Brian playing the shofar on Yom Teruah, Jerusalem – Photo Credit Isaac Stone – www.internationalbrofari.com
It’s Yom Kippur.
The highest holy day in the whole calendar and its observance turns Jerusalem into a silent place where the honking of cars and the running of buses is replaced by a hush that transforms the city.
Walking through the quiet neighborhood where we have been invited to spend the holiday with new friends, I am again reminded of the similarities in humanity. Little boys ride bikes as fast as they can and a couple of them go crashing to the ground, refusing to cry or show weakness in the face of their friends. Couples walk casually down the streets, trees sway in the breeze, and women sit in the shade, with bottles of water, watching it all.
Not much changes from place to place. Regardless of latitude or nation-state boundaries, people are very much the same. Families, celebrations, struggles, and successes fall into a linear expression of lives lived from season to season.
From the Israel Prayer Tower overlooking Jerusalem – Photo Credit Isaac Stone – www.internationalbrofari.com
On Yom Kippur, the traditional reading is the book of Jonah, a story of fear and disobedience, returning and repentance, redemption and compassion.
Jonah sat, with his heart hardened toward the thousands below him, and counted himself content because he had shade.
Until the worm ate the root. Until the momentary comfort was gone.
Then, in the stillness, while a prophet sat hard of heart and angry, only the compassion of God remained to preserve the 120,000 and their animals.
“When God saw by their deeds that they had turned from their evil way, he relented and did not bring on them the punishment he had threatened.” Jonah 3:10
That vomit bleached man, reeking of whale spit, undigested food, and righteous indignation, could only see their weakness, their brokenness, their shame.
But the One who Atones saw their deeds and how they had not just offered a prayer, but had made a change, a real change in their lives.
And He relented.
I wonder how many of us pay lip service to the Word and don’t really change our lives. We aren’t willing to be completely transformed by the call to repentance. Instead, holding onto our sacred sins we dare God to do anything about it but bless us hard.
We become the prophet on the hill judging all those who are broken into little pieces of remorse and covering themselves in the sackcloth and ashes that comes to God like a sweet aroma.
While we still reek of righteous indignation and demand that God judges everyone.
Everyone, that is, except us.
But if you listen closely, in the middle of our spiritual tantrum, perhaps we might still here the voice of Adonai asking us too,
“Is it right for you to be so angry?”
Well, is it?