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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

All Contents ©2004-2007 Stuart Dauermann - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Monday, December 27, 2004

Ray Charles, Ken Medema, God and Me

The other night I went to see the movie "Ray" starring Jamie Foxx. In case you've been living in a cave and haven't heard, Jamie Foxx is uncanny in this picture. And the music is, well, the music is a wonder and a marvel. In addition, my children gave me assorted Ray Charles CD's for Chanukah. I must confess: I have a Ray Charles addiction.

Maybe it's because I play the piano and like to sing, but I just find myself delighted and touched deeply by Ray Charles, whether he is compassing the boundaries of funk in "What I Say" or plumbing the depths of emotional range in "Georgia on My Mind" or "Drown in My Own Tears." The word "genius" was long and often applied to Ray Charles, and not without reason. Employing an economy of resources, ten fingers, rhythmic and sparce piano, and the timbre of his own voice, Ray succceded in laying claim to multiple musical genres, and in each case, made them his own, leaving us renditions unsurpassed for their lyricism, swing, and emotional credibility.

I am reminded of another blind musician, Ken Medema, a man of almost Mozartian talent. I remember hearing him in concert in the 1980's. He had a gimmick: he would ask audience members to suggest three lettters between A and G, and then any three words. From those letters [acutally notes of the scale] and those three words, he would improvise a credible and marvelous neo-Baroque Prelude and Fugue. As I listened to him, tears streamed down my face as I marveled at this reflection of the glories of God our Creator.

Rumor has it that Brother Ray was not always the nicest of men. Certainly his having had eleven or twelve children, most of them from illicit relationships of one kind or another, disqualifies him from most people's lists of heroes. Yet, despite his warts, Ray was and remains a testimony to the glory of God.

And as I heard him sing "Heaven Help Us All" and "Sinner's Prayer" on one of my recent Ray Charles CD's, I did so with the fervent prayer that God heard and replied affirmatively to these words sung by one whose creative genius reflects the glories of the God who made him.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Is it "Glory Hallelujah" or Is It "Kitchie Kitchie Koo?"

(The following is a drash, a sermon, for Shabbat Vayechi, which this year coincides with Christmas Day).

"I don't care if it rains or freezes
'Long as I got my plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car
Through my trials and tribulations
And my travels through the nations
With my plastic Jesus I'll go far"

The song makes us laugh. It also makes us wince. But the plastic Jesus phenomenon is all around us, especially at this time of year. I fear that when it comes to Yeshua, even for us in the Messianic Movement, our image of Yeshua may be more plastic than we care to admit.

Graven image-making in the name of Yeshua is deeply imbedded in American culture. This is especially evident at this time of year.

Stephen Prothero maps this reality for us in his 2003 book, "American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon." He demonstrates that we must often ask ourselves, "Which Jesus are you talking about??" because there have been many, and the varieties are morphing all the time.

To the Puritans, "Jesus was at best a marginal figure." The Calvinists of early Colonial America were "God-fearing rather than a Jesus-loving people, obsessed not with God's mercy but with His Glory, not with the Son but with the Father." During the 18th century, thinkers such as Thomas Jefferson considered Jesus an "enlightened sage" and separated the Jesus of the Bible from the Jesus of official Christianity, which, they believed, had distorted his message.

Prothero reminds us further that only in the 19th century, with the rise of evangelicalism, did Jesus move to the center of American Christianity. "This Jesus, true to the egalitarian impulse of the time, was more of a helpful friend than a stern judge of wayward mortals, and hymns like 'What a Friend We Have in Jesus' moved to the front of the church repertory. Jesus the friend became more and more the meek and submissive Jesus who represented the Victorian virtues of home and hearth. In other words, he became, in all but name, a female." And this emasculation of the Lord of Lords continues to this day, at least in some quarters. I am especially exercised over a well-known invitational hymn which, speaking of Yeshua waiting at the doorway of the human heart, says in its chorus: "Time after time, he has waited before, and now he is waiting again; To see if you're willing to open the door, O won't you let him come in." Pardon me, but this converts Yeshua into some sort of spiritual panhandler, waiting for a handout, and the song pleads with us to give him a break. He is disempowered, stymied by our indecision or reluctance, begging on our doorstep.

