Can you hear it?
Photos from Photographer Cameron Barber
I’m a trumpeter. Never mind that I haven’t picked up my trumpet in years, it’s still in my blood. When Mr. Garcia demonstrated all the instruments for our 6th grade class, I picked the trumpet without hesitation. Pure, silky, resonant – I still fall in love with any musical piece that has a good trumpet part.
During college, my husband and I played in the church band. He was an exceptional sax player – incredibly talented. My skills as a musician have never been very exceptional - just mediocre. But when we played this one song, “Blow the trumpet in Zion, Zion. Sound the alarm on God’s holy mountain!”my trumpet sang out strong and it was magnificent! Seriously, I’ve never experienced that kind of boldness with any other musical piece before or since. Perhaps that explains the emotions stirred in me this past week when the shofars were blown, signaling the beginning of Rosh Hashanah (Feast of Trumpets). I’ve never sounded the ram’s horn, but it looks like great fun!
There’s something magnetic and transfixing about the blowing of the horns for the Feast of Trumpets. I’ve studied a little about the Jewish Feast days, but the significance is really quite timely for society right now. Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the end of the Jewish year. It calls for a time of reflection and returning to the LORD. “Yom Kippur completes the penitential period of ten days known as 'Days of Awe' that begins with Rosh Hashanah, the season of repentance and prayer.” (https://www.officeholidays.com/)
Well, a time of repentance and forgiveness seems pretty vital for 2020. Wouldn’t you agree? I mean, really. Have you ever seen such a divide amongst people? Everyone is so quick to lay blame and pass judgement. What happened to forgiveness? What about grace and mercy? What happened to turning the cheek and loving your neighbor as yourself?
Recently, a friend suggested we read Renovated as our next Bible study book, and although we’ve just begun, I can tell it will be life changing. Jim Wilder relays the wisdom of Dallas Willard concerning spiritual maturity. “An emotionally immature person is being governed by their feelings, desire, and emotions” and overwhelmingly ruled by fear. Whereas the emotionally mature person lets the peace of God rule them – living out Paul’s admonition in Philippians 4 to "be anxious about nothing."
I don’t know about you, but I have seen very little peace lately. In truth, keeping my own peace has definitely been a matter of the will - only possible through constant prayer, praise, thanksgiving, and a continual state of releasing all the anxiety over to the only one who can handle it - Jesus. As Willard says, “the path to spiritual and emotional maturity is rooted in the practice of the presence of Jesus.” When we live in the realm of the flesh, we are often full of fear and full of self. Self-service, self-gratification, - selfishness. But “The Kingdom of God is an everlasting metaphysical reality” where we “live in the range of His effective will” and where “everything that happens to us is redeemed.”
“If you are unable to see yourself living in the Kingdom of God, you will constantly be troubled by the things you wanted and the things you didn’t get. . . You will be filled with fear because you are trying to run your own kingdom.”
Honestly, I feel that is what drives the chaos around us. Fear. Fear and the vain imagination that we can control anything. So, we are in conflict with the message of the Savior, the Eternal, the Sacred. Jesus said, don’t be afraid! I’ll take care of you! (Luke 12) Isn’t it all a matter of perspective? If we are positioned in Christ and have a Kingdom of God mentality, we know that the present persecutions are fleeting. However, if we are building our own kingdom and striving to make it fit into our life with Christ, we are setting ourselves up for disaster.
The other blot that cannot abide in the presence of Jesus is unforgiveness. Oh boy, do we need help here! Before Jesus exhorts us not to worry, He instructs us to ask our Father in heaven to "forgive us our debts (transgressions, sins), as we also have forgiven our debtors (those who have transgressed/sinned against us)."(Matthew 6:12) Prior to that, he preached the famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 asking for a change in perspective.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:43-45
Pretty radical stuff and, admittedly, easier said than done. But where has this teaching gone in our era of social justice? Have we decided to overrule the keys of the Kingdom of God and make new rules? Dangerous ground.
When we take matters into our own hands and make ourselves or anyone else the vindicators of rightness, we position ourselves outside of the Kingdom of God and back into the emotionally immature nature of self. We are out of balance and there is no order. Instead, chaos rules. Unforgiveness and offense go hand-in-hand. John Bevere wrote a pivotal book called The Bait of Satan where he proposes that the enemy ensnares us with the lure of offense. As emotionally mature Christians, we have a choice. We can choose to forgive, even when it seems impossible in the flesh. We can choose not to take offense, even when attacked and baited. We cannot, however, do it in our own strength.
Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ Matthew 19:26
The reward? Peace. Peace in ourselves, peace with our fellow man, peace with God. Christ calls the chaos into order by forgiving our sins and “reconciling the world unto himself.”(2 Corinthians 5:16-21)
The Feast of Trumpets ends 10 days later with another trumpet blast on Yom Kippur. Although a solemn day, it is also a day filled with great joy, for it is the Day of Atonement when our sins are forgiven. “It is the joy of being immersed in the spirituality of the day and expresses confidence that G‑d will accept our repentance, forgive our sins, and seal our verdict for a year of life, health and happiness.” (www.Chabad.org/what-is-yom-kippur.htm)
The shofar is blown this time to signify wiping the slate clean. It was also sounded every 50 years to usher in a year of Jubilee. God mandated the 50th year of rest, just as he mandated a sabbath rest. (See Leviticus 25). During a Jubilee year, all debts were to be cancelled and slaves set free. Although the contemporary timeline is controversial, many believe it is happening now, which is a pretty amazing thought! Much like the requirements of Passover and sabbath, God called the Israelites to stay home and rest. Sound familiar?
Regardless of the exact timing, when the shofar is blown on Monday, I will celebrate. I will celebrate by remembering God’s provision, accepting forgiveness for my sins, forgiving those who have sinned against me, and looking for the redemption drawing near.
‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength’
GOD, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. AMEN
John Bevere, The Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense https://messengerinternational.org/
Jim Wilder, Renovated: God, Dallas Willard & the Church That Transforms
Holy Bible, NIVUK translation