Monday, November 12, 2012

A Thought

“The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘The tenth day of the seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement.  It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.’”  Leviticus 23:26-27

This day is known in Judaism as “Yom Kippur” which is, translated, the “Day of Atonement”.  It is a most solemn and sacred day, taught in Judaism as that day when all work is prohibited so that one may spend the bulk of the day in Scripture study (The Torah) and reflection on one’s sins for the past year.  Individuals are required to make atonement to the offended neighbor (those we have hurt or neglected) before an offering can be made to the Lord.  In fact Jesus affirms this practice in Matthew 5: “If you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way.  First be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift” (23-24).  In short, it is a time when one’s repentance is to be demonstrated.

We Christians have allowed ourselves to be too far removed from this solemn practice and disciple of reflection by suggesting to ourselves that either 1) Jesus took care of the need to do this, or 2) the Lord knows our hearts.  Yet it was Jesus who affirmed the practice as necessary!  And as for the Lord who knows our hearts, can we not say the Lord knew Abraham’s heart even as He asked Abraham to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice?  Can we not say the Lord knew Job’s heart but still required Job to endure his suffering?  I think we can say with confidence that the Lord does indeed know our hearts, but can we say we are truly sorry and will earnestly repent (“turn away”) from the harm we have done to others and to our Lord if we are unwilling to make amends and demonstrate our repentance?  Is this not why we discipline and punish our children; so they will not forget and will truly learn a valuable lesson?

“Cheap grace” allows us to commit sin against our neighbors and against our Lord and simply walk away with a cheesy “sorry ‘bout that” or “my bad”.  True grace, divine grace, requires much more.  It is not cheap, and it is not easy by any means.  How many times would we ask Jesus to go to the Cross for the sins we commit so easily and sometimes eagerly and never bother to make amends for?

If we really want to restore the Church to its former glory (when was this, exactly, anyway??), we are going to have to go much deeper and act much more purposefully than to simply think up a new ministry or a new music program or a new ad slogan or replace the preacher.  Restoration of the Church must begin with the restoration of one’s soul.  It will begin in the pews, not from the pulpit, and certainly not from the Conference office of the area bishop, nor from Rome.  And it absolutely will not happen with a new president or a new Congress!!   It will begin on our knees, and by our demonstrations of our faith.  The Holy God instituted this practice for His people as a discipline, and Jesus affirmed it.  Who are we to dismantle it in the name of Jesus or outright ignore it?


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