Thursday – September 24, 2020
This will be a permanent rule for you: On the tenth day of the appointed month in early autumn, you must deny yourselves. You must not do any work—neither the citizen nor the immigrant who lives among you. On that day reconciliation will be made for you in order to cleanse you. You will be clean before the Lord from all your sins.
A Word of Hope
We are in the midst of the holiest days in Judaism. Rosh Hashannah And since Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest of all Jewish holidays, took place last week, I want to examine the aspects of this important day, and how they might apply to us as followers of Christ.
The Christian tenet of atonement for sin can easily absolve us of a meaningful, intentional examination of our lives and commitment to live at a higher level.
Just as the word “sin” carries a connotation that differs from its meaning, Yom Kippur’s primary elements are often mistranslated and only hint at their original meaning. T’filah and T’shuvah (prayer and repentance) are more accurately translated as self-evaluation and return.
The most common word for “sin” is chait and means to “miss the mark.” More practically, it means an error or mistake. Inordinate guilt or fear of eternal damnation make no sense in this context.
So, a “Day of Atonement for our sins through repentance and prayer” is more accurately translated as a “Day of Atonement for our errors through self-evaluation and a return to the men and women we were created to be.”
T’filah, or self-evaluation:
Through honest introspection, we consider the times and situations where we’ve acted in ways contrary to God and the better angels of our nature. This self-examination is the essence of what takes place on Yom Kippur.
It involves assessing when, how, and why we veered away from the people were created to be, the image and likeness of God. We consider the patterns of triggers and stumbling blocks that often trip us up and consider how often we’ve ‘missed the mark’ by compromising our best selves amid the stresses and distractions of daily life.
I grew up with “forgive us for our sins” or “forgive us when we fail You” included in every prayer, though we spent little time considering exactly what sins or failures we were referencing. At Yom Kippur, emphasis is placed on looking at the very places where we harbor prejudices, display unkindness, fail to act on behalf of the oppressed, abide gossip, dismiss the needs or dignity of others, or seek retribution rather than peace.
T’shuvah, or return:
T’shuvah is about more than repentance. It includes an assessment of where and who we are versus how we could be. We ‘return’ to God by envisioning our lives lived with the degree the
love, compassion, mercy, integrity, nobility, and authenticity of which we are capable. It’s a bit like saying to ourselves, “You’re better than that.” For followers of Christ, we look at those areas where we’re doing well and the areas where we could be more Christ-like. And we agree to lay down our resistance to living differently in order to become more like Jesus.
Taking fearless inventories of ourselves, examining our intentions, and committing to become the people we have the potential to be is uncomfortable and difficult work. But, it is work we are asked to undertake. And no one else can make this journey for us.
By examining the elements of Yom Kippur and the true meaning of the actions associated with the day, I believe the conscious appraisal of our lives and our dedication to become better people contribute to our growth as followers of Jesus..
Most Loving God, we are grateful for the ways in which we live noble and authentic lives. May we appreciate those areas while remaining mindful of the areas where we miss the mark. We ask You to extend Your grace to us for those times we’ve erred. Remind us of the resources available to make us better, more Christ-like individuals so that we may do Your work in this world. And so it is. Amen.
Wednesday – September 23, 2020
…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
A Word of Hope
It was because of hope that I first found God. In my darkest days, when my strength had left me and everything that I had relied upon was no longer enough, hope delivered me. Hope brought me out of my comfort zone into a search for a guarantee that everything was going to be alright. That guarantee could only be an answer from God. I had so many questions…so many insecurities. The world was constantly changing and at a pace so fast that it left me feeling uncertain, afraid, and troubled. It was because I hoped that God loved me that I searched for and discovered a greater love than I could ever imagine. Hope in God and hope in God’s love, because one hardly finds a treasure without first hoping that it exists.
How could you endure winter if you did not hope for spring? How could you cross the ocean if you did not hope that land would be on the other side? Or how could you gain a harvest if you did not hope for rain when you planted the seeds? It is often that we hope in what we do not know, but it is because we hope that we seek and do find. Some might call you crazy because of your hope, and some may leave you because your hope offends them, but in the end, you will be called wise and they the fools. The wise gain for themselves joy in abundance, but fools gain only regret. Do not leave this world regretting what you could have had if only you had not given up hope but leave satisfied.
What one hopes in, there will their treasure be. Therefore, hope in what can give you a future and not just in the world, for the world is temporary. God is eternal and so is God’s love. God teaches wisdom and discretion. The love of God will protect you from harm and keep your loved ones in safety.
Having a relationship with God is priceless and cannot be compared with anything the world offers, for nothing in the world is like our God. Because I hoped in God, I found peace, love, and joy. More importantly, I found a friend.
Do not let our hopes die. Keep us from hoping in the wrong things. Bless You for Your wisdom and understanding. You give us hope. Give us the strength to keep hoping and fulfil our hopes quickly. Thank You God for everything that You are and have granted us. Amen.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Tuesday – September 22, 2020
Numbers 12. 4-8
Suddenly the LORD said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “I want the three of you to come out to the Tent of my presence.” They went, and the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud, stood at the entrance of the Tent, and called out, “Aaron! Miriam!” The two of them stepped forward, and the LORD said, “Now hear what I have to say! When there are prophets among you, I reveal myself to them in visions and speak to them in dreams. It is different when I speak with my servant Moses; I have put him in charge of all my people Israel. So I speak to him face-to-face, clearly and not in riddles; he has even seen my form! How dare you speak against my servant Moses?”