Author Prothero chronicles how Victorian feminization of Yeshua produced a backlash. Preachers like Billy Sunday, a former baseball player, went to the other extreme, preaching that Jesus was "the greatest scrapper that ever lived."

I remember in the early 60’s hearing a man named Jack, a converted drug smuggler once wanted by Interpol, teaching a bunch of Hispanic Sunday School children at a fundamentalist church. Jack told these wide-eyed children that Jesus was the strongest man who ever lived—stronger even than Superman And no, Jack wasn't kidding. He reasoned that Yeshua, being the sinless God-man, was perfect in every manner, including being the perfect physical specimen. It makes you wonder what happened to Isaiah 53, and the Messiah having "no form nor comeliness that we should look on him, and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised and we esteemed him not." Jack also taught that when Jesus was lying in the manger he was thinking about how he had formed the galaxies. Jack's virile Superbaby Jesus was nothing more than God in a man-suit. Jack had lost the true humanity of Yeshua—he lost sight of the fact that the Incarnation involved the Holy One being born an actual baby, in human vulnerability and weakness. Jack lost the Incarnation.

In the 1960's Jesus drifted out of the churches and into our culture. Prothero quotes Drew University Professor Leonard Sweet, who wryly observed that Jesus had been transformed from "Logos to logo." "As the age of Aquarius gave way in 1971 to "Godspell" and "Jesus Christ Superstar," Jesus became an icon of popular culture. Walls were plastered with posters of both a hippie Jesus and the swirling colors of a psychedelic Jesus while Jesus Rock boomed from stereo systems across the country." Others saw him as a virile carpenter, warm, approachable, smiling with straight teeth and smooth hair, and quite possibly a Norwegian-American.

We in the Messianic Movement have our own graven images, our own plastic Yeshua's. The danger for us is that we tend to convert him into nothing much more than the best of rabbis. Sadly, some in our movement, hostile to and very suspicious of the rabbinical establishment, would see Yeshua as really "the best of Messianic rabbis!" What a horrific comedown this is for the One seated upon the throne! When we do this, even sub-consciously, we do dangerous violence to the truth, no less than those we just examined who perennially modify, politicize, emotionalize, and customize the Messiah according to personal preference and the trends of the day.

This is a crucial matter, but why?

At this time of year, when speaking of the Incarnation, we mean that the Word became flesh in Yeshua in such a manner that when we see him, we see all the fullness of the Godhead dwelling bodily in human form. But if we believe that in Yeshua, all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily, then to the extent that we form inappropriate images of who Yeshua is, we are at least verging on idolatry, because we are calling our false ideas "God," but they are not God at all. We are left with nothing but a plastic Jesus, a graven image--yes, an idol. I fear that when it comes to Yeshua, even for us in the Messianic Jewish Movement, our image of Yeshua may be more graven than we care to admit.

This all comes to a head for me at this time of year. I find myself really irked by the Christmastime focus on "the little Lord Jesus laying down his sweet head. . .away in the manger," this "gentle Jesus meek and mild." Knowing what we know from Scripture about Yeshua, had you been in the manger with Mary and Joseph would you have gone up to the baby and said "kitchie kitchie koo?" And if not, what might a more informed response have been? This is the point of today's consideration.

Today's readings give us two big pointers toward a more appropriate response, and a Yeshua who is not a graven image. The first pointer is found in our Torah reading, B'reishit/Genesis 49. In blessing his sons, our ancestor Ya’akov clearly foreshadows the coming Messiah who will be known as "the Lion of the Tribe of Judah." What do we see about him in this text?

"8 You, O Judah, your brothers shall praise;
Your hand shall be on the nape of your foes;
Your father's sons shall bow low to you.
9 Judah is a lion's whelp;
On prey, my son, have you grown.
He crouches, lies down like a lion,
Like the king of beasts — who dare rouse him?
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet;
So that tribute shall come to him
And the homage of peoples be his."

