Today would be the second day of Rosh Hashanah (New Year) celebrations in Israel, as well as in synagogues around the world, and even in churches that adhere to celebrating the Day of Shofarim (Feast of Trumpets as most Christians would call it), one of the festivals of the LORD that He gave in the book of Leviticus. Here’s a New Year greeting and video clip from a friend, Mr. Michael Cohen, founder of Clips n’ Blips (you should see his very interesting video channel). I hope the song moves your heart to cry out to Abba Father, as it did mine.
Our small church has several members representing us in Israel right now, and those who were not able to go to Israel celebrated last night with apples dipped in honey, festive food and over an hour of shofar blowing and singing praises to the LORD God of Abraham, the Creator and Master of the Universe. We watched CBN’s 2011 Rosh Hashana special, with Paul Wilbur leading us all into worshipping God.
After the celebration, I treated myself to one of my favorite activities: reading. I had read Leon Uris’ The Haj earlier this year, and was so troubled by the excellent yet tragic story, I couldn’t sleep until I pushed the story far, far back into my mind. That night, since it was the start of the Days of Awe, I mustered enough courage to face the book again, and process how it affected me. I realized that even with all the anger, and hatred, going around between Muslims, Christians and the Jews in the middle today, the Master of the Universe wants us to never lose sight of who we all are — His creation, His children — and He wants us to participate in Tikkun Olam. Mankind made a mess of God’s perfect creation, and so we must work together in cleaning up. As a loving Father Who is really trying to do what we have asked Him to do (how many times have we told our own parents, “stop treating me like a child”), every year these Days of Awe and the blasts of the shofarim should remind us that Avinu Malkeinu, the Father of All Creation, is calling and waiting for us to mature and be responsible, “to preach good news to the poor… bind up the brokenhearted… proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…”
The story of Ishmael in The Haj made me cry in prayer for the billions of children born and trapped in that darkness of a religion and culture that suppresses love and life, where anger is regarded as a strength, and respect is equated with forced submission.. Slowly, the tears washed away my Islamophobia and replaced it not with pity, but with compassion for those wanting to behead Christians and annihilate the Jews, strange as that sounds. This season of Rosh Hashanah and the Days of Awe serve to remind me that those who lead the innocent to sinful ways will be judged, but oh, if I, a mere human, ached for those who want to get out of the vicious cycle but can’t, how much more does the Creator of man ache?
I know there are Muslims who live in better circumstances and grieve over the violence caused by Muslim extremists, and many also who have nothing to do with the violence in the news, but are being wrongly judged, labeled and treated unfairly simply because of their religion or ethnicity… I ask this: as followers of Yeshua, who emphasized the message of love for all mankind, what can we do to reach out, and perhaps keep them from being swallowed up by the rising tide of radical Islam?
And what do we do about the threats to annihilate our Jewish brothers and sisters? Do we look the other way as the brethren of Yeshua are being threatened with destruction, both by Islamists and so-called Christians? The Jews were the ones chosen and commanded by God to keep His Word alive for the past several millenia, and they NEED to keep on preserving it in the context of the Abrahamic / Mosaic / Judaic culture, until the end of the age. “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deut. 6:6-9). This I think is one of their major roles in Tikkun Olam. It would be a great disservice to future generations of mankind, if we allowed anything in our generation to stop them from fulfilling what God asks them to do. Even thinking that we “know better” than them smacks of rebellion, as if we are telling God that He doesn’t know what He’s doing, or that He chose the wrong family to work with.
So what did God choose us Christians for? Someone told me, “He chose us to be part of His family and His kingdom.” Yes, but what for? Allow me to repeat the plain commands we received from Yeshua : “1. Love God with all your being; 2. Love your neighbor as yourself; 3. Love your enemies.” This, I think, is my part in Tikkun Olam: He chose me to become a follower of Yeshua so that I can to learn how it is to truly live in love and share this love — unconditionally, genuinely, courageously. So help me God.