A Word of Hope
[Take a moment to place yourself in the Presence of God Take a deep breath and exhale slowly….do it again.]]
While this section of sacred Scripture is named the “The Punishment of Miriam” its focus is the relationship of Moses, Aaron and Miriam as they discern the Will of God in their lives. In their apparent disagreement, God reminds them that communication happens directly and often in visions and dreams.
Throughout the word of God we witness the prophets and others learning of God’s plan by way of visions and dreams. We are not alone. Look to your right and then to your left, in front and behind and what do you SEE? How can you help? What is God asking of you? How often do we understand the visions and dreams in our own lives? How often do we plead with God to just “tell” us what is wanted – clearly and in our own language! What are our experiences telling us? When we serve others, how do we feel?
God smiles and knows that communication has already happened in another voice, in another modality that speaks to the heart and perhaps not to the head. What does God say to us in music? It is imperative that we “listen” to our own visions/dreams to really hear God.
[Take a deep breath and exhale slowly….do it again.]
O Holy One! How often do we set the rules for your communication with us? We want to hear from you when WE are ready and on our own timeline. Please help us to listen carefully whenever YOU desire to send us a message. Let us remember that the message may not be in words, but in actions, symbols, experience and dreams. Please increase our patience and our understanding and appreciation for our relationship with You.
We pray these words through your many names, O God!
Member / Cathedral of Hope: United Church of Christ
Monday – September 21, 2020
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Thessalonians 5:18
A Word of Hope
Today is World Gratitude Day. “Gratitude is the expression of appreciation for what one has. It is a recognition of value independent of monetary worth. Spontaneously generated from within, it is an affirmation of goodness and warmth.” When life is good, it is relatively easy to express gratitude, Today’s passage from Thessalonians tells us, however, to give thanks in ALL circumstances. This makes expressing gratitude much more challenging. Why and how do we offer gratitude for a lousy day or devastating news?
Faith is what gives us the strength to search for and find hope. When we are facing dark times, the gratitude that we offer is for knowing that Jesus promises us this hope in the resurrected life. To have a faith strong enough to be grateful even for the darkest times takes practice. Faithful people spend an entire lifetime developing and practicing spiritual disciplines. Think about spiritual disciplines like you might think about a habit, preferably a good habit. Habits are some pattern of behavior that we have done so regularly for so long that we do them instinctively. Spiritual disciplines create that same kind of instinctual action or attitude around such things as prayer, living simply, loving all of your neighbors, and finding gratitude in all circumstances.
Keeping a gratitude journal is a way to begin such a spiritual practice. At the end of each day, make a note of at least one thing, big or small, for which you are grateful. In your nighttime prayers offer thanks for this thing. Recognizing reasons, no matter how big or small, to offer gratitude is what it takes to keep our faith strong and hope alive. And sometimes, it is what we need to make it possible to get up, put one foot in front of the other, and face the next day.
Loving God, as I greet today, help me to strengthen my faith such that in all circumstances I am able to find hope and be grateful. Amen.
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
Friday – September 18, 2020
God said to Moses, “I’m going to rain bread down from the skies for you. The people will go out and gather each day’s ration. I’m going to test them to see if they’ll live according to my Teaching or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they have gathered, it will turn out to be twice as much as their daily ration.”
A Word of Hope
This evening Rosh Hashanah begins for all of our Jewish sisters and brothers. It’s celebrated as the head of the Jewish year and begins at sundown on the eve of Tishrei 1 (Sept. 18, 2020) and ends after nightfall on Tishrei 2 (Sept. 20, 2020). Some call it the birthday of the universe, a remembrance of the day Adam and Eve were created in the Genesis story.
The central ceremony of Rosh Hashanah is the blowing the ram’s horn (shofar) on the mornings of the holiday. It’s in the same musical instrument family as the modern bugle in that it has no pitch altering devices, but depends solely on the lips, tongue, teeth, and facial muscles of the player. Add to that the variety of shapes of the ram’s horn itself and the shofar has quite a range of sounds. Listening to comparative recordings of its timbre reminds me of the rich variety of personalities of the many Jewish friends I have had over the years.
Early in life, one of my chief mentors was a dynamic force of nature name Max Goldblatt. The newspapers at the time called him a political gadfly since he spent much of his time attending Dallas City Council meetings and harassing them about almost any given subject, from zoning to the establishment of a county-wide monorail system. He was finally elected to the Council and was enabled to harass them even more. I would often give his causes a hand by creating props and posters for his protests. He made me think about what serving the community really meant and fed my passion for championing the causes of the underdog. He inspired me to become involved in endeavors that still drive my life. To this day, I often communicate with his son, Joe, who shares his father’s chutzpah for getting things done.
Today’s lectionary reading is about God’s providing sustenance for the Hebrew people in their wilderness wanderings by raining down a divine bread-like substance for their nourishment. The first time this miracle food fell from the sky, the people gave it its name,”Manna” which means “What is this?” I have to laugh every time I read that story because it reminds me of one of the most valuable lessons that ol’ Max ever taught me: never accept anything at its face value. Always ask, “What is this?” He saved me from making a lot of rash decisions through the years. To help me remember him and his wisdom, we’ve named our main Children’s Ministry Hope at Home puppet player after him; Maxie Mouse. He keeps us on schedule.
Thank you for the rich Hebrew heritage of the faith we call Christianity. May the lessons that they still teach us be the shofar of our souls.
Minister for Children and families
Order of St. Francis and St. Clare
5910 Cedar Springs Road
Dallas, TX 75235
Toll Free: 800-501-HOPE (4673)