The Gospel in other clothes
>I speak to you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Consider the Lilies of the Field… Look at the birds of the air…
These are a few words from the Sermon on the Mount – and I thought that they were important for us to consider on this the first week of autumn
For me there is no better time in the year - then fall - harvest time - to consider and look at the beauty in the natural world - all around us
We here, at Farringdon, are blessed not only with a beautiful worship space
But also with a beautiful location with nature all around us – This church on the hill – a beacon for all passer-byes to see – A testimony to the beauty of God’s created order
Fall, my favorite time of the year, and on days like today, when I was growing up - on Sunday afternoons
After a family lunch of cold cuts and fresh bread and pickles, olives and a variety of cheeses all laid out like a smorgasbord
We would go for a hike out on the escarpment - on the Bruce Trail
And spend most of the afternoon considering and looking… and being part of God’s creation
It is something that I hope to do several times this fall with Kelly and the kids
To smell the fresh air and the special unique odor of leaves drying and changing colour
And to see the handiwork of God’s paintbrush
- With the many shades of green, brown, yellow, orange, and red
We live in a truly magnificent part of the world – a place that provides richness in all four of the seasons
But it is fall and harvest time that I like the best…And not just because my birthday lands in it
– For me it is almost like God is showing off
Humanity celebrates its achievements in dazzling ways at times – like the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics this summer, with great displays of fireworks
Yet, one look at an autumn forest, and God’s handiwork dwarfs all pretenders
And my love of this time of the year is, in part, because of the physical beauty - but it is also because of what Harvest is
Now I know that today in our grocery stores we can get products grown in greenhouses from all over the globe which keeps us from the natural cycle of the seasons
But somehow the locally harvested vegetables in season still have their effect
The produce section, or better still a farmer’s market, this time of the year, is telling a different tale than the usual
o The potatoes varieties are not limited to the browned-over tough skin variety, that can travel or store well, but includes the fresh ‘new potatoes’
o Corn spills over
o There are squashes of many shapes and colours
o And in general is there is a message of abundance
I like to think of God’s creation in this time of abundance…
And imagine Jesus picking a single stem of a wild lily and saying, “Look carefully at this wild flower of the field.”
Our Lord challenges us, saying effectively “Don’t be too busy to look, carefully at the wild beauty of God’s creation”
Our Lord, this time of the year is practically yelling at us to slow down from our hurried and harried lives…
So that our hearts are captured by the beauty and intricacies of nature in its grand finale before the winter sleep
It is a time for great celebration in God’s creation
Today our readings, in a sense, have a life beyond themselves
They are readings that are often used at different times of the year for special celebrations
The reading from Proverbs 31 is the famous poem celebrating the "capable wife."
It is often ‘a reading’ that is used for Mother’s day in a celebration of all that Mothers are
For some – it might be an impossible list of attributes and expectations …A standard to which women are unfairly compared to
But I would suggest that the writer (thought to be King Solomon) is simply considering the blessing of his wife or mother and noting her qualities.
The text reads more like poetry, expressing deep love and appreciation for labors and qualities
Proverbs is part of wisdom literature.
While the Bible includes narrative, law, history and gospels, it also includes several books categorized as "wisdom literature":
Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs.
These books address how to live a wise and faithful life, often in very practical terms
Proverbs puts much of this teaching about wisdom in the mouth of "Woman Wisdom," the personification of wisdom in Hebrew Scripture as well as in much of the ancient world.
She calls upon humans to walk in her ways and follow her path.
In fact, some argue that the "capable wife" of verses 10-31 does not refer to any actual woman (for she's too good to be true!) but to the ideal of Woman Wisdom herself
Because of the celebration of these qualities, it is therefore an ideal passage for honoring the best in mothers
Deep behind the celebration of Mothers is actually the celebration of the Love of God, the Gospel, clothed in the love of Mothers
Our passage from James today, is also considered Hebrew wisdom literature
And three weeks ago when we first started with the letter of James, and I focused the sermon on ‘the brother of Jesus’ instruction’ to live an active faith – to walk the talk
And suggested that maybe the strength of James is not ‘a message of the character of God’
… ‘But Our character response to God’
We are to live out our faith – live out the Gospel clothed in us and in our action
8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8)
Then we move to the Gospel for today
And the concluding section where Jesus illustrates his point in a familiar way
36Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”
This too has a life beyond its context – it is a popular piece of scripture for Baptisms – the sacramental time of worship when we symbolically mark… and celebrate the enlarging of God’s family
We have the beginning of person’s life clothed in Christ
David Brickner, Executive Director of Jews for Jesus wrote an interesting article “Christ in the High Holidays” that I would like share parts with you
In September this year, the holiest days of the entire Old Testament calendar will be observed in Jewish communities around the world.
They are the Feast of Trumpets, Rosh Hashanah (Sept 17th) and the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur (Sept 26th)
These two days are otherwise known as the High Holidays.
God commanded Israel to have "a holy convocation" on both of these days (Leviticus 23:24, 27)
It is primarily the Orthodox Jewish communities that still observe these holy days religiously, though both are national holidays in Israel.
And even though these festivals are an important part of the biblical record, most followers of Jesus are unaware of their significance
The reason for this, is that in contrast to the other biblical Jewish holidays, the New Testament makes no mention of Jesus observing the Feast of Trumpets or the Day of Atonement.
Nevertheless, Jesus and His followers most likely joined the rest of the Jewish community in observing the High Holy days.
