Having been away for a week or more, on my return I usually scan about me for changes that have occurred in my absence.
It is usually that leaves have fallen, or at least have turned colour. But this year, at least where I live, the leaves in the main remain resolutely green and affixed to their trees. Perhaps it will all happen suddenly, almost overnight, and great piles of leaves will be there for me to sweep up in a mere matter of days.
But I know that this will happen. I am just not in charge of when it will happen. And it’s not a matter of if or of probabilities. It’s certain. So certain, in fact, that I have already made provision for the leaves in the recycling bin. But then life is like that.
We know that our next appointment for some medical consultation, or family get-together is already pencilled in on the schedule. And very soon we’re back into the trivial round, the common task, as the Prayer Book and hymn words it, of every-day life. No matter what might be said by some, I find the annual church conference and festival in the autumn of inestimable worth, not to be soon forgotten. I have the matchless privilege of recording all those messages I heard at Bridlington and preparing them to be launched on to our website (here - editor).
Those who chose for whatever reason not to go missed out on the atmosphere, the Christian ambiance, the fellowship. Oh, they can listen to the messages, and very important and inspiring they are too: not to be missed, in my opinion. And at the end of many of them my mental conclusion was “Wow!” But not being there is still a loss. And I mean a permanent loss and a loss that permanently limits or damages the one not there. And I appreciate that in this day and age there are many pressing reasons which must take priority which mean we are not there.
But I have heard that some even in our fellowship dismiss the festivals as Old Testament, passé, not required for the church in the New Testament. My only comment to such people is that in many cases, the festivals were not explained or any reasons given for them to the people who observed them in the Old Testament. We in the New Testament are the first to understand their purpose and their intent. Does that mean that we must keep them as a command, as in the Old Testament? There’s no command to keep them in our day and age, but Paul, not obeying a command, wanted to be at Jerusalem for at least one of the up-coming festivals. Quite so. So many observances in the New Testament are not commands but responses; we want to do or observe because of what God has done for us.
The teaching we receive from those who rightly understand the place of the festivals in the New Testament is beyond price, and beyond understanding for those not there. And that doesn’t mean that we can learn the purpose and methods employed by our God only through the days signalled by him in the Old Testament. But that the teaching through them is clearer and requires no filter or distillation. It’s just there! Plain and simple. And only with the utmost difficulty denied.