Monthly Archives: October 2016

Sukkoth–Hoshana Rabah

Sunday begin HoShana Rabah 5777! Gut Yontif!

Incensed!

Moses and the striking rock

Illustration: “Moses and the Striking Rock,” by Marc Chagall, gouache, oil on paper, 1931.

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”‘” (John 7:37-38).

The festival of Sukkoth is a festival of Thanksgiving and a festival of prayer for the harvests to come. The “last day of the feast, the great day” called the Hoshana Rabah, the great Hosanna, is a day of prayer for the coming year. Jesus used this day as another opportunity to teach. Consider His words in the context of the festival.

For Jesus to stand and speak this way in a loud voice was not unusual. Nor was it  unusual for Jesus to concern himself with the physical needs of the people, as He does here in talking about quenching…

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Yom Kippur–The Lamb’s Book

Incensed!

Tree of LifeIllustration:  “L’Arbre de Vie (‘Tree of life’– sketch to vitrage in Chapelle des Cordeliers in Sarrebourg)” by Marc Chagall, 1974.

Jesus said to [Thomas], ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” (John 14:6).

On our journey to the cross we have visited two festivals, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, and these two festivals have shown us two aspects of our Christian walk. At Rosh HaShanah we looked at the call to faith God gave us, and how He continues to call us to service and worship. And as we traveled with Jesus to Yom Kippur, we saw the completeness of the sacrifice which Jesus made for us, the sacrifice which make us worthy to respond to God’s call.

At Rosh HaShanah, Jewish people send each other a greeting. “La Shanah Tovu Tiku Teivu,” which means “May your name be inscribed for…

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Yom Kippur–Complete Forgiveness

Incensed!

Prophet JeremiahIllustration:  “Prophet Jeremiah” by Marc Chagall, oil on canvas, 1968.

“‘And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.’ And Moses did as the LORD commanded him” (Leviticus 16:34).

“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

We pause in our journey at the city walls. The sacrifices are complete. The carcasses of the animals are being burned outside the city. The priest is cleansed. The scapegoat has been banished. Another year has come and gone. It is a new beginning. We are reborn…for another year.

Spring is the time of new beginnings as we seasonally see the birth, life and death of God’s creation. Though Yom Kippur is a fall festival, we see something of the Spring in it. For we are born…

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Yom Kippur–The Scapegoat (Second Sunday in Lent)

Incensed!

Wandering JewIllustration:  “Wandering Jew” by Marc Chagall, ink on paper, 1914.

“And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he shall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness” (Leviticus 16:21).

Have you ever been blamed for something you didn’t do? Perhaps as a child, your older brother or sister made you the scapegoat for them. How did it feel? Often, there was nothing you could do to defend yourself. No matter what you would have said, it wouldn’t have made any difference.

Notice that the scapegoat does not take the blame for another’s actions. When the high priest confessed the sins of the people on the head of the…

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Yom Kippur–The Sacrifice

Incensed!

The Cattle DealerIllustration:  “The Cattle Dealer,” by Marc Chagall, oil on canvas, 1912.

“If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life” (Leviticus 17:10-11).

As we journey closer to the temple, we notice that the road ahead is sprinkled with blood. The Yom Kippur sacrifices have begun. God has decreed that blood must be shed, that it is blood that makes atonement for us. So we bring our sacrifices to the temple: bulls and goats–innocent animals that must die for us to be forgiven.

Jesus was a righteous Jew who kept the covenant with…

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Yom Kippur–The Preparation

Incensed!

A Group of People (Preparation)Illustration:  “A Group of People,” by Marc Chagall, pencil, wash, and ink on paper, 1914.

“And the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat” (Leviticus 16:2).

As we journey to the Feast of Yom Kippur, we notice that people have gathered from all over the country.  They are resting from work, fasting, meditating and praying for forgiveness of their sins.  God has appointed this as a solemn time of preparation for the sacrifice being offered on their behalf by the priest.

