Sukkot/Feast of Booths


The big message of Sukkot is “God provides.” God provided manna from heaven, meat from the skies as ravens landed, sweet water from a dry rock in a dry land.

“God provides.” This is a hard message for me to swallow. God does provide in ways that I notice and feel, in ways that meet a felt need—sometimes, even often. But nearly as often (or at least, so it seems) my needs go unmet, my hurts unhealed, my bankbook unreconciled, my relationships unmended.

I suppose it can be said that God meets all of my needs in some sort of eschatological, end-of-life sort of way. Such as, “well, God will meet all your needs in heaven, or in the hereafter, or in the next life.” But frankly, this is of little comfort when illness strikes, when marriages fail, when children die.

Still, in some way, which I cannot quite put my finger on, faith does help. My faith, my practice of walking with God provides this glimmer of hope, that help might come, that the hero might ride over the crest of the mountain, that manna might really fall from heaven. Faith, stitched deep into my bones–woven into my marrow–gets me by in the dark, helps me through the haze of pain. And though I don’t pretend to understand the hows or the whys of faith and its effect, I do know that it has something to do with knowing that I am part of a story that is much much larger than my moment of pain. It’s the story of all my loved ones– those I can remember and those whose names were far beyond my time, back thousands of nearly forgotten years—all of their stories come together in this story, the Feast of Booths.

The Feast of Booths, Sukkot, is the story of a people trying to get ahead, but really walking in circles. The story of children born in the wilderness and bodies buried in the desert. The story of thirst, and confusion. The story of being unmoored, lost, and wandering. That’s a story I can understand. Those are things I recognize. And there is another part of this story too. The story of water being found at the moment of thirst. The story of food supplies arriving at just the right moment. The story of help found at unexpected turns. The story of finally getting to a place that feels like home. And I understand that part of the story too. I know those emotions. I’ve experienced those moments.

So my story intersects with the story of these wanders, and we wander on together –trying to understand God. Trying to meet our needs and to have our needs met. And finding that in all that travel and trying, somehow we’ve found faith. Somehow, in this moment, we’ve survived.

So I celebrate the Feast of Booths, even if I’m not sure of its main message. Even if I’m not entirely sure that God will provide, that God will deliver on time and under budget. And one of the things that this story celebrates is restoration. The restoration of a people lost to a people of place. It is my hope that tonight you might enter into a season of restoration–may streams come to you in the desert, may you be well watered, may the cracks heal up and the hard spots soften. May you find your place.

Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. Yahweh will guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places…you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. “For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground. I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessings on your descendants. You will be like a watered garden and your desire will be satisfied, even in the barren places.”

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