What do we learn here?
1. His brothers shall praise him. . .his father’s sons will bow down to him--he will have ascendancy over all Israel.
2. His hand will be on the neck of his enemies--he will be victorious and supreme even amidst resistance to his authority.
3. He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah—spoken of here as "a lion’s whelp," and "the king of beasts."
4. He is one not carelessly to be reckoned with, just as you would not disturb a feeding lion: "He crouches, lies down like a lion,Like the king of beasts — who dare rouse him?" Don’t mess with this the Lion. Don't chuck him under the chin and say "kitchie kitchie koo."
5. He is the ruler whom the people [actually, "peoples" "amim"--the other people groups besides Israel] will obey and do homage.

In this picture we see the Messiah, the epitome and apex of rulership in the tribe of Judah as the ruler over all, mighty, intimidating, even dangerous. One would not go up to this young lion and say "Kootchie kootchie koo."

Our haftarah reading [especially 1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12]also foreshadows Yeshua. It records King David’s directions to his son Solomon, his successor to the throne. Just as Ya'acov's blessing of his sons was concerned with "acharit hayamim"--the end of days, so here David is concerned not only with his immediate successor but also the ultimate destiny of his throne. He knows that one of his eventual descendants will rule over the House of David—and over the people of Israel forever [see 2 Samuel 7 for more details].

In his masterful address at the November 2000 Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Dr. Craig Blaising points out how Yeshua's identity as the Son of David is generally passed over in the creeds and confession of Christendom. Here is what he says:

"It is remarkable that the great creeds and confessions of the faith are silent on this point, being satisfied simply with the affirmation of Christ’s humanity. However, in Scripture, not only the Jewishness of Jesus, but also his Davidic lineage are central features of the Gospel. For example, Paul, in Romans 1, summarizes the gospel in this way: "The gospel of God which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.'

"This is the gospel which he says in Romans 1:16 is to the Jew first and also to the Greek. In 2 Timothy 2:8, he writes, ‘Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel.’…

"…The point is that the incarnation is not just the union of God and humanity; it is the incarnation of the Son of God in the house of David as the Son of covenant promise. From a human standpoint, Jesus is not just a man, or generic man; he is that man—that descendant of David" [Blaising, Craig. "The Future of Israel as a Theological Question." Nashville, 2000:17-19, emphasis added].

Yeshua is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Son of David. As such he will rule over his people Israel, and will rule over the nations as well This is what the prophet Isaiah said": "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given"—a child of Israel, a descendant of Jacob, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and also the Son of God, as the angel told Miriam, "Do not be afraid, Miriam, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son [‘a child is born, a son is given!’], and you are to give him the name Yeshua. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. . . The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to born will be called the Son of God" [Luke 1:30-35].

There are so many other texts from the Older and Newer Testaments that we could point to, such as Psalm 2, where Messiah is also represented as a Son of Israel, the Son of David and the Son of God. But let’s content ourselves with just one more, the fourth and fifth chapter of the Book of Revelation.

In this passage, John sees a vision of the throne of God before whom the living creatures, symbolizing the created order, the heavenly hosts, and the 24 elders fall down in worship. These elders represent the full complement of the people of God. We read that no one is found in heaven and earth worthy to open the seals of the scroll in the hand of God. That scroll is the redemptive consummation of all things—no one is found worthy to bring all of the created order to its consummation—no one except the Unique One, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David. Look at the language used of him.

5:1 Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; 2 and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. 4 And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals."

Here we see today’s Torah and Haftarah texts coming together: it is the Lion of the tribe of Judah [as in Genesis], and the Root of David who has conquered and who can open the seals—who alone can and does bring all of creation to its goal in his work of revelation, redemption and consummation.

"6 Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. 8 When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 They sing a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; 10 you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth." 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 singing with full voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!"

But even this does not go far enough in disclosing to us the magnitude of child who was born, the son who was given. Later in Revelation, he is spoken of as the one who will rule the nations with a scepter of iron, for he was not only slaugthered—he also conquered death and lives again with everything subject to him. This hearkens back to Genesis 49 ["The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet; So that tribute shall come to him And the homage of peoples be his"]. Psalm 2 speaks as well of the Messiah who rules the nations with a rod of iron.

