I would think that many of us would agree that the Feast of Tabernacles 2021 was truly a unique experience, perhaps unlike any other Feast.
It was for me, and I would like to share a few of my observations and experiences, hopeful that you may benefit and appreciate more fully your Feast experience this year.
Barbara and I have spent the past 20 Feasts with the majority of our deaf members in the United Church of God. This has been a way for both of us to serve God and an inspiring group of His children.
I was appointed the Coordinator of Deaf Services in 2002 and have loved serving our deaf members in a variety of ways, but clearly I was given this opportunity to serve because of my wife. At the Feast a few years earlier, she realized there was a need for skilled interpreters, and decided to prepare for this service by going back to college in her 40s to become a professional sign language interpreter. Although Barbara has devoted countless hours in her continuing endeavor to serve our deaf brethren, I know she would say that she has gained more than she has given. We have both been inspired by the lives and commitment of our deaf members and their families. Although I am definitely not skilled in ASL (American Sign Language), I am very glad to support her in this labor of love and I also truly love and appreciate all our deaf members, their families and our support teams.
I hope you found a way to serve during God’s Feast days. If you did, I am reasonably confident you have also come to realize that there is great reward in serving others and that we almost always receive back more from those we serve than we give to them. This has been especially true since meeting our deaf church family.
This year we were in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, with several of our deaf members. We have always had an awesome Feast no matter where we have been. This year was no exception.
To our surprise, Lake Junaluska was even better than expected. It is truly a unique community nestled in the beauty of the Smoky Mountains. Barbara and I have attended 43 Feasts together and we both agree that Lake Junaluska was as close to a Millennial setting as any Feast we have enjoyed attending. The peace and tranquility of this small community was truly inspiring, as we daily reflected on the peace and tranquility of God’s coming Kingdom!
But I realize not everyone had such a smooth and beautiful Feast experience in 2021.
As Operation Manager for MMS, I received reports from around the United States about how things were going at all our Feast sites. At many of our sites, things were not all that different from past Feast experiences and many of you enjoyed a Feast very similar to all others. But, for a fair number of you, your Feast experience developed into a hardship of varying degrees. Some of our Feast sites had a number of COVID-19 cases and a few close personal friends had to drive home all the way to Texas and California due to being unable to return by plane.
But, God’s people are faithful and resilient in spite of the trials that God allows to come upon us for whatever reasons—even while faithfully striving to obey the command to keep these days, either in-person or assembling for a webcast service.
It was in light of these varied Feast experiences that I read the book of Lamentations this week. I was struck in a profound way as I read Jeremiah’s laments about the hardships God brought upon the children of Israel and Judah due to their sinful ways.
It is my belief that the hardships due to COVID-19 were not brought upon any of our members during the Feast because of their sins. All were attempting to honor God by observing these precious days, and for that they should be commended.
But God’s people are affected by what goes on around us in the world during this worldwide pandemic. Even now, some are fighting for their lives due to complications from COVID-19 and some members of God’s Church have already died as a result. Now is the time for God’s people to unite in praying for one another as never before.
What struck me the most in Lamentations was after Jeremiah spent much time expressing his anguish over God allowing such horrendous hardships to come upon His people, he says this in Lamentations 3:22-23: “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”
I guess I never realized that one of my favorite songs from our hymnal came from the book of Lamentations! In many ways this may seem the most unlikely book from which this song would originate. The house of Judah, the city of Jerusalem, and God’s temple had all been decimated, but in spite of all this angst, Jeremiah knew and relied upon God’s faithfulness.
We must all do the same as we rely on God and His faithfulness to us, awaiting the fulfillment of the days we just observed. No doubt there will be greater hardships we will face in the future.
But always remember and believe: God and His Son are forever faithful!
May you all have a very inspiring Sabbath!