September 1, 2012


God asks us more than 300 times in scripture to "remember", and the calendar is a great tool for remembering. Remembering what? All the God-in-our-midst stories - past, present, future - First and Second Testament, and then Third Testament stories. Rather than linear time, view it cyclically, revisiting the stories. 

Rosh Hashanah

"In the beginning ..." The Jewish Year begins sometime around September. In Leviticus 23 God says, "These are My appointed feasts which you are to celebrate ... On the first day of the seventh month - mark it with loud blasts on the ram's horn ..." Since the Jewish calendar is lunar based it never falls on the same date every year.

Rosh Hashanah, or Feast of the Trumpets, is the Jewish New Year (year 5773 this year). In the rhythm of my own life I look at this time of year as a new year for me too. School starts, and I get the house cleaned and back together after the busyness of summer. Our January New Year doesn't do anything for me.

Because it's the beginning of the ten High Holy Days, or Days of Awe, leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, it's a time of remembrance, of reflection, and of restoration - especially of relationship with God and others. It's a time of putting our physical and spiritual house in order. The shofar (a ram's horn) is blown as a call to awaken the conscience to a time of introspection, contemplation, and prayer, praise and worship.

Jews remember the story of the binding and release of Isaac every year at this feast. They also celebrate the beginning or the Birthday of the World. This would be a good time to bake a birthday cake and read Genesis 1 for the story of Creation.

God asks us to remember and retell the stories. When I read II Chronicles 34 and Nehemiah 8, I was shocked to find hundreds of years of gaps, where many generations of peoples did not tell the stories, and God was forgotten. And along with that would come a lack of identity of not knowing who they were (same with us?).

The Hebrew feasts always have special symbolic foods for meals. I love anything that will give me ideas for supper! Rosh HaShanah's is a sweet meal because of the hopes for a sweet new year ahead - like apples dipped in honey. I make a sweet challah bread. And instead of the typical sabbath day braid, it's a round loaf - desiring a full round year.

A typical greeting is, "May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a good year." I've often thought of sending out the yearly family news letter at this time instead of Christmas, but haven't.

"Keep your soul diligently, never forgetting what you've seen God doing, lest they slip from your heart as long as you live." Deuteronomy 4:9

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement--a once a year time for forgiveness of sins. All over the world Jews fast.

I don't know what's done today, but in scripture it's the once a year time of the high priest entering the Holy of Holies--like when Zacharias went in in Luke 1:8-23 and was told by an angel him and old barren Elizabeth will have a baby. I think they tie a rope around the priest's ankle so if he doesn't come out, the priest can be pulled out.

Rosh Hashanah and the 10 High Holy Days lead into Yom Kippur. These days are not so much external 'celebrations' as internal reflection. The yearly awakening of the conscience for putting things in order in homes and relationships.

Atonement means at-one-ment with God. In scripture God told Jeremiah, "I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it...I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." Jesus became our high priest and through him we may walk into the Holy of Holies into the presence of God.

Remember at Jesus' crucifixion, the veil in the temple, the dividing wall into the Holy of Holies, was ripped in two from top to bottom?! We have this at-one-ment- with God, not just once a year, but at any time we desire.
It's a great once-a-year time to remind ourselves of God's grace.

Tashlich- casting sins upon the water

I periodically look at children's books related to the calendar days. We can learn so much from these stories. I've found stories for the Jewish celebrations that are very meaningful (and then to adding Christianity along with the Jewish festivals adds greater depth).

One story had a pretty cantankerous, nasty man, who opened a door all the time and sweep his dirt into the basement. And then once a year, he'd go down into the basement and bag up all the dirt, garbage and junk. He's shown carrying these bulky large bags out to the beach where he deposits everything into the sea.

There's a ritual the Jews have added beyond what's in Leviticus 23, doing sometime during the 10 High Holy Days. It's called Tashlich, which means "casting off", and it consists of a symbolic casting of one's sins into a river or body of water. It most likely comes from Micah 7:18-19--"where is the god who can compare with you - wiping the slate clean of guilt ... mercy is what you love most ... you'll cast all our sins into the depths of the sea."

Go for a walk with family and friends. Wear something with pockets and gather stones as you walk. You could even give the stones some specific names of things you'd like cleaned up in your life. Then turn the pockets inside-out, tossing the stones into the water.

I've always noticed rocks and have collected some since I was a kid. I can imagine finding a pretty one and not wanting to throw it away. Isn't that much like things in our life? "I don't want to give this up yet!" Once thrown into the water, we couldn't find that rock again. "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us" says Psalms 103:12.

Have fun throwing stones into the water. Skip some stones across the water. Wanting to get rid of sins can be just as enjoyable.

is the first Monday in September, established in 1894. I had thoughts of writing a post on it, but never did. In my many notes . . . this is what I was going to write about: a calendar date to talk about "work ethic". What does work mean to you? Do children know what their parents do? "Who am I?" apart from what I do? Is work an extension of who you really are? What kind of workers help make our lives possible and safe? How can we keep a good balance between work and family, not letting our career demands take over the time or energy that needs to be given to one another?

In Exodus 20:8-11 God says we are to work 6 days and take a 7th day rest. At the center of my circular calendar I have the Sabbath. Each weak we are to have a sabbath rest. What does this look like (Jesus gave some examples)?

The Autumn Equinox falls around the 22nd. It's called "the Day of Balance" as the hours of light and darkness are exactly equal before the darkness becomes greater until late December. Look for signs of Fall, senses alert. I typically like to make a scarecrow. We once passed thru a small midwest town that had scarecrows out at every light post along the main street.

Now we have another day we'll never forget. Like the Holocaust, HOW do you commemorate such a horrible event? What would be questions to discuss - like "where was God?" 

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