Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Forgiveness and Connections

Having wrapped up the Jewish High Holy Days with my wife and her family yesterday, I find myself thinking about the depth of connection between the message of Jesus and the core practices of modern Judaism. That connection goes well beyond my support services as a non-fasting and thus adequately caffeinated shabbas goy.

The essence of Christ's teaching in the synoptic Gospels (that's Mark/Matthew/Luke, kids) can be boiled down to one key phrase: "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at Hand." Most of the parables and teachings of Jesus are riffs around that core theme. We are to understand God's authority over us as present, right here, right now. We're asked to respond to God's sovereignty over our lives by turning away from those things that impede our living into a joyous relationship with God and neighbor. Jesus both taught that message and wrapped it up in flesh.

The call to set aside old brokenness, turn to God, and embrace a new commitment to a life lived in grace is the entire point of the most sacred period in the Jewish liturgical year. It's all about a repentant heart and seeking forgiveness and healing. The prayer book is called "Gates of Repentance." Every other prayer is asking for God's mercy and for the strength to do better.

As I sat through the Yom Kippur service yesterday, the parallels between this season and the season of Easter seemed unmistakable. Both seasons present a call to die to sin, and to live new into God's promise. To do that, we must both seek and offer forgiveness.

That ain't easy. Sometimes, the hurts we've experienced seem to go too deep, and tearing them out of ourselves feels impossible. We'd rather hold them close, and cherish the sharp bitter flavor they give our lives. But this is not how we were created to live. We were created to pour out the blessing of forgiveness into the world. Though our darkness snarls and struggles against it, we nonetheless need to open our hearts up and pour out whatever measure of grace God has given us.