Archive for September, 2015

21
Sep
15

Attributes of Mercy

One of the most prevalent prayers on Yom kippur is called Midot Rachamim or the “attributes of Mercy.”  It is said at variety of times during the Yom Kippur services, invoking the mercy of God so that he will forgive our sins.  It comes from the book of Exodus in the Torah when Moses pleads with God to know his ways and to see his glory. The text says that God reveals his “goodness” to Moses.  This is a dramatic moment in the history of Israel.  The context is the aftermath of the great debacle when the Jewish people built a golden calf.  God relents from killing off the whole nation and he also changes his mind in deciding not to abandon them in the wilderness. But in neither narrative do we read that God actually forgives the people. Perhaps we can infer forgiveness from his favor in not destroying the people and in not abandoning them.  But it is not until this moment when God reveals himself to Moses that we read that God forgives the people….and not only forgives…but is merciful…slow to anger and full and overflowing with loyal love and faithfulness….   It is only after this   sure word of forgiveness that  we see a reinstatement of the Ten Commandments and a renewed covenant relationship focusing on the complete devotion of the people to God.   How appropriate for Yom Kippur!    As Messiah followers we know that God has indeed made atonement for our sins, but the fact of the matter is that we still need to seek  forgiveness knowing that the provision has been made.  I like to view our services on Shabbat and on holidays as opportunities for covenant renewal.  We come together as a community with one voice.  This gives us the opportunity to renew the covenant as a community.  A covenant renewal is not a brand new covenant being made but rather reiterating the promise that has already been made.   Yom Kippur is a moment when we can say again to God “thank you again for your continued forgiveness and love toward us…”  As a result we can move forward as a community into a deeper relationship with God. This allows us to make a greater difference in each other’s life and demonstrate to the world around us that  the forgiveness of God makes a real difference in our lives.  With the empowerment of the Ruach HaKodesh we are  able to reflect the image of likeness of God – in these attributes of mercy.

For our ancient ancestors to be able to fulfill their calling and to move forward to the promised land they needed to know that they were forgiven.  It was not enough for them to know that God would show them grace and mercy by letting the live and that he would be with them – they needed to clearly know that they were forgiven and that God did indeed love them.  They needed to know that they were loved to move forward.  We also need to know that we are loved if we are going to move forward. On Yom Kippur we are reminded that we are forgiven. We are reminded that we are loved. In this experience of covenant renewal  we are invigorated to show this love to others. Then end result is that we are better people living better lives. If we are going to be successful as a congregation we must start with the core belief and knowledge that we are loved by God.  May this core belief centered in Yeshua the Messiah cause us to be devoted to God and to one another.

 

 

 

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11
Sep
15

Rosh HaShanah 5776

The high holy days are a great opportunity for us   to explore new depths of intimacy with God and with our own self-identity as a messianic Jewish community.  The liturgy of the services provide a marvelous doorway into this exploration and discovery. When we say the prayers found in the Machzor – the prayerbook for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, we move beyond our own thoughts and our own feelings. We recite words that bring to mind the holiness and love and faithfulness of God in ways that we could never properly articulate. They move us forward in our understanding of God and in our ability to worship him.  We are often used to coming to a service with the expectation that the goal is for God to come to us and to meet our needs.  But if we come with the expectation that I am the one approaching God and not the other way around, then the liturgy moves us beyond our own thoughts and words.  When we say the words on the page slowly and with meaning and intention, they help us to enter the presence of God in a magnificent  way that  can be life changing and cause us to be grow in our relationship with him.  As A.J. Heshcel wrote in refrence to the liturgy.. “These words are like mountain peaks pointing to the unfathomable.” (Man’s Quest For God p.33) The texts and traditions of our people coupled with the indwelling presence of Yeshua cultivates a rich spiritual journey through this season!

The liturgy, the texts and prayers of our people, also allow  us to engage in conversation with the rest of the Jewish community. In a sense we pray as a community with one voice.  Some would say that because of Yeshua we are not jewish. I would contend that indeed we are…we are a community of Jewish people…and people of different backgrounds who identify with the god of Israel and we worship using Jewish worship styles =, texts and traditions. Like many synagogues we are creative in our worship. We believe that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel which by its very nature causes us to be a bit different but we are tied to the rest of the Jewish community in our values, peoplehood and expression.  My the observance of Rosh Hashanah be a rich spiritual journey  and may you all have a happy and healthy New Year!