Words of Faith | Religion
When I was a new graduate nurse in the Bronx, I met a Jewish nurse. Charlotte lived on a kibbutz in Israel before working in the same Jewish hospital as me. One day we were talking about our home life growing up. To our surprise, her life in an Orthodox Jewish home had many similarities to my life in a Bible-believing Methodist family. Many of our traditional practices and probably all of our values were shared. For example, Sunday observance for me was not much different from the Sabbath in his family.
The reason is obvious when you understand that the Jewish faith is the foundation of the Christian church. There are differences, of course, but to understand the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you need to understand the history of the nation of Israel.
Jesus knew the Torah. He used to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He understood the prophets and the covenant that God had made with Israel. God had promised Abraham that through his descendants all the nations of the world would be blessed. His family was chosen to provide a savior, the Messiah, the Anointed One. The story of Israel is God’s story of the miraculous preservation of the family line of Jacob (Israel) until the time is right to send a Savior.
Jesus also observed holy days and feasts with his family in Jerusalem. You probably remember that at the age of 12 he was separated from his family when they returned to Nazareth. His mother and father found him three days later in the temple discussing the law with the intelligentsia of Israel. He returned to Nazareth, honoring his father and mother until such time as he was revealed to Israel.
The fall of the year is the setting for some of the most important Jewish holidays. I’m just an interested spectator when it comes to Jewish beliefs and traditions, but the connection between these ancient holy days and their meaning with my own faith in God through Jesus Christ strengthens my faith.
A few days ago, I read Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. These are times of serious commemoration of the mighty acts of God in the past. The shofar, a ram’s horn, is blown to remind us of Abraham’s willingness to believe God and to offer his son Isaac as a gift of worship. God accepted his obedience as proof of his faith and not only preserved Isaac’s life, but made a covenant with Abraham.
Other names for Rosh Hashanah are Judgment Day and Remembrance Day. Yom Kippur is a time of repentance and reverence for God. We Christians must also remember what God has done, not only in the nation of Israel, but in the history of the Church.
We, as followers of Christ in the United States, are to bow with fear and reverence before God who has blessed us personally and as a nation in the midst of ungodliness and evil. Our only hope for salvation is in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who blessed the whole world through his son, Jesus Christ. According to the apostle Paul, himself a Jewish scholar and missionary to the Gentiles, we non-Jewish Christians are adopted into the family of God, becoming part of the spiritual nation of Israel (Romans chapters 1-4).
Holidays and family celebrations are a way to pass values from one generation to the next. Moses and other leaders of the Children of Israel were also tasked with erecting stone pillars to mark important events and victories. People were invited to tell their children, to emphasize the lessons of the past so that they could not be erased or canceled from their national memory.
Americans also have not only vacations, but also monuments and plaques for those who came before them that impacted our development at all levels. We even protect those we don’t like or disagree with, as these memories raise the conversation about what happened and the consequences visible in our lives today.
In Jeremiah 6, God warns that the punishment for oppression, wickedness, violence and destruction is coming. He offers the hope of fleeing the coming judgment. In the words of verse 16: “Stand at the crossroads, and see, and ask for the old ways, where is the right way; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.
But they answered God, “We will not walk in it. (Jeremiah 6:16 NRSV)
I pray that America and all believers will respond differently and turn to God in repentance and seek his grace and mercy.
Louise Parsons is a member of the Brook Hill United Methodist Church. She grew up in Pennsylvania but has spent most of her adult life with her husband and family in Africa. She is a mother, grandmother and nurse who enjoys reading, doing needlework, and spending time outdoors.