Tuesday, September 18, 2018

More than just Hunger Pangs

Happy Day of Atonement, reader! So, how are you feeling?

Not great? Why am I not surprised?

It's because I know about your secret. No, it's not the one about the raisins you snuck into the bathroom and ate. That, in fact, was me, one Day of Atonement when I was pregnant.

No, your secret is this: when everyone else is feeling better after they break their fast, you'll still have a gnawing pain in your stomach. While they are chattering gleefully, counting down until they leave town for the Feast of Tabernacles, you're wondering how on earth you're going to make it through the next 10 days.

On this Day of Atonement, we could review what Azazel literally meant. We could discuss why Herbert Armstrong's tortured explanation of the English term “at-one-ment” to describe a concept written in a different language more than 1500 years ago is nonsensical. We could talk about what the term "atonement" really means.

But really, today, I'd rather just give you a little validation. I know how you're feeling. It wasn't so long ago that I was in your shoes, which is why I try to eke out a little time to write at this point in the year. We at As Bereans Did know the spring and fall holy days are often when questioning members of today's Armstrongist Churches of God often come face-to-face with their doubts. It's not a fun place to be.

So today, I'd like to get just one point across to you. And it's this:

You are not crazy.

Yes. That's it. You are not crazy. Followed by, you are not alone. But right now, I'll settle for, you are not crazy. The Feast is extremely stressful and often discouraging. Here are some of the top reasons why:

Travel: Driving yourself nuts.

Rising air fares means that more and more people are driving to the Feast each year. This year's Sunday-to-Sunday span gives you a little more flexibility at the beginning. But departing on a Sunday night after the eighth day is over means you'll drive through the night or start the work/school week in the hole.

And most feast-goers are driving further than ever. When I was a child, there were about three feast sites within a six-hour drive from my home. Splintering, however, has left you with fewer Feast sites that are farther between.

For example, if you started at the United Church of God's headquarters site near Cincinnati, Ohio, but wanted not to keep the Feast in Cincinnati, it would take you almost 350 miles and nearly 7 hours to drive to the closest site in Snowshoe, West Virginia. If you want to avoid driving through mountains, you could always choose the Wisconsin Dells, which is the next closest. It's only about 500 miles away and about 8 hours of driving.

And I'm not just picking on UCG. If you were leaving from the Living Church of God's headquarters congregation in Charlotte, North Carolina, you'd have to travel 250 miles to Hilton Head – which thankfully is still on the map after Hurricane Florence. Had Florence taken a different path, the Charlatans (whoops, stupid autocorrect!) would have to put in 470 miles of driving to the next closest site - located in exotic, millennial Earlanger, Kentucky.

Mentioning Florence reminded me of my next point:

Holy Day Season or Hurricane Season, which?

God gave the Feast of Tabernacles to the Hebrews, who lived in the Middle East. He didn't give it to the Americans, or to the Filipino, or even to the Philippians. They celebrated the Feast in Jerusalem. But instead of learning from the missteps of King Jeroboam, who moved his Feast to a new date and city for political reasons, or believing the book of Hebrews says about the Sinai Covenant being obsolete,  church leaders have decided God is placing his name in hurricane-prone locations like Panama City and Myrtle Beach.

I recently read comments from older WCG members who recall "heroically" riding out storm bands during services in the meeting tent at God's True Feast in Jeykll Island, Georgia. This kind of hubris shows a complete lack of Philadelphian love and concern for the rescue workers who no doubt would have been called in to work, even on a high holy day, and endangered had tragedy struck. Today's feast-goers seem to to have a little more sense, although I recall some subtle bravado from COGWA members at Orange Beach last year when Hurricane Nate approached.

Several east coast Feast sites seemed to have dodged the bullet with Florence, although some forecasters say the storm's remnants could circle back around to the Carolinas. So good for them! However, COGWA's Feast site in Baguio City, Philippines was not so lucky. The city was recently battered by Super Typhoon Mangkhut. Does this mean that God is more pleased with LCG than with COGWA? Or are COGWA's Orange Beach feast-goers more righteous than their Filipino counterparts? Scoffing at less fortunate and speculating about their righteousness from outside the storm's path doesn't mean God is happier with you or your organization. It means you're a jerk.

Not getting the message

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the daily messages at the Feast of Tabernacles. It's not enough that you had to sit through the message. Now you have to listen to everyone talk about how great it was.

Sure, you might get one or two inspiring messages, but the rest sound like the speaker forgot he had a message and just punted. Now, I understand everyone punts sometimes. I mean, I obviously am right now. But the ministerial teams for most Feast sites start assigning days and teleconferencing about them in JUNE. If you started in June, come September, it should not sound like you punted: And yet, predictably, we still end up with:

The classic opening night message:
We made it! It is such a privilege to be here! After all, there are many who were here last year who are not today. Some of them are passed on and awaiting the first resurrection (we hope). Some infidels have left since the last split. (The infidels were our best friends until last year. Now they're keeping the Feast with another organization in the next tourist trap town over, and we're secretly hoping to run into them at Denny's). And still others have fallen away from God's truth and forgotten the great meaning of these days (although they're not in the path of this oncoming hurricane, so they may have more time to repent). 

It's the First Day:
We're celebrating the Feast! This time pictures when we will rule the earth with Jesus Christ for a thousand years. (Why is he talking about Jesus? What does he think this is, the Feast of Trumpets?) Don't forget that you are literally commanded to spend a tenth of your income on food, fine wine and whatever your heart desires! After all, this week pictures the Kingdom of God! (you become vaguely uncomfortable as you realize that the Bible directly states that the Kingdom of God is more than eating and drinking. What's worse, the description the guy at the lectern gave is sounding more and more like something Solomon disparaged in the book of Ecclesiastes). 

The Acrostic Sermon: 
In this mid-Feast sermon, someone either forgot he was speaking or lost his notes earlier in the week. So he goes ahead and writes a cringe-worthy message where the main points spell out words like “STAR,” “FEAST,” or, if you're really unlucky, “KINGDOM” (now we're NEVER making it to Disney World after church gets out). 

As usual, I don't fault anyone for worshiping God the best way they know how. This is a tongue-in-cheek post intended to give a little comic relief.  If this is truly what God expects, of us, then it's all worth it and more. After all, an eight-hour ride in a car is certainly shorter than any of Paul's missionary journeys. Being in the path of a hurricane is no comparison to being shipwrecked IN a storm. And being stuck in a tourist trap is certainly much better than in Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace.

If it feels like you're the only one at the Feast who doesn't seem to be rejoicing, take heart. No, you're not crazy. Rather, God is slowly removing the veil (2 Corinthians 3:15) and drawing you to His truth. So, if you're still not feeling very joyful, well, I think I know why. Let me tell you...

Next time.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11

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