Posted by Scott Foster on

Yom Kippur.

The day of atonement for Judaism.

The highest of the holy days. The holiest of days. Like Easter, it’s the big one. It’s all laid out in Leviticus 16:

29 This shall be a statute to you forever: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall deny yourselves, and shall do no work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you. 30 For on this day atonement shall be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the Lord. 31 It is a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall deny yourselves; it is a statute forever. 32 The priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the linen vestments, the holy vestments. 33 He shall make atonement for the sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the people of Israel once in the year for all their sins. And Moses did as the Lord had commanded him. (NRSV)

Denying oneself looks like this: fasting all day (no eating or drinking of any kind), wearing no leather shoes, no bathing or washing, no anointing with colognes or lotions, no sex.

That’s a lot of denial!

Just like Christmas and Easter, synagogue attendance spikes off the chart today. Even the least observant in Judaism will show up at the synagogue today. It’s tough to get tickets on Yom Kippur. Yeah, I’m not making that up. A number of synagogues have to sell tickets for crowd control and traffic.

It’s a big deal whether you’re particularly orthodox or reformed. You atone today.

Today is the day for prayer, repentance, and almsgiving. This is how you get “atonement” from God. Or at least that’s what a Google search tells me.

If you really break it down, atonement isn’t as much about answering for the stuff we do wrong and getting forgiveness. We do that and we get that always in worship in our corporate prayers of confession (and our private ones) and our assurance of pardon. Every week. In reformed Christian worship, you will never have confession without assurance of pardon. Not ever. There is always forgiveness. Always in all ways.

Atonement—if you break it down looks like: at-one-ment.

Atonement is drawing near to God. Draw near and just be. To be who we are in the presence of God. Authentically. Genuinely. Accept that God knows us to the bone.

We are connected.
We are at one.
With God.

We are at one in all of our humanness, brokenness, and fallibility—and in our love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

And there is tension in that authenticity.
It takes real courage to feel that tension.
It takes real courage to feel perfect in our imperfection.

God claims us all. All children of God.

And at-one-ment comes in claiming that childhood and owning it.
Living into it.

Grace and Peace,



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