Glastonbury, Isle of Wight, Cornbury, Reading, Blackheath. Many thousands come from far and wide to be there. Are you planning to join them?
With the arrival of the summer come summer festivals. To gather in large numbers for a big celebration has long been and remains today a powerful urge. Even when the weather refuses to co-operate, revellers are prepared to brave fields that have become quagmires to soak up (sometimes literally) all that is on offer at these huge events. Of course some of what happens is not good, but many of those involved are motivated by an impulse that runs deep in humans. The festival is an important part of life.
The word festival comes for the Latin for ‘feast’, and festivals and feasts are a key feature in most religions. Well-known in Christianity are the joyful feasts of Christmas and Easter, but there are also lesser known feasts, such as that of the Ascension, when Jesus ascended to heaven 40 days after his resurrection from the dead.
Another key feast is Pentecost, or Whit Sunday, recently celebrated, which marks the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Church 50 days after Easter. The Feast of Pentecost is the origin of the Harwell Feast held on Spring Bank Holiday in late May. And what a great event it was this year.
Feasts in the Bible are full of joyful voices, festive music, dancing, and abundant food. So not unlike festivals today. But unlike secular festivals, they are not simply parties, but celebrations together of God’s goodness towards his people. They also do not simply celebrate the past or present. They are also a foretaste of things to come.
Jesus spoke of God’s planned future for humanity – the kingdom of heaven – as a great feast to which people from around the world and throughout the epochs of history will come.
“I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven”
At end of history God will resurrect all his people from every age to live with him forever. Every feast celebrated now is a small taste of what is to come. All are invited to the eternal feast. Will you be there?
Revd Dr Jonathan Mobey
Rector of Harwell and Chilton