Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar. All work and activity stops, and the people gather in worship and prayer, asking for forgiveness and restored relationship with God and with one another.
29 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you— 30 because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins. 31 It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance. 32 The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments 33 and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community.
34 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.”
The traditional Yom Kippur prayer of confession is called the “al Chet.” There are 44 confessions in the prayer, covering not specific sins themselves, but the motivations behind them. Throughout Yom Kippur, faithful Jews will say these 44 confessions ten times; I’ve trimmed them down as we confess together, let’s search our hearts, and allow God to work his atoning grace in our lives, as seek the blessing and forgiveness of God. Let us pray:
For the mistakes we committed before You under duress and willingly
willfully and unintentionally
through having a hard heart
Or without thinking, forgive us, Father.
For the mistakes we committed before You in public and in private
though intending to deceive
Or through inner thoughts, forgive us, Father.
For the mistakes we committed before You through wronging a friend
through insincere confession
through desecrating God’s name
Or through denial and false promises, forgive us, Father.
For the mistakes we committed before You through foolish or vulgar or thoughtless or negative or harsh speech
Through evil intent
Or with food and drink, forgive us, Father.
For the mistakes we committed before You by being arrogant
in refusing to accept responsibility
by being contemptuous
Or through stubbornness, forgive us, Father.
For the mistakes we committed before You in judging others.
Or through baseless hatred, forgive us, Father.
For the mistakes we committed before You eagerly
through violence or intimidation
Or through confusion of the heart.
Forgive us, Father.
Hear our silent confessions, O Lord.
Hear the Good News!
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.
Through the birth, the life, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has brought us back to himself, has provided a means for our forgiveness and reconciliation, has opened the door to New Life. We are at one with God; we are at one with each other.
Thanks be to God! Amen.