This evening (Friday, September 18), begins Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The two-day holiday falls at the beginning of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, or the Sabbath of the year. It ushers in the ten High Holy Days in the Jewish tradition, culminating with Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Tradition holds that Rosh Hashanah is a time to show gratitude to YHWH for Creation. It is a time of both celebration and a time of serious introspection. A person is to celebrate the completion of another year, at the same time, take stock of one’s life.
The idea of a holiday that is both festive and serious reminds me of the idea of paradox that runs so deeply in Lutheran tradition. We often refer to this idea as both/and. We see it when in the Apostle’s Creed, one confesses Jesus to be both fully human and fully divine. Martin Luther’s simul justus el peccator, simultaneously sinner and saint, is foundational to the Lutheran tradition.
The very idea paradox is confusing. Was Jesus half human and half divine, are we 50% sinner and 50% saint? It seems easier to just blow past the whole mess, but when we do that, we miss out on the amazing wonder of who we are and how we understand our God. We’ve come to understand that somehow, Jesus was all of it at the same time, and so are we. We are more. We are amazing creatures, and we have the capacity to be and feel, and do more than one thing at a time.
With that in mind, following in the tradition of our Jewish ancestors, we can celebrate and reflect at the same time. Like our Lutheran foreparents, we can express our gratitude and our repentance at the same time.
We offer this prayer of gratitude and celebration, together with lament and sorrow as we take stock of the world.
Psalms 44:1-2 We have heard with our ears, O God, our ancestors have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old: you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free.
O God, you have so generously given to your people, through all the generations. You have given us an amazing and mysterious planet with the capacity to sustain and nourish us, with gratitude, we stand in awe of all that you have made. At the same time, we repent that we have not taken care of what you have provided. We have caused devastation to the earth in order to fulfill our own ever growing greed. Wildfires, drought, flooding, and hurricanes are just a few of the things that continue to destroy what you have made. Not only have we harmed the earth, but we have caused greater harm to one another in the process. In your generous ways, God, forgive us and turn our focus to restoration.
God of all nations and people, whom you have made in your divine image, in whom you breathed the divine breath of life; the variety of each of us is cause to rejoice. Our skin is black, and brown, and white. Our hair is light and dark, some of us have no hair, for this we rejoice. While we celebrate the unique and beautiful differences you have given each of us, we lament that those gifts you have given to us all have been cause to see some of our siblings as less than. Help us to recognize you have made us each in your image and we are as we should be. Let us celebrate the diversity with which you created us all.
God of mercy and grace, we know that in your generosity, we are forgiven for the ways we have missed the mark, and are free to rejoice. We are grateful for the both/and. We are both able to see our mistakes, and at the same time, celebrate the gift of your grace. Help us to live fully in the both/and of this complicated and messy world, in these complicated and messy times. With a sorrowful and joyful heart, we pray in the holy name of the One, Jesus, the Christ. Amen
Augsburg Campus Ministry Pastoral Intern