As Christians we know that the cross is central to our faith and an understanding that Jesus was the sacrificial one who was executed for the benefit of all. It is his death that gives us confidence to approach God and seek forgiveness from him – all in the name of Jesus.
Last Tuesday and Wednesday saw Jewish people observe Yom Kippur, a 25-hour period of prayer and fasting, which I am told is the holiest day of the year for them. In English it is the Day of Atonement. To gain atonement Jews must pray, repent of their sins and give to charity.
This isn’t so different to the undertaking of Christians who seek forgiveness from God. We don’t have to wait for a special day in the year, because we know that we can approach God at any time and confess our sins and seek his forgiveness. And, of course, we do all this in the name of Jesus. To gain forgiveness Christians are not required to give to charity, but as we have seen by reading through the Letter of James, our response to God’s grace in Jesus will require a changed life, which might well involve giving to charity.
In western Christian theology, atonement describes how human beings can be reconciled to God through Christ's sacrificial suffering and death. Atonement refers to the forgiving or pardoning of sin in general and original sin in particular through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, enabling the reconciliation between God and his creation, which includes us.
Guilt and its partner, shame, can paralyse us. You may have experienced it. Yet Christian people have a way to minimise guilt by turning to God and seeking his forgiveness. This all contributes to a healthy life for us – which is exactly what God wants for us.
My mind has been on mission beyond the parish this week. On Wednesday we hosted a lunch for the Bush Church Aid Society, which was attended by about 33 people, with a number coming from other parishes. Many of our people contributed by making soup, which was followed by a wild array of sandwiches and then cakes and slice with tea and coffee. Thanks to everybody who supported the occasion.
The speaker was Topher Hallyburton who works in Darwin teaching religious education in schools and building a team of volunteers to support the work. Topher is supported by Buch Church Aid (and us via our support), Scripture Union and the Anglican Church in the Northern Territory. He quickly won us over with one person offering to go there for a short time to support his ministry.
Moving to another mission agency now, the Church Missionary Society, we must remember to pray for Andrew and Dominique Gifford and their family as they relocate back to Melbourne next month following ten years in Barcelona, Spain. When Andrew finishes his deputation for CMS he will be seeking a parish in the Diocese of Melbourne in which to settle and minister. Pray also for those they have ministered amongst as they grief the loss of their minister and ponder their future.
And whilst writing about CMS let me tell you that Margie and I have registered to attend the CMS summer school known as Summer Under the Son. This will be held in January at Syndal Baptist Church and will feature the Giffords. It is a great programme and I would encourage you to attend with us.
Over the weekend I attended some of the Anglican Future Conference at Southbank. The theme was Grace and Truth in Uncertain Times. I was particularly keen to hear Rev’d Frog Orr-Ewing whose church (All Saints) Margie and I visited in Peckham, South London, a few years ago. A couple from our times in Tanzania are now members of the congregation there.
And whilst we look beyond the parish, next Sunday our speaker will be Karyn Doyle who is the CEO of BayCISS [Bayside Community Information and Support Service], an agency to which we send groceries and which is heavily supported by our Op Shop. Come and hear the message she has for us.
All of these agencies need our support – financial, prayerful and commitment to be involved.