Post-Feast Letter from Chairman Webber
October 10, 2013
Dear fellow elders and members,
My wife Susan and I came away from the recent festival in Oceanside, California, having spiritually experienced the “best Feast yet.” We always say “best Feast yet,” rather than “best Feast ever,” because we are expectant that our Heavenly Father has more spiritual “bests” in store for all of us, as He fashions us into the full measure of His Son’s image (Ephesians 4:13). Christians always lean forward with knowing expectation of God’s continuous grace and favor, grooming us in this sacred vocation to which we have been called (John 6:44).
If you are like us, God not only challenged and inspired you from the pulpit, but He utilized people in the hallways and parking lots—many in the aisles at services—and perhaps used individuals we had never previously met to enlighten and encourage us with answers to our personal challenges. Perhaps he used a local community member to show you how to properly represent your “citizenship that is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). We must never limit the manner or ways or persons God may use to tell us, “This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).
In Oceanside, we had many children, teens, and young adults in attendance this year. It was so encouraging! We marveled at how important this fresh layer of dedicated youth is to our Church. It is evident—by the fruit demonstrated in their cheerfulness, in their infectious desire to volunteer and in their ability to seamlessly work with others—that something special is occurring. I believe we are seeing ongoing and developing results of many years of them learning about “the Zone” at camp; of our young adults volunteering to serve in various Church functions; as well as the positive results of the Ambassador Bible Center program. I believe all of these components factoring together are creating an indelible impact on the fabric of the Church. These younger Church members are excited about being involved in a way of life that works—and works best—because it has God’s blessings. They seem to sense that their time is now!
In 50 years of festival attendance, I can clearly state that I have never experienced such unity, cooperation and sheer joy from so many—from those of us who have been invited to experience a foretaste of “the wonderful world tomorrow.” It was thrilling! At our Feast site, we chose to remember an old adage: “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.” We chose not to allow every accident to become an incident and realized it takes “many hands and hearts to make a heavy load lighter.” These lessons apply to all of us throughout this coming year.
None of this comes naturally. It comes through understanding we have surrendered our lives to something greater than ourselves and by allowing God’s love and laws to rule our hearts and minds. It takes devotion and constant focus to have outgoing concern beyond our personal “kingdom of self.” What we witnessed at our Feast site was mirrored many times over around the world. Ultimately, the festivals are not about meeting halls and local attractions, but taking note of the Spirit of God on full display in ordinary people who are being enabled to do extraordinary things.
At a Feast site, summer camp site or in daily life, God can take that which seemingly is small and multiply it to His glory—that is, if we will give to Him whatever it is we have to share, no matter how small, and let Him fill in the rest of the story. I am mindful of the parable in which Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened (Matthew 13:33, emphasis added). This is the leaven we hopefully take home with us that needs continual expansion in our daily lives, whoever we might be, wherever we are, and whatever might come our way.
Personally this Feast of Tabernacles and Eighth Day festival galvanized us as a couple, and I hope you as well, to more than ever put our “hand to the plow”(Luke 9:62) and to do our individual part before God, for Him to strengthen the Body of Christ. We tasted what a church full of godly joy can fully be. It’s not about looking over our shoulder at somebody else, but looking to our Heavenly Father and asking, “How can I live and serve you more fully?”
I’m mindful of three specific points mentioned in Isaiah 2:3: 1) “Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,” 2) “He will teach us His ways,” and 3) “We shall walk in His paths.” Well, the Feast days are over for now, and in that sense “we have gone up” and been “taught His ways,” and it’s time to “walk the walk.” Now we all move into our personal spheres of influence, whether at home, in our neighborhoods, schools or workplace, to make a difference. It needs to be the same difference created by light when it penetrates darkness; the same difference created by salt as it seasons all it touches (Matthew 5:13-16). Everything changes, and we have the incredible privilege of being God’s personal instrument, to be a touchstone of His Kingdom now!
We on the Council of Elders and the administration of the United Church of God have the same responsibility as all of you to come away from these festivals with a renewed desire to serve God and our fellow man. God says, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” not “peace-wishers” (Matthew 5:9). Thus, we ask ourselves, “What would God have us do?” Micah 6:8 tells all that will hear: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God?”
Our future deliberations and decisions must be sustained by a genuine desire to echo the words of the prophet Micah through prayer and fasting and willingly lay down our lives as living sacrifices. Why? That we might glorify God and honor His name and guide this whole-Church endeavor to which you have been called as a coworker, to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God, make disciples in all nations and care for those disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).
Dear friends in Christ, there are so many people in search of answers to the big questions of life: Why was I born? Does life have purpose? If there is a God, what am I to do? Is the Bible really the divine message for all humanity? Why is there no other name but Jesus Christ by which we may be saved” (Acts 4:12)? In this modern day religious confusion is there a church striving to worship God in “spirit and in truth” (John 4:23) as seen in the book of Acts?
Yes there are many anxiously desiring to understand how humanity is not an accident of cosmic nature, but a divine creation given breath by the Living God when He proclaimed, “Let Us make man in our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Yes, there are people who seek the relationship promised by an Almighty Being who lovingly proclaims, “I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Ezekiel 37:27, 2 Corinthians 6:16). Yes, there are people who will accept the call of God to “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Yes, there are men and women around this world who will surrender their lives now in living faith, because they have come to take God at His word when He says: “I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it” (Isaiah 46:11).
There’s an incredible set of words in Revelation 21:6 that are often mentioned on the Eighth Day festival. They describe the unveiling of the New Jerusalem, as God trumpets forth, “It is done!” In this conclusion, we rediscover and solidify in our hearts that ultimately God Almighty triumphs and Christ is the victor. In one sense the victory is already in God’s hand, but the details are yet to be worked out here below.
That’s where we come in. We are called to personal salvation by God’s grace, but we have also been granted a precious privilege of spreading the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God as coworkers in Christ. Your prayers, faithful tithes, generous offerings and daily personal witness are all part of supplying very needed answers to those seeking that special “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:46).
Thank you for your confidence in the efforts of the United Church of God as an instrument in the Body of Christ to share the goodness of God’s way of life to those whom He has called and will yet call and place into His spiritual Body. Let’s all make a renewed commitment to be about our Father’s business. May our collective anthem be the words of the apostle John: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). May the God of all comfort bless and keep you in all ways in all your coming days.
In Christ’s service,
Robin Webber—Chairman, Council of Elders