The Real Meaning of our Harvest Celebration

by Thom McKee

                  Early this summer, I woke up to take a quick shower before I was going to head to Redding for a doctor's appointment.  But when I tried to turn on the shower, I knew that it was going to be a bad day.  No water was coming out and I knew the reason immediately.  Our well pump was out.  We have known that this little pump buried one hundred feet below us was on its last leg. But I had hoped that it was going to last a little longer.

                  While wetting my hair with bottled water, I thought about where we were going to come up with the money to pay for this.  As a matter of fact, money was something that I was going to think about all day. 

                  After getting my wife and kids ready for school, I drove to Redding for my doctor's appointment. It was after the appointment when the second bad thing happened. Right there in the doctor's parking lot, my truck wouldn't start.  I opened the hood and checked the three things that I knew might start my Duramax. But, I quickly realized that the problem was outside of my knowledge base (which most problems with this truck are). It was time to call a tow truck.

                  Eventually my truck was in a shop in Redding, and it was clear that the problem was going to take a couple of days and a lot of money. So I called Amy and told her about our problems and asked her if she would be willing to drive and hour and a half to come and get me.  Surprisingly cheerfully, she packed up the kids and started her journey while I walked to a local taco place in downtown Redding.  At least I had a couple of books with me.

                  An hour later I received a call from Amy but this time she was obviously a bit stressed.  She informed me that she had just been given a traffic ticket for speeding.  Even my precious 8 year old Elise wasn't able to charm the officer into giving a warning, despite numerous attempts.  This was going to be a very expensive day.

                  When I had walked into the taco place, right out front there was homeless guy sitting on the sidewalk in the hot sunlight.  He had asked me for some change and I told him I would be happy to buy him a taco instead.  So I bought him two, and I went back outside to give them to him.  He clearly hadn't eaten in a while and, despite his disappointment that I didn't give him cash, he gladly inhaled the two tacos.  While he ate I was able to get a little bit of his story.  He was stuck in Redding right now and he was hoping to get up to Portland.  But we were interrupted by a friend of his who told them that they had some place to be.  He thanked me for the tacos and moved on.

                  When I went inside to read, I couldn't stop thinking about the homeless guy.  He was about my age and he was living outdoors begging for change for a living.  He had left an empty bottle of cheap vodka on the ground next to him, so I assumed that alcoholism and possibly drug abuse were a large part of this guy's life. 

                  He had told me a little bit about his life, but I was really curious about more of the details.  Where were his parents right now?  If they were still alive, did they know that he was living on the street?  Did he have a family at one point?  Did he have any kids out there?  If so, did they know that he lived on the street? Did he live in dangerous places?  Did he commit more serious crimes to get money to feed his addiction (if indeed he was an addict)?

                  All of a sudden my life didn't seem so bad.  I had a bed that I was going to go to sleep in that night (actually I have three of them).  I have an amazing family that was driving a long distance to come help me with my current problems. My wife Amy, is my best friend and I am so lucky to be married to her.  My kids are hilarious, smart and compassionate children. My extended family is absolutely unbelievable.  I am surrounded with love from all of them.  I live in a beautiful home (albeit with no water) on seven acres with views of Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen from my bedroom.  My doctor told me that I am pretty healthy even though I need to lose a bunch of weight.  I absolutely love my job as senior pastor at IM Free church.  My wife loves her job as the speech therapist at the school that my kids go to.  I live in a small town full of people that know, love and support each other in good times and bad.  But most importantly, I have a relationship with a God who loves and supports me in ways that are hard to even comprehend. Basically, my life is amazing, even on the worst days.

                  I realized that, even on this day, I had plenty of reasons to celebrate all of the blessings that God had given me.  I am incredibly blessed.

                  This week we are going to be celebrating the Harvest after church on Sunday.  We will be cooking Tri-tip for everyone on the grill during the service and we will be throwing a party Fall River style afterwards.  First we will be doing a baptism in front of the church, and then we will be eating together as a church community in order to celebrate the Fall Harvest.  We do it every year at this time, but I hope that the meaning of our celebration is not lost on anyone. 

                  The Harvest is all about celebrating the fact that God has given us so much.  It doesn't matter how difficult our lives are, we still all have things to thank God for. Each one of us, if we just spend a little bit of time to examine our lives will find that we have all been blessed in many ways.   We just often forget to look for these things.

                  This tradition of celebrating harvest, is not just something that we do, it is actually an ancient biblical one.  In Deuteronomy 16, Moses lays out three festivals that the people of Israel were ordered to celebrate (yes, they were ordered by God to take time to throw parties).  The first one was Passover, a celebration of the fact that God delivered His people from slavery from Egypt. (Many of you came to our Messianic Passover celebration last spring where we talked about how this celebration was also linked to Jesus' last supper) The second one, the festival of weeks, was celebrated at the beginning of summer during the first Harvest.  This celebration was about God's provision as people finished harvesting their grain. The third festival,  the festival of booths or shelters, was held at the end of the summer when the grain was threshed and the wine was pressed.  Traditionally, people created temporary shelters that they would live in during this week long celebration where they would remember what their life used to be like when they were wandering in the desert.  Years ago, we did a form of this by setting up tents in the sanctuary, because let's face it, this celebration is a lot like camping!

                  This week we will be celebrating a Christian derivation of that ancient Jewish celebration. We are once again (we did it at the beginning of the summer) going to be getting together to take some time and think about all of the things that God has given us. We even have one booth ( a bounce house) that the kids can play in.

                  For me, even on the worst days, I have plenty of reason to celebrate all of the things that God has blessed me with.  My guess is that, no matter what difficult things you are going through, you also have a lot of things to celebrate.  Please, come join us this Sunday for this fun, important party which is anchored in the traditions of God's people!

Thom McKee