5th September 2020
Our Dear Brethren,
As you might have guessed from my last letter and Bible study, I've been thinking a lot about the upcoming Feast of Tabernacles. The Feast, as we sometimes call it, is such a huge part of our yearly plans. Some of us take our yearly vacation at that time so we don't miss out on any part of the Feast. Some of us battle with bosses and teachers as we take a stand for what we believe in. It is in such moments when our true beliefs and depth of our commitment are visible to those around us. There are some of us who scrimp and save as much as we can, ensuring we have enough to travel and to lodge during the Feast. Saving our second tithe, as commanded by our God, is a test of faith for all of us. The tenth of our increase that we save back isn't calculated by anyone else but ourselves, making this a very personal test of our individual trust in God to provide for us.
As is much of life, the Feast of Tabernacles is a balancing act for God's people.
On one hand we faithfully save our tithe so we might "eat before the Lord [our] God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide" (Deuteronomy 14:23a). This includes feasting on delicious delicacies we might not always have the chance to eat or drink. "And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household" (verse 26).
On the other hand, we have to make sure we are paying attention to the state of those around us during this time. The very next verse mentions taking care of those who do not have the blessings we have been blessed with. "You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you" (verse 27). Today we don't have Levites without an inheritance among us, but we do have those who struggle to feed their families and keep their jobs for all sorts of reasons. We have those among us who have fallen on hard times or who are experiencing health trials. We have those among us who seem to struggle no matter how hard they work.
The balancing act for us is in the willingness, preparedness, and action of feasting and sharing in our blessings. It's in sitting back and enjoying the time with one another, and pitching in and helping where there are needs. We must find this proper balance as we head into the Feast of Tabernacles this year wherever we may be. God will bless us for both sides of this balancing act. He will bless us for rejoicing together before Him and also for serving one another at this special time.
Jesus Christ, our Savior, the Son of God was always the perfect example of proper balance. He feasted with people, took the time to enjoy conversations, and visited with His brethren. He also made great efforts to serve others. Jesus healed and comforted those who were going through trials. He fed people when they were weary after traveling for days just to hear His words of truth. Jesus truly personified what the coming kingdom of God is going to be like. The Feast of Tabernacles is supposed to do the same. The Feast looks forward to a time of peace and plenty, but also to a time when loving servants will be needed to go and to serve humanity.
Have we found this balance yet? Have we figured out how to both rejoice and to serve others at the same time? Have we found the middle ground between ensuring that we and our household are enjoying our time celebrating God's Feast, and looking out for those around us? Have we figured out that part of the pleasure of being at this Feast which we have been invited to, is ensuring that others can also rejoice with us?
Learning this balance at the Feast of Tabernacles should help us also find this balance in our lives every day. Learning to find this balance between rejoicing and serving (even though really they should be interconnected) will help us prepare to rejoice and to serve alongside Jesus Christ on the earth during His thousand year reign. That's where we want to be and what we want to be doing during that future time. Let's prepare ourselves for that beautiful time when there will be reason for rejoicing found among all of humanity, when all will go up before God to keep His Feast and to learn from Him the way we have a chance to learn today.
Our love is with you,
Pastor, United Church of God
NYC, NJ, CT, Malawi, Zimbabwe