Weekly Pastoral Message prepared by Rev. Murray Adamthwaite
for Sunday 24th January 1999
From the Pastor: Holiday or Holy Day? IV
"On exactly the tenth day of the seventh month is the Day of Atonement ... and you shall humble yourselves ..." Leviticus 23:27|
A familiar element in our community is what is known as the "Christmas
and Easter Christian". i.e. those who come to church only on the Festival
days of the Christian year, but never at any other time. More devout folk
are sometimes at a loss as to what to make of this phenomenon: some
would deplore it outright and take a fairly negative stance; others would
see it as a golden opportunity to declare the terms of the Gospel and
urge such people to become sincere Christians rather than in form only.
A proper approach is surely along the lines of the latter position: they
must be encouraged to take the things of God seriously, since eternity
hangs on the right response.
It will perhaps come as a surprise to some that modern Judaism faces the
same problem among its adherents: many are "Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)
Jews". They come to Synagogue once a year on Yom Kippur, and that in
their view is sufficient. Jewish leaders are divided as to how
to approach this same phenomenon; whether to take a strict or a more
lenient approach. At least there is here some improvement on the
Christian version: such people come to confess sin on Yom Kippur,
whereas the formal Christians come, at least at Christmas time, in an
atmosphere of festiveness and jollity.
This one day of the year in the Old Testament calendar was to be the
pinnacle of all the sacrificial legislation: it was when all of these came
together. The High Priest made his annual entry into the Most Holy
Place, sins were atoned for by sacrifice and the expulsion of the
scapegoat. This "Holy Day" of all days looked forward to the cross
and the once-for-all atonement by His bloodshedding. It reminds us
that "without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin"
Hebrews 9:22, nor access into the presence of the eternal God. The
tragedy of Judaism is that it does not believe in atonement, but that a
ritual repentance is sufficient. But then, perhaps they are not that far
away from formal Christians after all. Is this true of you?