Thursday, September 16, 2010

Guest post: On the Yamim Noraim

The following is the first guest post for the days of awe by my best friend Jonathan Roush.  I hope to feature guest posts from him more often in the future...if we're lucky!

Right now the Jewish world is observing Yamim Noraim, "The Days of Awe". This is a time of personal introspection about our behaviour in the last year. We are supposed to recount and remember our sins towards God, to each other and to the world around us.
I've been actively trying to do this and it weighs heavily on my heart. Not in a negative way. I think that feeling the weight of our shortcomings is important to our growth as people.  It's not fun though.

How may times have I spoken negatively about people I know? People I don't know? How many have I judged in my heart?  How many laughs have I had at others expense instead of reaching out a hand of kindness to them? I can't even begin to count...
The ultimate goal of this "remembrance of sin" is that we reconcile ourselves with God, each other and the world around us. We ask forgiveness and take steps towards altering our behaviour. I don't know if this works...but I do know that it sure is nice to deal with some of these things proactively and then to be able to look forward with a clean slate as it were. It's like putting down a heavy bag.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Not our sinfulness, but God's holiness

Last spring, the UMJC website featured a drash on parashat Acharei Mot by Noel Rabinowitz which was all about Yom Kippur.  Since it's that time of the year, I thought I'd repost some excerpts here on the Gathering Sparks blog:
I knew very little about Yom Kippur growing up. Of course, when I became a new believer in Yeshua people assumed I knew a lot about the subject. I began to receive invitations from my Christian friends to speak about the holiday. Never being one to allow ignorance of a topic to stand in my way, I was more than happy to take them up on the offer!  After skimming through some Christian commentaries on the Leviticus, I was more than confidant that I understood the subject.  The focus on my devotional was, more or less, always the same-I'm a dirty rotten sinner and I need a sacrifice to atone for our sins.


The purpose of this [Day of Atonement] ceremony-to state the obvious, was to make atonement for the people of Israel so that they could remain in fellowship with the Lord for another year. A holy God cannot remain in fellowship with an unclean and sinful people.  When I taught about Yom Kippur my focus was just that - the sacrifice wiped away sin so God forgave the Israelites. And that's what we tend to focus on - I'm a sinner. Woe is me! Coming to terms with my own sinfulness, made me feel deeply spiritual.  In the back of my mind, I was certain God was deeply impressed. Well, I was wrong. The focus of Yom Kippur is not my sinfulness, but rather God's holiness.


How was an unclean person restored to fellowship? Here is how it worked: When a person became unclean or had sinned, their uncleanness or sin polluted and contaminated God's dwelling place.  In effect, human beings are like little factories whose smoke stacks pump out all kinds of pollution. That pollution drifts through the atmosphere until it reaches the Tabernacle and covers it.  Sin and uncleanness symbolically pollute and contaminate God's dwelling place.  If that situation is not remedied, God's wrath will break out against all those who have defiled his dwelling place.


The Day of Atonement should definitely remind us that we are a sinful people in desperate and constant need of God's forgiveness. That's a good thing. However, if all we do is focus on ourselves and our sins-we're still coming up a bit short. We still don't understand the full significance of this holiday. The focus of Yom Kipper is not our sinfulness, but rather God's holiness.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Repent, for the kingdom is at hand!

אֶקְרָא וּבְשִׁמְךָ בְּאֱמֶת, אֶתְעוֺרֵר לְהַחֲזִיק בָּך

I will call upon thy name in truth; I will rouse myself to take hold of thee.
Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, "If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed."
Yeshua turned and saw her. "Take heart, daughter," he said, "your faith has healed you." And the woman was healed from that moment.
Matthew 9:20-22

In this high holy day season, may we all merit to see ourselves as this woman, humbly reaching out to take hold of the Lord. Ketiva v'chatima tovah--may you be written and inscribed for good in the book of life.
Shanah tovah!