God institutes the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16. He describes what is to happen and why in some detail. Here’s what I noticed in this section this year.
First of all, cleanliness is directed time and again. Aaron must bathe before dressing to enter the Holy of Holies. After removing the holy garments, he must bathe again and re-dress in his regular clothing. The person who releases the Azazel (scapegoat) must bathe before re-entering the camp. The person who burns up the remains of the bull offering and the goat offering for sin must bathe before returning to the camp. Wash. Bathe. Cleanse yourself. Remember the purity of God. Be pure and present yourselves to God.
Next is an emphasis on God’s holiness. Aaron is instructed not to enter the Holy of Holies anytime he pleases. He must only enter once a year and then he must bathe and dress in holy garments after he has sacrificed to remove his sins. He must carry a pan of embers on which to place incense. The smoke must billow up so the mercy seat is obscured or the sight of God will kill him where he stands.
Next I remembered something my pastor said.
Atonement will be made for you on this day to cleanse you, and you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord. Leviticus 16:30
Atonement will be made for you. This is not something a person could do for himself. It required no action on the part of the Jewish citizenry. They were commanded to sit still and remember who they were before a holy and just God. No convocations. No assemblies. Stay home. Sit still and humble yourselves. Be thankful for the forgiveness you did not deserve.
But this time reading through the section something else struck me. The goats. Yup, you have 2 goats. Aaron is to cast lots between the goats. One will be for God and the other goat will be the scapegoat. The goat which God chooses will be sacrificed for sin. But whose sin?
Continue reading “Yom Kippur and the Azazel”
L’Shanah tovah, everybody. It’s Rosh Hashanah and we celebrate the beginning of the year 5778 on the Jewish calendar.
This Rosh Hashanah is particularly stressful for me. I’ve got some stuff going on at home with fast approaching deadlines, we’re going on vacation, the High Holy Days are upon us and I’m very involved at my congregation. Oh, yeah and the dentist appointment, the hair appointment, the eye doctor and working full time. The result? When I get stressed, I don’t go to bed on time. My cat (aka Demon Spawn) wakes us up during the night because he cannot physically go more than a few hours without being petted. The stress of everything going on right now with all those impending deadlines and the chaos of the previous couple weeks (yeah, dealing with the insurance company) have left me ragged and exhausted. So yesterday I woke up sick. Not germ-ridden sick, but tired and stressed sick.
This type of situation always brings me back to one of my favorite stories in the Bible. I love Elijah mainly for one reason.
Continue reading “It’ll be okay, honey. Go take a nap.”
I love reading theology. It’s better than anything else in the world. But I have to keep reminding myself that as abstract as the discussions get, I am discussing something concrete. In fact, the most concrete thing in all of existence. There is nothing more concrete than God. Which is odd, because we know he is a spirt.
There is something in man that longs to touch God, which is probably why the worship of idols is so entwined with the history of mankind. You can’t touch or see a spirit but you can touch and see an idol. You can pick it up and take it with you anywhere you go. The original ‘God in a Box’. God-to-go. I think what we forget is how much God longs to touch us. That’s what the rabbis didn’t take into account. That’s why there was no room in their theology for Yeshua. Here was God, looking like they looked, reaching out to touch them. They were prepared for the God of Sinai, descending in cloud and flame. They were totally unprepared for the God who came to Elijah, not in the wind or the earthquake but as a quiet whisper. Yeshua was God whispering to us because Sinai is too overwhelming. Sinai frightens us and causes us to run from God. Elijah did not run from the whisper. The whisper made Elijah realize how human he was. I think he wept when he wrapped his mantle around his face.
This is a constant tension in religion. God, the creator of the universe, a spirit enthroned in light above the heavens. God, the creator of the universe, a man touching the leper, his dirty feet washed by the tears of a scandalous woman, his heart broken by the hardness of those who should have welcomed him. Who is God? How can these two total opposites be true?
But it was there all along. God the Spirit creating man and then coming down in the cool of the evening to walk with the two creatures he had made like himself. Not just like himself in their reasoning ability or their souls but in their physicality. Because God, when he walked with them, took on flesh and bone.
