I just got back from Detroit, where I was preaching at a large church in a strategic area for our mission. Cross of Christ Lutheran Church is in Bloomfield Hills, and is surrounded by synagogues, a Yeshiva, and of course many Jewish neighbors. I was there to preach a sermon about prayer and about the Jewish New Year. (You can hear this sermon, if you’d like, by clicking here.)
In addition to my preaching, our branch there prepared fifty baskets of apples and honey to give out to the peoples’ Jewish friends and neighbors as an opportunity to share their love for their friend, and perhaps to talk about Jesus. It is a great blessing that all 50 baskets were taken, and we have the names of those who took a basket, and the names of their friends who will receive them, so we can pray for them.
Following the service, there was a deli luncheon sponsored by Thrivent, and a good bunch stayed for two hours to ask questions and learn other ways that they might share their faith in this community. All in all, a great way to begin 5776.
Yes, it is the year 5776 in the Jewish calendar, and Rosh HaShannah is the Feast of Trumpets, and most recognized in the Jewish community as the Jewish New Year. This is the time of year when our Jewish friends, neighbors and relatives are most receptive to a discussion about forgiveness.
The rabbis teach that on the eve of Rosh HaShannah God opens three books, a book of life, a book of death and an intermediate book. Those especially wicked will be written into the book of death, those especially good will be written into the book of life, and all of the rest of us into this intermediate book. Then for the next ten days, called the Days of Awe, we, by prayer, fasting, repentance and good deeds will make our atonement before God. On Yom Kippur, Sept. 23 this year, God will close the books and our names will be moved from the intermediate book, to one of the others. Trumpets bookend all of this activity.
Most of us would never presume that we were good enough for the book of life, and if we’re wicked enough to be in the book of death, we don’t care. So we figure we’re all somewhere in that intermediate book, and if we listen to the rabbis, then we’ve got 10 days to act. But when the trumpet blows, how will we know?
That’s the rub. We begin hearing about the Binding of Isaac, and we end beseeching God for more time. Clearly, the 10 days is not enough! The only way we can know God’s peace is to know God’s Son, Y’shua. He is the lamb that God himself provides, and it is his blood that atones for our sins. May it be to you a sweet year and may your name be written into the Lamb’s book of life.
“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day–and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:22-27).