Sunday, 6 October 2013

Sunday 6 October 2013, Harvest Morning Service, Leviticus 23:33-43, John 7:37-39, Bruce

The church has been decorated beautifully for harvest.  One member joked that with all that effort, it was good that harvest comes only once a year.  I had to inform them that the Israel had three!  There was a harvest celebration at the time of the Passover in the spring, a harvest celebration 50 days later at the time of Pentecost, and the third main one in the autumn after the Day of Atonement.  This last one involved tents.
The people of Israel went down into Egypt in the time of Joseph.  400 years later Moses led them out, through the Red Sea and into the wilderness.  For 40 years the people lived in tents, and God was among them in the Tabernacle.  One significant event occurred when the people were running out of water; at Horeb God commanded Moses to strike the rock, and water gushed out.
In our reading from Leviticus we read about the autumn harvest festival, to be held over eight days.  It was called the Feast of Tabernacles or the feast of Booths.  As well as sacrifices and feasting, the people were commanded to move out of their houses for the week and live in booths or temporary tents.  Even when they were settled in their promised land, they were to be reminded every year that they had been wanderers, depending upon God and his constant mercy and provision.
By the time of Jesus the festival was still being celebrated.  An important part of the festival in Jerusalem was the ceremonial pouring out of water; it was collected from the Pool of Siloam, paraded through the city and poured out before the Lord in the temple.  The procession through Jerusalem was an occasion of great joy.
It was on the last day of the feast, when the celebrations were at their height, that Jesus stood up and shouted that anyone who is thirsty should come to him; out their inner most being would flow rivers of living water.
The key requirement is that we should be thirsty.  John explains carefully that Jesus is not being literal when he speaks of water; he is speaking of the Holy Spirit.  The key thing is to Encounter God and Grow in Him.  The key thing is to learn to believe: to trust and rely upon Jesus.  This was the lesson learned in the wilderness and reinforced every year at the festival. 
When Jesus calls us to satisfy our thirst, it is not just to meet our personal needs.  The plan is that out of innermost being would flow rivers of living water – the Holy Spirit reaching out to bless our family members, neighbours, colleagues and friends.
To summarise:
·         Thanks to God for all that he gives
·         Remember that we are “tent dwellers”
·         Believe = to depend / rely upon absolutely
·         Direct encounter with God, by his Holy Spirit
·         Share his love with all around

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