Call to Worship (using Psalm 133)
Liturgist: Tu creacion nos dice, declara e informa de tus grandezas, Senor. / Your creation says, declare and inform us of your wonders, Oh God
Congregation: Su mensaje nos alcanza, estamos listos para correr Tu carrera. Tu Ley es perfecta, nos da nueva vida y sabiduria Tu instruccion es recta y hace nuestros corazones alegres. Tus mandatos son puros y nos dan sabiduria. Adorarte es sagrado. / Their message has reached us, we are ready to run Your race. Your Law is perfect, gives us new life and wisdom. Your instruction is right and makes our hearts glad. Your commands gives us light. Worshiping You is sacred.
All: Permite que mis palabras y mis pensamientos sean agradables a ti, Senor, porque tu eres mi roca poderosa y mi protector. / Let my words and my thoughts be pleasing to you, LORD, because You are my mighty rock and my protector.
Scripture Reading: Leviticus 23: 23-25 and Numbers 29: 5 “The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present a food offering to the LORD.’” “…offer a sin offering, and in this way perform the ritual of purification for the people.”
Gospel Reading: Colossians 2: 13-15 “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
As I was preparing to teach about the Jewish celebration of Rosh Hashanah I heard some disturbing news. Hate crimes are up. Anti-sematic crimes increased during last week’s holiday season. And I thought, wow look at how much the Jews are willing to sacrifice for their beliefs.
And I realized that as a church, we have to be educated so we do not become part of the statistics, the people who unknowingly hurt others for their beliefs. We are, after all part of the same family.
Obviously, I realize that this isn’t an easy topic to talk about without bringing my own faith and beliefs into it. So, I’ll start with the basics.
Rosh Hashanah is a two day celebration, during which a shofar sounds 100 notes each day. These two days are spent in the synagogue focusing on the concept of God’s Sovereignty. There are two Biblical ways to look at this holiday:
…Yom Teruah: the day of the sounding of the shofar, or
…Yom Ha-Zikkaron: the day of remembrance, it’s a day to cast off your sins.
Atonement: So in remembrance of all the dirt they’ve done, people get together and cast off their sins. They do this through symbolical gestures: casting pieces of bread into water as a gesture of faith that if they cast them out, God will forgive them. But they do this through prayer, bringing to God the issues they had during the past year, months, weeks, and even hours.
Because as we know God forgives us and all we have to do is ask from the bottom of our heart. Micah 7: 19 says, “God will take us back in love; God will cover up our iniquities; You [God] will hurl all our sins into the depths of the sea.”
The Shofar: So, according to tradition, the reason the Israelite’s sound the trumpet is to herald something. Herald means to announce.
They herald: the start of battle, the birth of a child. Any time there is a major paradigm shift in the bible, there is mention of a horn being blown.
In the Book of Numbers (10:9) we read that: “The sons of Aaron, the priests, are in charge of blowing the bugles; it’s their assigned duty down through the generations. When you go to war against an aggressor, blow a long blast on the bugle so that God will notice you and deliver you from your enemies. Also at times of celebration, at
the appointed feasts and New Moon festivals, blow the bugles over your Whole-Burnt-Offerings and Peace-Offerings: they will keep your attention on God. [and the Bible says, for] I am God, your God.”
We just read that even the person who blows the horn has a God given purpose and responsibility (a calling)!!! Because God is a God of order. And in His infinite wisdom He made us each different. With different talents.
So the point of blasting the horn is to help us to keep our focus/attention on God and not on man. To remind us that the things we are doing, the things we have done are with God in our minds and in our thoughts.
What a beautiful thought…But, even though God is God, there is a need of a shift, on our side!! We have to be open and receptive to the change. We have to call out to Him! The shift…that’s what we are in need of. A major shift!!!
Sacrifice: But I told you that I had a problem keeping this as a history lesson. Though it was originally my intent.
Here are these Jews, struggling along on their way to the synagogue for this holiday. Rosh Hashanah. The same way that we struggle to make it to Sunday service. Here they go trying to make it on time, when the kids have homework, and loved ones are sick. The same struggles we go through to get to church!
But as an added layer, for the Jewish people, Rosh Hashanah is a time when they are purposefully bringing their concerns, their sufferings, and their inequities to God.
These people are a separated people, they dress different, they act different, they worship different. As a believer. As a woman who is trying to live a life worthy of God, I can’t help but think about another line in today’s bible reading…the whole part about their being a need for a “sacrifice.”
