September includes a few significant dates that should cause followers of Christ some pause; especially in these turbulent times. Each of them has something to teach us about humanity, about ourselves and how each of us can be a source of healing and a beacon of light in a dark world.
Rosh Hashanah September 6-8th
Rosh Hashanah is one of the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar. It’s the Jewish New Year, known as a day of judgment and coronation. On the first night of Rosh Hashanah, people wish l’shanah tovah tikatevu v’techatemu to one another which means: “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.” For those we love this is a simple task. But it is not something we do in our own strength to those who we have disagreed with, or who have hurt us. However, the Holy Spirit living inside of us IS strong enough to compel us to this humble, heartfelt act. Who do you need to bless today with words of affirmation?
The central observance of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar; the ram’s horn. It serves as a call to repentance, a reference to the ram that took Isaac’s place as an offering to God. We are told the cry of the shofar is akin to the wail of a child, yearning to be reunited with a beloved parent. What cry of the heart is inside of you right now? Do you feel separated by God and long to hear His voice again?
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. – Romans 8:26-27
The Torah readings on Rosh Hashanah focus on the humanity of Abraham and Sarah. It can help us be more self-aware of our own character flaws, and those times when we take matters into our own hands rather than showing obedience and trust in our Father. We are all imperfect. But despite this eternal truth, we should never lose hope in our potential to achieve great things and do great things for the Kingdom. I encourage you, brothers and sisters in Christ, to consider how and when you may be running ahead of God. Where can you let go, and trust that His perfect will to be done?
To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:22-24
Attack on America, September 11th
Just a few days ago we hit the 20th anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history. That horrific morning was a direct attack on our freedom as well as the unwavering hope built into our national destiny. Nearly everyone can remember where they were on that day, when we realized that we were under attack. But we also consider the hundreds of stories of everyday heroes who thought nothing of their own safety as they raced toward the twin towers, the Pentagon, and that field in Pennsylvania. The moments where ordinary people put their lives on the line to protect a total stranger. Images of dust covered faces in New York etched in our minds forever remind us we are one body, created by one Father.
Friends, we do not have to wait for another tragic moment to reveal our love for our fellow man. Today we can choose in big and small ways to spread hope and not fear; love and not hate—compassion and not critique. Consider your posture at your next business meeting, trip to the grocery store or doctor’s office. Show love for humanity with all you have in you—-and consider serving the very person who would be the least likely to offer you the same kindness.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40
Yom Kippur; September 16th
Also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Our Jewish friends traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer. While we do not follow these Jewish Holy days, they offer a focus on what we Gentiles easily breeze past in the era of Grace. God still calls us to make things right with our brothers and sisters. What or who do you need to face today? Where can we offer forgiveness and restoration that might change someone’s life.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9
Where do we go from here?
Let’s reflect on this friend. How can these days of observation stir you and I to act more intentionally? I encourage all of us to become more self-aware and understand the impact our words and actions have on others. People are watching us. Does our behavior draw people to Christ or push them away? Do we pay more attention to accolades and followers, or do we notice the peaceful but convicting whisper of the Holy Spirit? Do you have people around you who will tell you the truth ’iron sharpening iron’ or, do you only keep people close who will tell you what you want to hear? In a season of reflection and repentance we can hold space for healing and hope. I prayerfully ask you to Join me there.