We’ve had a lot to say today. The baby spoken of so cloyingly at Christmas time is awe-inspiring and supremely formidable. He is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah—a powerful, even frightening lion, not to be trifled with. He is the one who rules over his brethren Israel as the ultimate Son of David and over the nations as well, ruling over them with a rod or scepter of iron—able to withstand and defeat all the hostility of those who would foolishly resist the rule of Israel’s God with their last breath. "Why do th nations raise and the people's imagine a vain thing?. . .He who sits in the heavens laughs!"

But he is more than simply the Son of Israel, the Lion of Judah and the Son of David. He is the one born of that Jewish virgin girl overshadowed by the Holy Spirit so that the holy child born of her would be called the Son of God.

This is the Messiah whom we honor at this time: not the pleading spiritual panhandler waiting on the doorstep "to see if we will let him come in." This is no plastic Jesus. This is no graven image. This is the Son of God, who in the fullness of time became a Jewish Man, who suffered as a sacrificial Lamb that he might rise again as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the One destined to rule over all.

All of these factors combine in such a way as to demand that the only rational response for us to have toward the child that was born that day is not "kitchie kitchie koo" but something far different—the response suggested at the conclusion of our passage from the Revelation:

"5:13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, "To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" 14 And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" And the elders fell down and worshiped."

"O come let us adore Him"

Material concerning Stephen Prothero’s "American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon," quoted, supplemented, edited, and paraphrased freely from a review by Andrew Hudgins, found on the Internet at http://www.triangle.com/books/bookreview/story/954779p-6862170c.html.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Why I Need to Davven - Part Two

Another reason I need to davven is that it helps me re-erect the fallen Tabernacle of David in my own life, by which I mean, it helps me to form a series of constructs to constitute the context of my life for the day ahead.

You see, I believe that to a large degree, reality is a construct. It is what it is, but on an experiential level, it is what you make it, or rather, what you make it, it is! When I awaken in the morning, I am often in the grip of anxieties, inner voices, temptations, stresses that pull me hither and yon. If I simply go forth into my day in such a condition, I am apt to be something of a pinball being batted about by these stresses, temptations and anxieties, flipped all over the map. How much better to take the time to pray through the liturgy [aloud and attentively]. When I do so, I endeavor to pay atttention to what I am reading/saying, stopping here and there when a thought arrests me, both praying and praying about what I am praying, pressing on through the entire shacharit liturgy.

This is what I did the other day, when I awakened especially scattered and batted about. I found at the end of the time of prayer [yes, it was about an hour]], that I was settled, not simply emotionally. I had again taken my position in my chosen world, the world of God's choices, and because I had done so, my life that day was more my own because more his.

May it ever be so, and in ever widening circles in the Messianic and wider Jewish community..

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Joseph, The Big Picture and The Problem of Suffering

At my synagogue recently, we have been looking lately at what it means to know God and to seek his help amid the challenges and contradictions of life. A few weeks ago we looked at Jacob and his family rededicating themselves to God after the very messy incidents surrounding the rape of Dinah and the subsequent massacre of the men of Shechem.

We examined last week what it means to live between our problems and the promises of God, and how in the midst of it all, undetected except in retrospect, is the Presence of God who says to us "not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit."

In Parshat Vayigash, which includes Genesis 46, we find added help for living amidst the challenges and contradictions of life. This is a lesson we very much need, because all of us live out our lives in the space between the promise and the problem, and in living in such a space, we need all the help we can get. It is also a lesson we need because it provides a much-needed perspective normally eclipsed in our current post-modern generation: the lesson of keeping in mind the Big Picture.

Joseph was a Big Picture man. He was also someone who faced more problems, challenges and contradictions than most of us will ever know. His own brothers tried to murder him, and sold him into slavery. He spent at least ten years, perhaps more, in a filthy Pharonic prison, framed on a rape charge. He was obliged to build a new life for himself far from the loving father he had known.

Yes, he rose to great heights. But also yes, he arose from great depths. One of the factors that helped him to cope and to maintain his personal momentum was "The Big Picture."

