“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.” 1 John 3:14
Over twenty-four hours after our Shabbat meal with friends, where we celebrated a simple (and late) Rosh Hashanah, I am still scrubbing honey and caramel off the tablecloth and chairs. We’ve incorporated Passover the last few years, but, as we’re studying Old Testament history this year, I wanted to add in other Jewish holidays as well. No, I’m not Jewish, nor am I trying to be. But I am grafted into the vine and want to experience some of what God commanded in the Old Testament that has disappeared in the New Testament Church. There is something to be learned from these High Holy Days.
We dipped our apples into raw honey, a gift from a dear Messianic Jewish friend. As she and her family were out of town and no one else I know in South Nashville has a shofar, we listened to the traditional Rosh Hashanah shofar on the internet while we ate. I lit the Shabbat candles and stumbled through the Kiddush my friend wrote out on a yellow legal pad. We broke the challah and drank the wine, blessing the Lord of the Sabbath, and husband-fathers blessed their wives and children.
What amazing symbols! Blowing a ram’s horn to call people to the new year and to repentance–a ram’s horn as a reminder of the ram God gave Abraham to sacrifice instead of his son of the promise, Isaac. There is always sacrifice in this life, is there not? Apples and honey celebrate the sweetness of a new year given by the Lord. The challah bread, coiled tightly before rising, baked into a swirl to remind us of the endless cycle of the seasons and the eternal reign of the Father.
As I read up on Rosh Hashanah I learned it begins the “Days of Repentance” or “Days of Awe” or turning to God. Ten days to ask for forgiveness and to grant it as well, before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, a solemn day when the Jews would fast and pray the Lord would forgive them for the sins of the last year.
All this leads me back to 1 John this morning. If I show love by asking forgiveness of those I have wronged, I abide in life. If I forgive those who have wronged me, even if they didn’t know they hurt me, I show them love and abide in life. If I do not forgive, I abide in the death of resentment and unforgiveness. When a disagreement or misunderstanding grows to a cold silence, when I harbor my anger and end up taking it out on others in my life, I abide in death. Don Finto preached on forgiveness many years ago and I have never forgotten it. “Even if it’s 98% the other person and only 2% your fault, you must ask for forgiveness and forgive.”
So today, I choose to answer the call to repentance and abide in life. It is hard. I will ask for forgiveness. I choose to grant forgiveness to people who do not know. I will not abide in the death of unforgiveness any longer.
A repost from 2011’s Rosh Hashanah celebration. This year Rosh Hashanah began sundown September 4; we ate challah, honey and apples at church in the Fellowship class before our evening classes began.