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Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, began yesterday evening and will conclude this evening. Rooted in prayer and fasting Yom Kippur centres on confession. Confession is the terrifyingly liberating work of truth telling. Truth telling to another. Truth telling in community. Terrifying, because to reach the truth we need to lay down our defence mechanisms that protect us from the truth and that enable us to live comfortably with falsehood. Numb and blind. Yes we have an almost endless ability to lie to ourselves. We self-deceive. Confession admits this before it admits anything else. And this truth is piercing, leaving us feeling exposed and vulnerable. In other words confession takes courage. Great courage.
The truth is we need help to be truthful. We need help to confess. For this reason, every Yom Kippur the words of Isaiah are read. We read of an ancient people’s vulnerable exposedness to the truth to stand in their shameful shoes and to expose ourselves to our truth.
Please note the communal (systemic) nature of the confession. The confession of neglecting the poor and vulnerable of society and the deathly consequences that follow. The confession goes deeper, reaching to the primary sin of the religious and that is believing that one can have a relationship with God while by-passing one’s neighbour through the conduit of religious ritual. Note too that the moment we prioritise the poor through just policy the light of the nation will shine. In other words there will be no more load-shedding. Anyone want to say, Amen?
Shout out, do not hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 Yet day after day they seek me
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practised righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgements,
they delight to draw near to God.
3 ‘Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?’
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day,
and oppress all your workers.
4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10 if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.
13 If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
from pursuing your own interests on my holy day;
if you call the sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honourable;
if you honour it, not going your own ways,
serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;
14 then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
With grace, Alan
Sunday 12 September 2021 Prayers
Please click here to download the Opening Prayer by Terence Parker.
Please click here to download the Prayer for Peace, Hope and Justice by Rose-Anne Reynolds.
This is the week of Rosh Hashanah. Hebrew New Year. Rosh Hashanah is in fact more than New Year; it is the commemoration and celebration of creation. Rosh Hashanah starts 10 days of awe and reverence concluding on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Awe and reverence for creation and the Creator that invite our introspection and call us to repent (change) and realign our living in honour of the Creator and care for the creation.
According to the ancient biblical calendar this week is not only the celebration of Rosh Hashanah, but the celebration of a Jubilee Rosh Hashanah. The 50th year of release and rest. The Jubilee year is called Shabbat Shabbaton, when the tired Earth is given time to rest and restore (Leviticus 25:1-7) and called Shabbat Shmita, when those who are suffering under crushing debt are released from the burden (Deuteronomy 15:1-4). Jubilee is the great re-set of the economy and environment towards Justice. Jubilee is an economy of jubilation for the poor and the most vulnerable. It courageously and creatively contrasts the status quo economy of exploitation, exclusion and extraction.
Jubilee is not only the most radically just piece of legislation ever thought of, but it is also the most humble. In Micah 8:6 we called to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God”. Emphasis is most often placed on justice and mercy forgetting about humility, but humility is crucial for there to be justice and mercy. Jubilee is the humble recognition that even our best efforts will fail over time. Missing the mark of justice and love by one degree today and another degree tomorrow adds up over 50 years. The great fear of the freshly freed Hebrew slaves was that it would add up to slavery again which is what they feared more than anything else. Their honesty about the human condition humbly acknowledged that after 50 years the economy would be skewed in favour of some while others would be at risk of becoming debt slaves, which was the first step to chattel slavery. In order to mitigate against this they built a reset mechanism into their system of governance. The Year of Jubilee is the reset mechanism when the gap between those who have too much and those who have too little is formally closed. It is also known as the Year of the Lord’s Favour. Yes, the Lord favours equality among people and a restoring and regenerative relationship between humans and the environment.
The question for us is: how can we honour this Year of Jubilee? In what ways can we contribute to the re-distribution of wealth in general and our wealth in particular? Who and how can we gift with release and rest? How can our relationship with the environment – the soil, air, water, and all creatures great and small – be more just, merciful and humble? What systemic change is needed beyond our individual change? What does living this year deliberately look like for you? I look forward to having these conversations with you.
In grace, Alan
P.S. Don’t forget to email firstname.lastname@example.org for the Sunday Service zoom link. This Sunday 12th September Brandan Reynolds – the cartoonist – will be sharing his creativity with us and on the 19th September Tim Attwell will be opening our eyes to the wonders of Western Cape fynbos. Siphiwe Ndlovu will be preaching on the 26th September. All in celebration of creation and the Creator.
P.S.S. Due to a kind and generous donation we are in the process of up-grading our tech. We hope to provide a stable platform for all our services going forward. This remains a learning for all of us. Thank you for your understanding when things have not always gone as planned. The fine-tuning of this process will take place during the Sundays in September while we are led by people via Zoom from their homes.
I will be back in the pulpit on 3rd October and my hope is that we will re-open for in-person services on this Sunday. To this end I plead with you to make sure you are fully vaccinated so that our gatherings will be safe. The opportunities to be vaccinated are now unlimited and the evidence of their life-saving effectiveness is beyond doubt. For our own health and the health of those around us please vaccinate. Being vaccinated is the least we can do to honour the incredible healthcare workers who have selflessly given of their lives to save ours over the last 18 months. Being vaccinated is probably the best gift of thanks we can give all our healthcare workers because it spares them of over full ICUs and having to go through the trauma of triage day in and day out.
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