When his story in Torah begins, in Genesis 37, we see him telling is brothers his grandiose dreams. . . dreams of ascendancy and superiority over his brothers and even over his parents. He surely did not know how or when these dreams would be played out on the stage of his life. But he kept the dreams alive in his heart. And perhaps, just perhaps, those dreams kept him alive, too.

How do we know this?

In last week's parasha, in Genesis 42, when Joseph’s brothers come down to Egypt to buy food to tide them over during the famine, we read that it was when he saw them standing before him that Joseph remembered the dreams he had about them some twenty years previously. He drew a connection between their coming to him now in a subservient status, and his dreams to that effect when he was a teen-ager.

Joseph had kept The Big Picture in his mind and heart all those years: he didn’t know how it would work itself out, but he had kept these things alive within him. And equally to the point, these memories kept him spiritually alive amid his trying circumstances.

One of the reasons he did not get pulled down into a whirlpool of despair by his unjust slavery and imprisonment, is that his dreams—his Big Picture—gave him some sort of hope and forward momentum.

We also see Joseph as a Big Picture man in this week’s parasha.

When he finally reveals himself to his brothers, some twenty-two years after they sold him into slavery, he testifies more than once to The Big Picture.

He tells them "do not be distressed or reproach yourself because you sold me hither. It was to save life that God sent me ahead of you. . . .God sent me ahead of you to ensure Your survival on earth, and to save your lives in an extraordinary deliverance. So, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of all his household, and ruler over the whole land of Egypt" [45:6-8].

When he tells them to not be distressed, he shares with them and with us the secret of not being distressed in trying circumstances: that is, remembering the Big Picture. Just as he had been sustained through his years of trial through knowing that there was a Big Picture of which his trying circumstances were but a part, so he encourages them to remember the Big Picture instead of being overwhelmed with guilt over their having betrayed him so deeply so long ago.

The lesson for us is clear: If we would maintain our equilibrium and momentum in the midst of the difficult trials and disappointing circumstances that confront us, we will need to avoid making our catastrophes into absolutes. We must not let our horrors become our horizons. Rather, we should always remember the Big Picture.

What does this mean?

The purposes of God are more long term than our usual horizons. God has a long-haul perspective. The trials you are facing now may be for the benefit of your grandchildren or great grandchildren—not simply yourself or your children, if you have any.

And of course, our obedience and faithfulness could effect one or two other people, or even hundreds of thousands or even millions of people not related to us, as was the case for Joseph who conceived and ran the famine relief program in Egypt.

The consequences of our obedience or disobedience have an effect beyond ourselves, or family, and our lifetime, and we need to keep that in mind.

We must remember that the purposes of God are broader than our own perspective. We tend to see things with a kind of tunnel-vision, seeing only how things effect us and those toward the center of our field of vision. But our perseverance, obedience, and faith may be for the benefit of other people and other purposes we have not taken into account. We do not know what God will do with our faithfulness: we do know that it is our responsibility to be faithful.

Joseph never would have guessed that he was being sold into slavery in order to one day be the Viceroy of all Egypt, and to effect the deliverance of thousands/millions of people, and especially his own family, and through them, God’s salvific plan for the world through the Jewish people in whom "all the families of the earth would be blessed" [see Genesis 12:3]. The purposes of God were other than what he would have imagined: and so will they often be for us.

Sometimes. God gives to us an intimation of his purposes, though the Scripture or other means. Sometimes he does not. Some of us have had our own dreams, visions, holy intimations of one kind or another. We should hold fast to these and to our faithfulness amidst the storms and contradictions of our circumstances.

We may not know why we are going through the trials we are currently facing. We may not see any purpose in them. We may not know how things are going to work out, but we can be sure that all of this somehow plays a role in the purposes of God. We can know that "all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8). Back to that in a moment.

Often that purpose is hidden from our eyes. The purposes served by our suffering and obedience may only bear fruit for others or for generations to come. Our suffering and obedience may be for the benefit of people and purposes we cannot see.

But faithfulness to God always makes sense within the scope of his Big Picture.
Remembering that should gives us all hope, perseverance, and momentum when the whirlpools of life threaten to drag us under.