Certainly the themes and theological significance of these two days are woven throughout the New Testament and are ultimately and most meaningfully fulfilled in the person and mission of Christ.
Consider the Feast of Trumpets. Today it is commonly called Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year, the day of blowing of trumpets.
The blast of the trumpet, in this case a ram's horn, was Israel's call to repentance.
Far from a New Year's celebration, the trumpet call was announcing a day of reckoning, a day when God entered into judgment with His people.
Similarly, the announcement of Jesus' mission and the content of His own message was a call to repentance.
John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, crying out, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,"
A theme that Jesus Himself repeated throughout His earthly ministry (Matthew 3:2; 4:17)
It is interesting to speculate what might have happened had Israel heeded the call to repent at that time.
In fact, what would happen among followers of Jesus today if we likewise heeded His call to repentance?
We know that the goodness and grace of God led us to repent and receive His forgiveness in the first place, and that Jesus' sacrifice was sufficient to atone for our sins, past, present and future.
Still, an attitude of repentance for sin is something we should continually want for ourselves, for the Jewish people—indeed for all people.
Repentance changes our direction so that we can walk with God, but even followers of Jesus need to be redirected periodically,
That is what the sound of the trumpet calls us to do.
The call to repentance on the Feast of Trumpets also anticipates a future
The blast of the ram's horn (shofar) connects today's call to repentance to the coming Day of Judgment.
Jesus taught that this would occur upon His return.
He spoke of the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven:
"And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:31).
Likewise, Paul mentions the shofar of God when speaking of the last days, of judgment and the return of Christ (see 1 Cor 15:52; 1 Thes 4:16)
It has become popular in some Christian circles to blow the shofar as a symbol of celebration and worship or at the opening of a gathering or conference.
While it is not wrong to do so, for its traditional understanding, there is a bit of a disconnect
When Jesus and His early followers heard the blast of the ram's horn at the Feast of Trumpets, they understood it was a call to godly repentance.
While the Feast of Trumpets signaled God entering into judgment with Israel, on the Day of Atonement He provided redemption and forgiveness of sin.
The biblical observance of this holy day centered around sacrificial worship in the Temple and the indispensable role of the high priest, a descendant of Aaron.
After the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in A.D. 70 and the subsequent demise of the Aaronic priesthood, Jewish observance of this High Holiday could no longer follow the biblical protocol.
Eventually, the observance coalesced around the command,
"You shall afflict your souls" (Leviticus 23:27).
This command has been interpreted to mean ‘fasting’
And so, to this day in the Jewish community, ‘fasting’ is the primary duty associated with the Day of Atonement.
The Temple and the priesthood were utterly indispensable to this Holy Day; its true significance was rooted and grounded in God's commands concerning them.
When they were destroyed, those who became the custodians of Judaism had to find other ways to direct the people's spiritual understanding and solidify their spiritual identity.
Indeed, it is at this very point that Jesus' fulfillment of the Day of Atonement becomes one of the most compelling apologetics for the Christian faith.
Jesus knew perfectly well the radical impact His words would make when He proclaimed:
"Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19).
Jesus' statement scandalized the Jewish leadership of His day—so much so that it was used as a major accusation against Him during His trial (see Mark 14:57-58).
Whatever His hearers did or didn't understand about His claim, Jesus was actually predicting His death and resurrection, and how it would fulfill the entire purpose and meaning of the Holy Temple.
But there's more, because Jesus not only fulfilled the role of the Temple but also the priesthood itself.
Though he was not a descendant of Aaron, the author of Hebrews identifies Jesus as having a "superior priesthood," that of Melchizedek (see chapters 5-7).
Therefore, He was able once and for all to make atonement for us when He died and rose again.
The day our eternal High Priest Jesus entered "behind the veil" (Hebrews 6:19) was the ultimate Day of Atonement,
The day when He secured an everlasting covering and forgiveness of sin for all who trust in Him
Yes, the Day of Atonement, the Temple sacrifices and the priesthood are all fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.
Certainly that is cause to celebrate this month and every month.
David Brickner, formerly a Jew and now a Baptist minister concludes with:
– My prayer is that my brothers and sisters in Christ will come into an ever-greater appreciation of the riches of our Jewish roots as seen through Christ in the High Holidays.
Even more, and especially this month, I am praying—and invite you to pray with me—that my Jewish brothers and sisters may come to know Christ in the High Holidays and receive eternal salvation that can only come though Him.
We can look to the traditions of our spiritual ancestors, which is celebrated this year at this very time,
And see wonderful disciplines that remind us and dramatically call us, with the blowing of the shofar, to God’s saving provision
· We can see the Good News of God – the Gospel clothed in wonderful religious traditions
· We can celebrate and consider at ‘each and every Baptism’ that we have the beginning of person’s life clothed in Christ
· We can follow the wisdom teaching of James as we live out our faith – live out the Gospel clothed in us… and in our actions
· We can see in the celebration of Mother’s Day… Father’s Day, or any of the secular holidays as actually the celebration of the Love of God, the Gospel, clothed in the love of others
· And finally, we can look to nature, in this glorious autumnal season… and see creation, God’s provision, God’s overflowing of abundance clothed in beauty – declaring the goodness of the Lord
Thanks be to God for all these ways… and infinitely more… in which the Gospel is provided for us in many clothes - Amen
 “Christ in the High Holidays” by David Brickner, Executive Director of Jews for Jesus