I read an article this morning by Margaret Manning. It just reinforced a lot of things that I have been writing about this week, especially about how Muslims view us and also about the “self-centered me” Christianity that we have tolerated here in the States.
“September is a very important month for Jews and Muslims. For Jews, September contains two of their most high, holy days: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This is a time for serious introspection, a time to consider the sins of the previous year and repent before Yom Kippur. The ten days starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur are commonly known as the Days of Awe or the Days of Repentance.
These “Days of Awe” are filled with wonder and worship, days of reflection, fasting and prayer, days of solemnity and solace. These are days meant to set the tone for the rest of the year even as they remind Jews to reflect on what has gone before. Among the customs of this time, it is common to seek reconciliation with people you may have wronged during the course of the year. The Talmud maintains that Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and God. As such, sins against persons require reconciliation with that person, righting the wrongs committed against them if possible.
Muslims similarly find September a month set apart, as it marks the month-long fast of Ramadan. Ramadan calls Muslims to concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives. It is meant to be a time of worship and contemplation, reflection and devotion.
Reflecting upon these holidays of faiths outside my own, I realized that September is not a particularly ‘holy’ month for Christians. We are more caught up in the beginning of the new school year, the buying of school clothes and supplies, the beginning of fall, the inevitable cooling of the air, and the changing color of the leaves – all the seasonal reminders of the days and months of fall. Spiritual holidays for Christians don’t begin until Reformation Day or All Saints Day on November 1. Perhaps we could change this.
Examining the practices of our Jewish and Muslim neighbors, we are reminded that every day can be a day of awe and devotion for the Christian. Jesus expected that his followers would engage in on-going acts of devotion like fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. The issue is not if we will do these devotional acts, but when we do them.
While we may have very different reasons, beliefs, and expectations than our Jewish and Muslim neighbors, there is something to learn from their special seasons of devotion to enrich and even challenge our own Christian practice. So often we neglect or altogether forget that our own acts of devotion should arise out of a loving response to what God has done on our behalf in Jesus. It is not insignificant that Jesus warned those listening to him: ‘unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees (the religious leaders of his day), you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:20). Jesus demanded not just ritualistic acts of devotion, but that the intention of our hearts would be drawn to such devotion and that out of this devotion gracious acts of love and mercy would flow each and every day of the year.
While September is not filled with Christian holy days, shouldn’t we see September as an opportunity for days of devotion and awe? And not just September, but every day and month of the year? Do not miss the opportunity for your own ‘days of awe’ choosing instead to settle for ordinary time.”
It is my prayer that we will be ruthless in purging the three important people in our Christianity (no, not the Trinity). The “me,” “myself,” and “I” have been killing Christianity. They are turning the Gospel message into a powerless and an irrelevant message to a generation where we want to see the majestic. We need to cry out and ask God to fill our desires with the all consuming glory of God.