Friday, March 27, 2009

Scapegoats & Yom Kippur

In my sermon I talked (or am talking depending on when you are reading this) about the Jewish ritual of the Day of the Atonement (Yom Kippur) which is full of symbolism that points to Jesus and helps us understand His sacrifice for us. As a matter of fact, all of the Jewish feasts in the Bible have a messianic nature to them, but that is a whole class I teach from time to time. I digress.

The scapegoat bit happened at the end of the liturgy of Yom Kippur. After the scapegoat was selected, there would be a crimson piece of wool tied to its horns, after offering all the other sacrifices, the high priest would place his hands on the head of a scapegoat, symbolically transferring the sins of the people onto the goat, and pray, "I beseech You, O Lord; Grant atonement for the sins, and for the iniquities and transgressions which the entire house of Israel has committed against You, As it is written in the Torah of Your servant, Moses: 'For on this day atonement shall be made for you, to purify you from all your sins - before the Lord you shall be purified'." The congregation responds with the words "Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom, for ever and ever."

Then, the scapegoat was taken out into the desert to a place called Azazel where the priest would push the goat off of a cliff. Before he did that, he would take a piece of the wool that had been tied around the goat's horns because once the goat had died, the wool would turn white fulfilling the scripture, "Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall whiten as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be white as wool" (Isaiah 1:18)

Hebrews 9:11-14 talks about Jesus being the replacement for the goats used on the Day of Atonement. Dying once and for all for the forgiveness of sin.

What is interesting to me about all this is that we still use this term to refer to people who are blamed for the wrongs of others. This happens often in families. Saying "If it wasn't for your ________ I/they wouldn't be so _________." The problem is that no other human can take the consequences of your sin for you. The only one that can do that is Jesus. He did it once and for all. He is the only scapegoat that will stand up under such a heavy burden. Maybe it's time for you to unload... don't worry, He can take it. He already did.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Drowning like a Fish

OK, apart from the hilariousness of this video, the underlying theme has been haunting me for days. The idea that our culture can blind us so thoroughly to something so basic and obvious is amazing. My question for the past couple of days has been: What else? What else have I bought into in my culture that is totally wrong? Here are a couple breaths of ideas that have started to expand for me:

Bigger is better.
Technology makes my life easier.
Power can prevent evil and create safety.
God's favor is reflected in a country's economy (God has blessed America over other countries).
Efficiency trumps creativity.
You need to spend a lot of time working on the areas in which you have the least ability.
Promptness = respect.

These are the seeds of something God is doing in me through this ridiculous video. On a more weighty note (that was a joke) I LOVE (that differs from agree with) the social principals of the UMC. The following is an especially moist tidbit I read last night. You can read all of them here.

"We recognize science as a legitimate interpretation of God’s natural world. We affirm the validity of the claims of science in describing the natural world, although we preclude science from making authoritative claims about theological issues. We recognize technology as a legitimate use of God’s natural world when such use enhances human life and enables all of God’s children to develop their God-given creative potential without violating our ethical convictions about the relationship of humanity to the natural world.

In acknowledging the important roles of science and technology, however, we also believe that theological understandings of human experience are crucial to a full understanding of the place of humanity in the universe. Science and theology are complementary rather than mutually incompatible. We therefore encourage dialogue between the scientific and theological communities and seek the kind of participation that will enable humanity to sustain life on earth and, by God’s grace, increase the quality of our common lives together."