I mean, talk about attention to detail. God, in the Bible tells us exactly what types of sacrifice he wants. In today’s readings we got bogged down with the details of the animals that can be used, the manner in which the animals are to be treated and prepared to become a sacrifice to God. We are stuck in the traditions. Church, today many of us are still stuck in the traditions. We come to church. We stand here and we pray. We sit down and we listen. And then we go home. The same way we came in.
But, that’s not what God called us to do. And that’s where the details matter and where perspectives come into play. For me as a Christian there are not enough lambs and rams I can sacrifice for my sins. Think about it…
Two people, sitting side by side on an airplane each looking the other square in the face, like Jedxenia and I did last week on our return trip from Cleveland, each have a different story to tell.
Jedxenia was looking out the window behind me, across the aisle. She could see the clouds, she could feel the plane begin its descent. But she was startled because the thing she most looked forward to seeing wasn’t there!
Me, I was looking out the window directly behind Jedxenia. I could see the clouds. I could feel the plane preparing for landing. But I was startled by something I saw outside the window.
Jedxenia and I were looking each other square in the face and seeing FEAR. And seeing the other’s fear, made each of us more AFRAID.
I said Jedxenia, what’s wrong with the lights? She said Elly I don’t know.
The fear mounted. We looked at each other and got more afraid.
Jedxenia said, Elly, where are the lights! And I looked behind her and pointed out the window as I trembled.
She hesitated in turning to see what I saw, and I hesitated to see what she saw.
I saw behind me, across the aisle the same lights that I saw behind Jedxenia. Jedxenia did not know that the only big fear I have is lightning. And what I was looking at from my limited view was lightning up close.
Jedxenia looked out the window behind me, and she was shocked that even though the plane was descending she couldn’t see the pretty ground lights she loves to look at when she gets home from her travels.
But it’s all about perspective, I point out the window at the lights that I see that have me terrified, and she points out the window at the lights she doesn’t see that have her terrified.
Each of us was paying close attention to the details, but only the details that mattered to us. We could not see the others point of view.
That’s the point of this story. During these Holy Days, and every day is a Holy Day. Be they Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or other. We have to remember that God is able, all by Godself to speak a word into each of our hearts. A word that is just for us. Because God, knows our individual stories. He, sometimes, uses others to help and guide us, but the message comes from Him. And will be based on our individual needs.
When we could eventually speak, Jedxenia asked me how the plane could be landing when we could not see the street lights, and I responded we are still too high up, forget about that, I am more scared of all the lightning!!
Jedxenia looked at me with relief at realizing we were still too high to see the streets and it seemed that a light bulb went off in her head and she said, what lightning Elly?
And I responded, Chica, all the lightning that is going on out there. She started to smile as she said, that is not lightning. Those are the lights on the wings that alert the tower to our arrival!
Sound the Trumpet (PLAY): As Christians, Christ Followers, Jesus has already arrived and served as a sacrifice for my sins. He has already alerted the tower that I am due to arrive, it’s up to me to turn the lights on the wings on and acknowledge Him and say that I want to be redeemed by Him.
The bible says in Colossians 2: 13-15 that when I am stuck in vain traditions and in sin. You know what that means, that means when I am getting up and making it to church on Sunday even though I’m telling lies all week long. That means when I am following the Ten Commandments to the dime but I am always looking for loopholes…
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. That’s when God gave us Jesus Christ. That’s when Jesus came and redeemed us of our sins, he became through his death on the cross, a public spectacle. He paid the price we are unable to pay.
Perspective. Let’s be honest you think an I’m sorry makes up for the way we talk to each other? The way we talk about each other? I’m sorry is just words unless God gives those words meaning.
We have to be like that person in Lamentations 5:21, in the midst of being sad at the loss of Jerusalem, in the middle of being sad that yet again I did wrong. That writer pauses to ask God to turn him back to God, to restore him to who God wants him to be. Church that’s what we need to do. Stop looking from my perspective or your perspective and start to look through God’s perspective.
When we are scared to ask God yet again for forgiveness, we need to tell God to restore us to the person He wants us to be. That it be God’s will and not our own. That it be God’s will and not my way!
As Christians, now after we’ve accepted that Christ has died for our sins, after we understand that each time we ask for forgiveness we are forgiven, NOW we can sound the trumpets and make a joyful noise and celebrate like it’s a new year. Because it finally is a new year.
Our new relationship with God and each other can finally start!! I wanted you to each have a take-away for today. I want you to each remember that as you are…as you are God knows and loves you and accepts you into His family.
God bless you and amen!