And that is the purpose of theology. It should cause us to stand slack-jawed in amazement that we have a God so big that both can be true. We need the abstract discussions but we need to remember he is a person. He will walk among us again. Theology will touch us, laugh with us and still be beyond our ability to describe.
My husband is Japanese. Not Japanese American, although he became an American citizen. No, I’m talking Japanese-born-in-Japan-Japanese. I lived in Japan for a year. He is my souvenir. Or, as he tells people – you imported your car, she imported me.
Japanese-American marriages have an unusually high divorce rate. This is because no two cultures are believed to be as different as those of America and Japan. The hive mentality meets the land of the individual. I’m going to tell you about an argument my husband and I had when we’d been married just a few years. It lasted 45 minutes and was a real corker.
It started with my husband telling me he was upset because he was always the one apologizing. I seldom apologized for anything. He was right. I don’t apologize often. He, on the other hand, apologizes if it’s raining, or if the pop lid thingee breaks on your can of Coke. In other words, he apologizes all the time for EVERYTHING. So, we started arguing. About why we apologize. What it means. When we should do it. After 45 minutes, I finally yelled, “STOP! I think I have this figured out.”
Continue reading “God and the Japanese Apology”
Physicists are theorizing that we actually exist within a computer simulation. Do we exist within a computer simulation like the Matrix? The question may actually be backward. Is reality explaining simulations to us or are our simulations exposing our misunderstanding of reality? Or both?
I don’t believe we exist within a computer simulation. I do believe we exist in the mind of God. Stop rolling your eyes. Call him the Programmer if that makes you happier. If that is the case, then everything we are learning about reality as a simulation makes sense.
Continue reading “Are you living in the Matrix?”
It was Friday and there was nothing good about it. Evil sat enthroned on sin, death and injustice. A man hung nailed to a tree. What irony that it took three nails to hold him there. He had done no wrong. The charges against him were trumped up lies. The judge who could have stopped the whole thing didn’t stop it simply to avoid upsetting the status quo.
The nail of sin. Not the dying man’s sin. He had not sinned. He hung there for the sins of those who put him there. He could name every sin that had ever been committed. He kept a tally so that when it was over, he could say that his death would cover every single one of them. It was a long list but he would not allow even the smallest to be omitted or overlooked. His death would cover them all.
The nail of death. Throughout history death has been looked upon as the final, ultimate answer to any one considered to be a problem and Yeshua was definitely considered to be a problem. The religious authorities had already decided that Yeshua could not be who he claimed to be. He was not the Messiah they wanted so he could not be the Messiah. The fact that they were able to get him convicted with no evidence and nailed to a cross only proved the point in their minds. Pilate knew it wasn’t right but to let Yeshua live presented problems. A potential for a riot. Tattletales running to Rome whispering that he had allowed a man to go free who claimed to be a king. Caesar would not be happy with a riot or a rival. Death could settle these little problems for Pilate.
And it did settle the problems, right? Satan probably would have agreed. He used Herod to try to kill Yeshua shortly after his birth. Now he had finally succeeded. Satan was in terror of a God who would descend to earth and rule. He could never hope to keep his hold on earth if God took his seat in the Temple. So it was all over in Satan’s eyes. He’d won Won it all. The earth. Mankind. Everything.
But, in the words of the preacher, it’s Friday but Sunday’s coming.
Continue reading “It’s Sunday. Forever.”
Yes, Happy Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of the Messiah from the dead. Had Jesus simply died on the cross and not risen from the dead, we would remain separated from God and have no hope of heaven. Yet Jesus could not have risen from the dead if He had not died on the cross. It was His death in our place that satisfied the requirements of the Law, paid the penalty for our failure to keep the Law and allowed us to be redeemed by faith. So it follows that Jesus’ resurrection could not have happened without His death and, for us, His death was our only hope. This is why Good Friday is good – good for us but torture and agony for Jesus. He did it for the joy he saw on the other side of death. He did it for us.
Yet, Easter has a dark history of persecution for Jewish people. The centuries old cry to punish Jews for the death of Jesus has not died out. But is it justified? Would God approve? No.
Continue reading “Happy Easter? Thank a Jew.”