We celebrated harvest at Emmanuel a little earlier than usual this year and I am grateful to everyone for their part in making it such a joyful celebration. In early October in the Jewish community another harvest festival called the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot in Hebrew, takes place. This is a week-long festival whose origins are described in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy at chapter 16:13-17. The gospels tell us that Jesus celebrated this festival each year.
Sukkot is not only a celebration of harvest but it also helps Jewish people remember the time when their ancestors dwelt in tents during the Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. Many Jewish people even today spend seven days living in a temporary tent-like structure often built in their own homes to help better identify with the experience of those who lived during that time in their history when the children of Israel wandered in the desert. It is a time to give thanks to God for his providence in a difficult situation and to look forward to better times to come.
If we stop and think about it our lives are a bit like these tents in the desert. We live for an unspecified period of time in a tent (our bodies) which is not permanent but, just like the Israelites of old, we have a Promised Land to look forward to and to which we journey with hope trusting in God’s promise. As Christians though, while our “tents” may be temporary, we are called to build a house that will endure, that is God’s eternal kingdom. So let us use the time God has given us to build his kingdom for the benefit of others until the time comes for us to move from what is temporal to what is eternal.
Let us follow the example of the Carpenter from Nazareth who came to build that eternal kingdom here on earth. As the lyrics of a Johnny Cash song, with which I am familiar, remind us:-
“Jesus was a carpenter and he worked with a saw and a hammer. And his hands could form a table true enough to stand forever.
And he might have spun his life out in the coolness of the mornings.
But he put aside his tools and he walked the burning highways
To build a house from folk like you and me.
And he found them as they wandered through the wild Judean mountains.
And he found them as they pulled their nets upon the Sea of Galilee.
And for a thousand evenings while the day behind him emptied
He walked among the poor and he stopped to touch the dying.
And he built his house from people just like these.”