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?

Isaiah 58
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. 

 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

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