying out for the salvation of the lost...those truly wandering souls who have, not an endless number of eternities to transcend to rebirth, but one short lifetime to decide whom they will serve.