The Readings: Leviticus 16:1-19; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 6:1-6,16-18
Of many things we say “It’s not rocket science.” Here, on the threshold of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur in the Jewish tradition), we might say that rocket science is easy compared to this. This being how G-d deals with human sin with all its destructive effects, Spufford’s HPtFtU (see May 4). And here the prophet’s words are perhaps particularly relevant: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9). It appears that the closest G-d can come to an explanation intelligible to us humans of the how is a rich set of irreducible analogies. One analogy is the father, torn by conflicting emotions:
“How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my fierce anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and no mortal,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath. (Hos. 11:8-9)
Another analogy, the Day of Atonement, which analogy we encounter at various points in the Book of Common Prayer. Perhaps the most prosaic example appears in the Catechism:
Q. What is the great importance of Jesus’ suffering and death?
A. By his obedience, even to suffering and death, Jesus made the offering which we could not make; in him we are freed from the power of sin and reconciled to God.
The classic description (not explanation—see Isa. 55:8-9) of the analogy is in the Epistle to the Hebrews. I’ll close this post with a portion of that description. For the continuation of Lev. 16 in tomorrow’s reading I’ll include another portion of Hebrews together with other echoes of the analogy in our Book of Common Prayer.
“But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God! For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant” (Heb. 9:11-15).
I thought Yom Kippur was in the fall. I’m so confused! Not that it makes a difference to the readings…
You’re right, but the Lectionary isn’t trying to match that calendar.