This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Bible: No need to wait to wipe the slate clean

Growing up, the first day of school was the most sacred day on my annual calendar. Whatever regrets, whatever mistakes had marked the previous year were suddenly rendered gloriously irrelevant overnight.

Meghan Good

Seventh-grade Meghan might have been a total nerd too busy with math extra credit to learn how to throw a dodgeball or socialize properly. But eighth-grade Meghan was a brand new creature, living in a whole new world. Who knew what she might be capable of? (Spoiler alert: still not throwing dodgeballs.)

Unfortunately, in adulthood, this feeling of fresh possibility is distinctly harder to come by. As we get older, life offers less natural break points, clear opportunities to step back, evaluate and regroup.

Perhaps as adults we also have less imagination to consider who we might become apart from the ruts we are stuck in. Perhaps we are less inclined to give each other the psychic space we all need in order to grow into something new.

If pressed, most of us could probably name some area of our personal life or faith that has gotten toxic — some habit of viewing or spending or speaking we know is problematic, some pattern of neglect that atrophies body and soul.

Yet as days roll into months which turn into years, still we keep on moving in the same direction. Sometimes we are carried along by sheer momentum. Sometimes we’re drawn onward by the frank allure of sin. But more often than not, in my experience, it is shame that truly compels us. Shame works like a dog barking at our heels, chasing us further down a path that deep down we wish we had never set out on.

I often find myself envying Israel’s Day of Atonement. How marvelous to possess an official slate-clearing holiday! The endless rollover of guilt suddenly stops. The train of regrets brakes at the station. Anyone who wishes can get off with no question asked. All heaven’s records are dumped, and the whole system is reset. The only thing that will be found there is what you write going forward.

So many people I know spend their entire lives waiting for a day like this — a day of absolution. They watch for it around each bend, hoping for a sign that the time is right to disembark, searching for some unassailable excuse to finally reset the clock. Maybe a round date, like Jan. 1. Maybe the experience of a heavenly voice. Maybe the knowledge of finally having hit that ever-elusive “rock-bottom.”

The Book of Hebrews tells us that we Christians, like Israel, have our own day of atonement. We have a slaughtered Lamb who whispers with his final breath: all that guilt, shame and destruction “is finished.”

But something about our Christian experience of atonement is fundamentally different from ancient Israel’s. The Israelites waited through long days and nights for that one special moment to roll around — the 10th day of the seventh month when the right priest would make the right sacrifice. But for Christians, there is no such waiting.

Our sacrifice, according to Hebrews 10, has been offered once for all.

Our High Priest stands in the presence of God every single moment. The Most Holy Place has been thrown wide open permanently. For us there is no need to wait a single second more. Every day, on this side of the cross, is the day of atonement, which means the right hour is always already before us!

Don’t let another day be wasted. Today is the day you have been waiting for. Jesus Christ the High Priest is standing in God’s presence, and the fragrance of his sacrifice holds the moment open. That whole new world? It starts right here, right now.

Meghan Larissa Good is pastor of Albany (Ore.) Mennonite Church.

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