Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

A Prayer for Yom Kippur

My, what important, interesting things are going on all around us in the world: wars in the Middle East, economic collapse from New York to Singapore, political campaigns and baseball playoffs, and in the cracks all the cultural clutter—O.J., Caylee, and the like.

And right there in the middle of all this really important stuff comes a day of prayer, reflection, and turning toward God.

Today is Yom Kippur.

That is a Hebrew phrase for Day of Atonement. It comes from the Bible: Leviticus. “The priest who is anointed and ordained … is to put on the sacred linen garments and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the people of the community.”

It happens once a year on the tenth day of the seventh month (of the Jewish calendar). That is today, starting Wednesday evening at sun down and concluding Thursday evening at sun down; it is the blowing of the ram’s horn, the shophar, which officially signals the end of Yom Kippur.

These days Yom Kippur is a day of prayer. In the old days it involved a lot of blood: a bull and a goat were killed and the blood was sprinkled here and there. This is all odd to us, of course, but it is the third animal that plays the most curious role. “The priest is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat.” The Lord’s goat is sacrificed; but the scapegoat is brought before the priest. “He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert….The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place.”

You always wanted to know the linguistic origins of the word scapegoat and here it is.

These days, it is only a metaphor, but it is significant that right in the middle of all our really important stuff—see above—there is a day of prayer, a day set aside to meditate upon God, and sin, and change, and forgiveness. One day when we don’t read the stock ticker, the news bulletins, the poll numbers, or even the political blogs.

We need days like this. They puncture holes in our inflated sense of significance. They pull us away from all these worldly cares and cultural crises. “Be still and know that I am God,” the psalmist wrote.

It is a Jewish holy-day (that is, holiday) but it is not only for Jews. It is for all of us—how does the text above read: “all the people of the community” and it is right and proper to insert the word “human” right before the word “community.”

In the small collection of cds that ride with me in the front seat of my yellow ptCrusier is one entitled “A Hymn for the World.” It features Andrea Bocelli, the incomparable, blind Italian singer. His most famous offering is a duet with Celine Deion of the Foster-Segar song, entitled “The Prayer.” I will play it today, on Yom Kippur, and forget for these few hours all the stuff we think is so important.

Listen to “The Prayer.”

Prayer Circles in Cyber Space

Here is the best way I know to keep in touch with friends and family during a medical crisis. It is called Caring Bridge and the web site is

For several months now my friend Philip Wise has maintained a report page on this site; He writes about his medical condition and his treatment at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Every time he posts a new report—I suppose we could call it a blog but he writes only about once a week—the Caring Bridge site sends an email to everybody who has signed up on his contact list.

Feel free to visit the site and sign up yourself if for no other reason than to see how it operates. It would be nice, however, if you joined us in prayer for Philip. His weekly updates help me keep my congregation here in Lexington, Kentucky up-to-date on Philip’s situation. There is also a place, as you will see, to email a message back to Philip.

Philip is a minister from Alabama living in Lubbock, Texas. He was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer less than six months ago. He has been on the caring end of many sick people during his long career as a pastor but now this new web site, Caring Bridge, helps his many friends keep in touch with him. He says he has received thousands of cards, calls, and emails from people all over the country who have tracked his treatment through the web site.

I share this with you because you might need a communication tool like this in the near future; or I might, who knows?

NEWS: I want to report to all of you that the grand opening of my son Ike’s studio at Gallerie Solliel in downtown Lexington last night was a smashing success. It was a clear, warm evening and more than five hundred people came to his exhibition. It was part of the Gallery Hop. See for yourself:

Tomorrow is Sunday so I shall rest from my blogging but late in the evening or early Monday morning I will weigh in on what one writer called the “Palin Predicament” of Southern Evangelicals. It drew a sharp rebuttal from a defender of the ecclesiastical glass ceiling for women—see Should be interesting!