Yom Kippur is the only day that the priest enters the Most Holy Place.  That is why everyone has gathered and everyone has prepared.  This is a special day.

Lent is…

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Yom Kippur–A Day of Rest

Incensed!

Young Girl on a Sofa (Mariaska)

Illustration:  “Young Girl on a Sofa (Mariaska)” by Marc Chagall, oil on canvas, 1907.

“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the LORD. And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God'” (Leviticus 23:26-28).

The road we have walked with Jesus is a long one with many obstacles. We are tired and in need of refreshment. We look in our guidebook, the Bible, for direction as we wearily look into the distance ahead. Another picture emerges. We are walking to the Feast of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  Just in time, God has decreed another day of rest.

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Yom Kippur–Deny Yourselves

Incensed!

SolitudeIllustration:  “Solitude” by Marc Chagall, oil on canvas, 1933.

“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it’”(Matthew 16:24-25).

One of God’s directions for this leg of the journey is to deny ourselves.  What does that mean, especially in the context of Jesus’ atoning work for us?

Denying ourselves has traditionally been expressed by fasting, and in most Jewish households, Yom Kippur is a fast day. No food or water is consumed on this day. For Jewish people, this may be an appropriate fast, for food has always come between God and His people. Remember the children of Israel in the wilderness? They were ready to abandon the path God lead them on to escape slavery in Egypt, simply for want of food…

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The Lamb’s Book of Life

bookoflifeLast month I had the opportunity to preach at Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.  It is the home church for our branch in the Detroit area, and they have often invited me to preach in the autumn for the season of Rosh HaShanah/Yom Kippur.

Mary Lou Temple is our branch director there, and she and a group of volunteers put together small baskets with apples and honey in them, and the invitation to the congregation was to take those baskets to their Jewish friends, neighbors and relatives, with a greeting for Rosh HaShanah.  It is a simple and easy way to connect, and some left the names of their friends for us to pray for.

The traditional greeting for Rosh HaShanah is “Shana Tova,” meaning for a good year, but that is just shorthand for the greeting of “May your name be inscribed for a good year.”  That greeting is appropriate because the tradition of this season is that on Rosh HaShanah God opens three books with everyone’s name in them.  By Yom Kippur (this year it is October 11), God chooses either life or death for you, so the hope of this greeting is that God will choose life for you.  For those with a little more chutzpah, I encourage them to greet their friends with the greeting “May your name be inscribed in the Lamb’s book of life.”  After all, that is the only way that God will choose life for us.

While the Jewish tradition of God opening these books is that, the books themselves are not just tradition.  The Torah tells us that God keeps these books, and Moses pleads for the Israelites as he cries out to God “please forgive their sin–but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written” (Exodus 32:32).  This reference to blotting out is carried throughout the Scriptures.  David cries out for his sins to be blotted out (Psalm 51) and for his enemies to be blotted out of the book of life (Psalm 69).  Paul refers to the book of life in Philippians 4:3, and of course John in the Revelation, talks much about the Lamb’s book of life.  Whatever it may be, from a human perpective, God is keeping a record, and “only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” will enter “the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God”  (Revelation 21).

Another theme that came up during this year’s sermon in Michigan was the theme of seasonality.  Just as there are seasons for planting and reaping the harvest, celebrated in the final days of these autumn festivals (Sukkoth), it seems that there are seasons for outreach too.  In the Spring, with the spring festivals of Passover and Sh’vuot (Pentectost), it is a great time for planting seeds of faith.  The long, hot and dry summer is a time to cultivate, water, and feed faith so that by the autumn the Holy Spirit can reap the faith that is grown.  48 names were given in Michigan.  Please pray that many of them will be added to the Lamb’s book of life.

For more on the High Holidays, www.archives.kfuo.org/mp3/FAF/FAF_Sep_29b_2016.mp3

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