While easily overlooked, this coming Sunday, September 27, is a significant day – at least on the Jewish calendar. Beginning at sunset on Sunday Yom Kippur begins. (Leviticus 23.16-22) It is a day, for me personally, that carries fond memories from my childhood. Growing up in a predominately Jewish community in suburban Philadelphia, we got the day off from school! (That’s all I knew; but that was enough reason for me to celebrate!)
Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, considered the most holy day on the Jewish biblical calendar. Mindful of Paul’s warnings about thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought simply because we might observe certain special days (Galatians 4.10), I do think that Yom Kippur is worth noting for two primary reasons: 1) It is a day Jesus celebrated; 2) It is a day Jesus has fulfilled. Of these two reasons, the second is far more important. Rather than a once-per-year observance, where sacrifices are to be offered as substitutes for our sin, Jesus offered himself as a once-for-all-time sacrifice on the Cross. We now observe, and benefit from, our Day of Atonement by believing – trusting and resting in – what Jesus accomplished on the Cross. And we celebrate it not once per year, but now once per week – on Sundays, otherwise known as the Lord’s Day, a day that weekly commemorates the resurrection, which is the verification that Jesus’ sacrifice of himself was acceptable and accepted by God, on our behalf. In contemporary Jewish tradition, Yom Kippur is often celebrated by the people 1) Offering prayers to God; 2) Confessing their sins to God; 3) offering gifts to the poor. These practices provide a good framework for us, who live on this side of the Cross, and who are followers of Christ. On this day, and each week, may we 1) Commit to worshipping God together, offering prayers and praises to him; 2) Freely admit our failures, our weaknesses and our struggles 2b) BUT along with confession, let us remind ourselves of the Gospel – the “Good News” that Jesus has offered himself as our atoning sacrifice; that it was accepted, and that consequently we who believe are pardoned from our sin.
Listen to what Paul writes in Romans 3.23-26:
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
And finally, 3) Rather than offer sacrifices to God, let us offer ourselves, to live sacrificially for the benefit of others, and give generously to those who are in need – both tangible need, through ministries of mercy, and spiritual need, through evangelism and global missions.
On a practical side, along with our staff and church officers, I continue to give thanks to God for all of you for your faithfulness, your kindness, and your generosity. We have been blessed in many ways, even if many of us are still separated due to the lingering threat of the Covid-19 virus. But each week we are seeing more people gathering for worship, even as other join remotely via LiveStream. We have enjoyed the first few weeks of our Fall Discovery Class, which is introducing our church’s DNA to several who are new, or relatively new to Grace Covenant. And we continue to be able to serve our neighbors, both spiritually and practically, through the resources you have resourced us with.
A few ways to pray for Grace Covenant:
- Pray for those who are new to Grace Covenant to feel welcomed and part. Understandably, but unfortunately, with some of the protocols in place for protection against the virus, hospitality at this time is not as warm or encompassing as we wish it were. But as we have opportunity we want to make folks feel at home. Fortunately several families have felt at home. We want everyone to feel welcomed.
- Pray for those who have interest in joining our church. While not everyone who participates in Discovery Class chooses to become a member of the church, many do. So we ask that you be praying for those in the class. We also ask that you pray for those who have taken the class in the past and who desire to formally unite with the church. Most of those who completed Discovery Class in the Spring were not able to be interviewed because of the sudden suspension of worship services and the subsequent shut-down of everything around us. We are re-initiating those membership interviews, and will meet with folks over the next few weeks, largely via Zoom, but perhaps some in-person (socially distanced, of course). But we also ask that you pray for some who may have taken the class in the past, but for whatever reasons have yet to join. If this is you, I want to extend an invitation to you to join us. We’d love to have you officially become part of the Grace Covenant family! While I will be contacting a number of folks over the next few weeks, if you have completed the Discovery Class, and you would like to become member of the church, shoot an email to me or to Kathy to set up a time to talk.
- Pray for those who are working to improve the LiveStream experience, as well as the words projected in the sanctuary each week. We have invested in a number of new resources – cameras, software, programming, etc. – and are training new teams of volunteers. Sometimes, as we have experienced recently, there are tech glitches, sometimes there are glitches due to on-the-job training, and sometimes there are glitches in communication between our worship team and tech team. Since we had previously invested relatively little into our tech, we are a work in process. Please pray especially for Tim Nargi and Jeff Field, as they tend to feel the brunt of those glitches. Pray not only for patience, but with thanksgiving for them, and for what they do to serve us. And pray for the volunteers, with thankfulness for them, that they would learn and pick things up quickly. Our goal is to offer worship which honors God and renews us as his people, and to do so in services in which the technical things go largely un-noticed. But we are a work in process.
That’s enough for now. I look forward to writing again in the weeks to come. We have some exciting things going on, but that are just not yet ready to be announced. I look forward to celebrating these things – and all of God’s blessings – with all of you.
Grace & Peace,
W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor