October 2018 Member Letter
October 11, 2018
Another Feast of Tabernacles has come and gone! My family and I have been attending the Feast since 1962, but we began observing the festivals in the 1950s. I cannot tell you where all the years have gone! It seems like yesterday that I was a 12-year-old, attending the opening night of the Feast in the huge metal tabernacle just off U.S. Highway 80 and a few miles east of the small town of Big Sandy, Texas.
It is easy for one Feast to blend into the next one without really stopping to ask ourselves, “What did I learn this year?” Over the years, we mostly identify the Feast with where we were and who we were with. From 1962 through 1971, I was in Big Sandy. Since 1972, I have attended the Feast in many different locations in the U.S. and several places outside the U.S. My family and I observed our first international Feast in France in 1993. Since then, we have been to Australia, the Philippines, Argentina, Guatemala, Italy, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Bahamas and Barbados.
Soon the Feast of 2018 will be a faint memory. But before that happens, I want to encourage each one of us to answer the question “What did I learn this year?” It may not have been an earth-shattering lesson, and you may not be able to narrow it down to just one lesson. Personally, I believe the messages I heard this year were some of the best in recent memory. Sharron and I attended in Barbados for the second half of the Feast, and because there were few elders, most of the men who spoke were not ordained to the ministry. I was very pleased to hear their messages and felt encouraged for the future of the Church. We have a number of dedicated and mature men and wives who set a good example during this Feast in their conduct and their ability to explain God’s plan of salvation in an inspiring manner.
My one lesson from this year was really more of an overview of the Feast and its meaning for today’s world. It wasn’t a new lesson but one that was pressed more than once in the messages. The concept that God is the One who calls us out of this world and that God will be the One who will one day teach the entire world about His plan of salvation (John 6:44-45) was emphasized this year in a way I don’t recall from previous years.
If you think about it, the first three festivals—Passover, Unleavened Bread and Pentecost—explain God’s focus at this time on the firstfruits. We are told that we are “a kind of firstfruits” (James 1:18). We are the ones who have been privileged to receive God’s calling in this lifetime. According to the best estimates, 100 billion people have lived on this earth in the past 6,000 years. Just think of that—out of 100 billion people, only a small portion have been recipients of God’s calling. By comparison, we are truly like a few grains of sand on a seashore.
When viewed from that perspective, it is truly a special privilege to be among those firstfruits. But along with this privilege comes responsibility. I like the way the Weymouth New Testament (WNT) translates John 1:12: “But all who have received Him, to them—that is, to those who trust in His name—He has given the privilege of becoming children of God” (emphasis added). I genuinely hope that you consider it a privilege to have been called at this time and to have the opportunity to participate in the annual festivals as outlined in Scripture.
The final four festivals focus on a different part of God’s plan—the salvation of the world. Most people today are confused, believing that God is trying to save the world NOW! If that were true, then He would be doing a woeful job! But it is simply not true. The vast majority of mankind will be saved after the return of Jesus Christ (pictured by the Feast of Trumpets), after the putting away of Satan (the Day of Atonement) and beginning with the 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ on this earth (Feast of Tabernacles) and continuing through the time of the Great White Throne Judgment (Eighth Day, or Last Great Day).
By observing these festivals each year, we are reminded about this most important concept, and we understand once again what God is really doing in this world. So many seemingly unsolvable mysteries are answered by observing and understanding the meaning of the festivals. After more than 50 years of attending the Feast and almost 60 years of observing the festivals, I was reminded of the privilege of God’s calling more this year than any previous year that I can recall. But this leads me to asking questions about the responsibility that goes along with that privilege. I must ask myself, “What am I responsible for?”
The obvious answer is that I am responsible for myself. I am the one who controls what I think and what I do. Am I reflecting the nature and mind of Jesus Christ? If not, then it is my fault. As a privileged member of God’s coming Kingdom, I bear that responsibility. I cannot blame others or circumstances when it comes to my conduct and my thoughts. I am determined to do better in the year ahead, to spend more time analyzing myself and less time judging or blaming others.
I also have a responsibility toward my family. Our three daughters are all grown, with husbands and children of their own, but I still feel responsible to give them good advice when asked and to show them how a husband treats his wife and how a father treats his children—with the respect and honor they all deserve.
And I have a responsibility toward my fellow firstfruits to always treat them with the dignity and honor they deserve. The Bible refers to the firstfruits as being like jewels that God is gathering (Malachi 3:17). If someone gave you a precious jewel, perhaps a diamond or a sapphire, you would be very careful to treat it as something of great value. Similarly, we have a responsibility to treat each other fairly, with love and kindness. The answer to Cain’s question in Genesis 4:9—“Am I my brother’s keeper?”—is a resounding “Yes!” We are indeed our brother’s keeper!
This is what I am taking home with me from this year’s Feast. I hope you can relate to this lesson along with others that you may have learned. Before we turn our attention to planning for next year, let’s take a few minutes to meditate on what we learned this year.
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,