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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A special day.

Today is a very special day!   It is now a full forty-three years since a vision in white walked up the aisle of St George's-Tron Parish Church building, on her father's arm and, in the sight of God and the gathered congregation, she and I committed ourselves, each to the other, in a covenant relationship that may only be broken when one of us dies.  I have made many wrong choices in my life-time, but that was one that I have never had cause to regret.  The Lord gave me the most loving, faithful, supportive, and encouraging wife that was possible, and I daily thank Him for her.

At sunset, today, the Jewish New Year - Rosh Hashana - will also commence.  This will be a two-day holiday, which will conclude on Friday evening at which time Jews will welcome the first Shabbat (Sabbath) of the New Year.

According to Jewish tradition, God completed the creation of the world on Rosh Hashana. Every year on this day, He takes inventory - an annual accounting. He sits in judgement over all mankind, reviewing the ‘file’ of every human being. He examines our past, our present, and our future. He weighs our actions, our behaviour, and our relationships. He looks to see what direction we are going in. He evaluates what kind of year we are going to have. A true day of judgement. Our lives are in the scales.

Commencing at Rosh Hashana, devout Jews will take part in the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah - the Ten Days of Repentance, leading to Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), their most special day in the year.  During this ten-day period, there will be serious self-examination, and an attempt to make peace with any who have been offended during the previous year.

When disciples of Jesus gather around the Lord's Table for the sacrament of Holy Communion, they often read words written by the apostle Paul, to the early church in Corinth (see I Cor.11:23-26).  However, not all continue to read the following verses, as far as v.32.  They include this exhortation: "Let a man examine himself, ..." (vs.28).   How often believers come to the Table without that self-examination!  We are happy to remember what the Table symbolises; we are happy to give thanks for the sacrifice made on our behalf - the ultimate 'atonement'; we are happy to partake of the elements.  However, I am convinced that, when Paul wrote those words he was thinking, as one who had been steeped in Judaism, of that period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur - those ten days of repentance.  I am convinced that he was encouraging his readers to look carefully at themselves, and recognise their complete and utter unworthiness to even handle those elements that speak of the broken Body and the shed Blood of God the Son.

Of course, if he had stopped there, then the sacrament would be a miserable affair!  Praise God, he didn't.  He continued, "... and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup."  You see, it's as I realise my own unworthiness that I am made fit to partake!  If I come, with something of a laissez-faire attitude, assuming that I have the right to do so, then I have no right and, as Paul goes on to point out, I eat and drink judgement upon myself! (see v.29).

So, Shanah Tovah to my Jewish friends - and an encouragement, to all of us who claim to follow the Lord Jesus, to truly examine ourselves every time we come to the Table.

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