The mercy holiday
September 24-25, 2023
In the SYNC annual cycle, holidays all fit into the big picture of the biblical story, and they follow the Genesis to Revelation sequence from January through December. This makes all our current celebrations more meaningful, and, even more importantly, it gives us some great reasons for additional annual parties.
SYNC calls us to at least one annual party for each season--Life, Roots, Freedom, etc. Some seasons include more than one holiday event, giving us multiple opportunities.
Each SYNC holiday party is a celebration of the biblical event that gives us that seasonal gift. For example, on the New Year's Day holiday, we celebrate the event of God's creation of the world, which gives us life.
SYNC holidays use the traditional Christian, Jewish, or secular name for the holiday and they often are tied to its traditional meaning. The few exceptions will become obvious as we go through the year.
Mercy Season has only one holiday, and it is the final day of the season, not the first day as happens in several other seasons. All of Mercy Season leads up to the climax of this holiday.
Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) September 24-25, 2023
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, was and is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, the 10th day of the 7th month (10 and 7 both symbolizing completeness). It was the only day when the High Priest would go into the inner sanctum of the Temple and renew the atoning blood on the Ark of the Covenant.
In the SYNC annual cycle, we celebrate the Day of Atonement in memory of the final sacrifice for our sin, which Jesus performed by presenting his own blood to the Father in heaven (Hebrews 9.11-15). That was the game-changer in the relationship between humanity and God.
On our calendars in 2023, Yom Kippur is from sundown on September 24th to sundown on the September 25th. Just another Sunday night and Monday to most of us, but there is plenty to celebrate if we recognize this day as the pinnacle and the final day of Mercy Season.
From August 7th onward through Mercy Season, we prepare to celebrate the Day of Atonement by clearing our slate of all grudges, bitterness, and desire for revenge and by spreading the word that forgiveness is available through Christ. Only when we forgive others and live as agents of God's mercy are we able to celebrate Christ's atonement with integrity.
The mercy we celebrate on the Day of Atonement
Nothing distinguishes the world’s religions as sharply as forgiveness. Some say you must earn it; others say you can’t. Some say it involves a sacrifice and a priest; others say it does not. Some say it is crucial; others say it is unimportant or even unnecessary.
But as far as I know, only one says it is handled exclusively by someone who is sitting down. “But our High Priest offered himself to God as one sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down at the place of highest honor at God’s right hand.” (Hebrews 10.12)
Our High Priest is seated because he does not have to get up to make sacrifices any more. He made atonement for us once, got it absolutely right, and it lasts forever. The value of his merciful sacrifice, the blood of a perfect person, more than offsets the staggering total weight of all the sins of all the billions of imperfect people who have ever lived and ever will.
At the moment Jesus died his sacrificial death, the thick heavy curtain separating the inner sanctum from the rest of the Jerusalem Temple was ripped from top to bottom. (Mark 15.38) By tearing the curtain, God was in effect “ripping his clothing,” a sign of grief according to Jewish custom. He was incredibly grieved that his chosen people kept up their sacrifices in the Temple as if to please him while at the same time they were accomplices in the Messiah’s crucifixion.
The torn curtain signaled that he would not take this hypocrisy any more. Its message was, in effect, “Tragedy! This holiest of holy places has had its day. No high priest ever needs to come in here again, and if any do come, they will not find me.”
So why was God not fighting mad when he left that holy place? We humans signed our own death warrant when we killed the King he had sent to earth. Why didn't God angrily enforce it on the spot? Why didn't he blow up the planet without leaving a trace? Or why didn't he send a plague that would wipe out humans but leave the rest of creation to carry on in peace without us?
None of those things happened because the Messiah had just made the perfect atonement for all sins, including the sin of those who got him crucified. After leaving the Temple in Jerusalem, God was not so much a “God on the loose” as a “God on the move.” He went on a mission of mercy, not judgment.
He was coming out into the open, moving into a new earthly home that was much more accessible than the Temple's inner sanctum had ever been. His new home or “Temple” was a place purified by the atoning blood of the Messiah.
This “place” is actually a community: “We who believe are carefully joined together, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also joined together as part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2.21-22) Each of our bodies is also an individual “temple” of the Holy Spirit, which means that God remains “on the move,” “in the open,” plain for all to see. (1 Corinthians 6.19)
As Yom Kippur arrives, may every forgiven person on the planet celebrate the Messiah’s merciful atonement, and may every unforgiven person get a chance to hear about it and welcome it before the grace period runs out.
A prayer of welcome for the Day of Atonement
Our Father, welcome to your new Temple, our bodies and the Body of Christ. Thank you that through the Messiah’s sacrifice we were made holy enough for you to move in. Welcome!
An affirmation for the Day of Atonement
I will live as if God himself has moved into my body because that is what actually happened after my atonement was complete.