O children of Zion, be glad
and rejoice in the Lord your God.
~ Joel 2:23
Thus begins this Sunday’s reading from the prophet Joel. He goes on to celebrate the abundant rains poured down upon the people. Last weekend, the Pacific Northwest prepared ourselves for a bit too much rain, only to feel blessed when the storm passed us by with little effect. I suppose that blessings are relative, after all.
Sunday night began another important festival in our Judeo-Christian tradition: the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot. On these seven days (which this year last from October 16 to the 24), we celebrate both the return of the Israelites from their exile and the abundance of the harvest. Families celebrating this festival may build a temporary dwelling tent (called a “sukkah” or “booth”) in their backyard, where they may eat their meals together or even sleep (in warmer climates, I’m sure!). One of my richest memories of our time living in Berkeley was being invited to eat with our dear friends in their sukkah on a warm, fall evening, and reading from Ecclesiastes together, as well as telling stories and laughing.
Sukkot is a feast of ingathering of the year’s abundance, and can be found in both the Hebrew Scripture (in Nehemiah, Zachariah, and Leviticus) as well as in the New Testament. The Gospel of John, Chapter 7, tells about Jesus attending the Festival of the Booths. For us, here at St. James, we too have much to celebrate! Our garden has produced abundance this year, and we are planning to sow new rows of cover crops to prepare the soil during the winter for spring planting. Our Stewardship Commission continues to “gather in” the pledges of our people, a harvest of “time, talent, and treasure” that will sustain us in the year ahead. And onNovember 6, we will celebrate new members who have joined our congregation in the past year.
The Ancient Israelites celebrated God’s blessings not in spite of the difficulties of their time in the desert—but rather, because of them. These first months of our mutual ministry have been filled with challenges as well as with rejoicing. I hope you will join me in giving thanks to God for all that we have and will gather together.
Poured out for you,