An illustration from the life of a famous saintly Rabbi will bring this all into focus. It is in your bulletin. "The wise Rabbi Bunam once said in old age, when he had already grown blind: ‘I should not like to change places with our father Abraham! What good would it do God if Abraham became like blind Bunam, and blind Bunam became like Abraham? Rather than have this happen, I thing I shall try to become a little more myself.’" [As reported by Martin Buber in "The Way of Man"].

Amazingly, Rabbi Bunam saw his own afflictions within a bigger picture than his own convenience and ease. He realized that his blindness might serve a useful purpose in the Big Picture—the Big Scheme of things.

Similarly, when Scripture says that "all things work together for the good of those who are called according to His purpose," I do not think this means that everything that happens to us as individuals is for our own benefit. Sometimes we do undergo real and tragic loss that does us no good personally. Perhaps Scripture is speaking in the collective sense: that all things that the people of God suffer individually benefit the people of God collectively. No suffering or trial that I undergo is useless and without purpose.

Joseph’s suffering was real: but he rejoiced in it because of its benefit to others within God’s plan. May we also see our trials as not without purpose, serving purposes beyond our own, even times beyond our own, within the purposes of God. And like Rabbi Bunam, may we get on with the business of trying to become a little more ourselves—embracing our lot with trust the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Joseph, the God of Rabbi Bunam, the God and Father of Yeshua our Messiah, who likewise was content with suffering, knowing it was for the benefit of others.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Back up and Running

To All My Blog Friends,

Well, here I am up and running again. As you know., my former blog site went belly-up and it's taken quite a while getting up and running on a new site. Actually, this is a prior site that I once abandoned, but am now reopening.

Just a bit of recent news to get the flow of things going. As some of you know, I was in Hawaii last week, teaching. My God, it was beautiful. . .and this, coming from a guy who is no scenery groupie. The ocean itself was beautiful. I found the surf breaking on the shore to be hypnotic. . .and a perch about twenty yards above the breaking surf, an excellent place to pray. When it came time to get on board a returning plane to Los Angeles, I was genuinely sorry to be leaving. . . .Sigh. . . .

Here's part of a note I wrote to a friend who asked what I was doing there, just in case you are interested.

The institution for which I was teaching is called University of the Nations,
connected with a Mission organization, of all things, called YWAM [Youth With
a Mission, no longer an applicable name, since the average member is in their
thirties or forties!] The head of their Jewish Studies division implored me
to come and teach them a course on "The Jewish Mind." I warned her that I am
an unapolgetic radical, and that my views are controversial and stigmatized
by some . . .in the Messianic Jewish fold. I told her that if invited I would let fly with my own core convictions. She gamely said, "O.K. Let's do it!"

I gave them a full dose of my life journey and my convictions about a Messianic Judaism that is truly a Judaism, and about the reasons for my controverial status: That I refuse to base my life and ministry on a census of hell for example. [(Somje people I know) insist that every Jew who does not believe as they do and who has not prayed to receive Christ as personal savior is *necessarily* in hell. The necessity comes from their syllogistic thinking, proof-texts, theological grid, and mission model]. I take as my watchword rather the words of the angel to Peter in Acts 5:6: "Go, stand in the Temple, and proclaim there all the words of this life." In other words, I stand in the midst of Jewish life and community proclaiming a way of life--not a census of hell.
The second reason I am controversial is that I strongly affirm that God is more appreciative of Jewish piety than is the evangelical establishment.

I told this to the people I taught: they wanted to know and agreed with me unblinkingly. I also taught them a full dose of my missiological principles and convictions, and my undestanding from Scripture that God is going to bring the Jewish people as a people to himself in convenant faithfulness through Yeshua the Messiah in the power of the Spirit in these last days. This being the case, a faithful Messianic Jewish Movement will pursue such a return ourselves, in order to be a demonstration and catalyst of that greater return to come.

I also taught from a now out of print but still available book, "Schmooozing" by Joshua Halberstam, PhD, in which he chronicles the opinions and conversation of American Jews among themselves on matters as diverse as gender roles, dealing with non-Jews, Jewish smarts, money, etc. This was an excellent means of helping these students to understand what Jews are really like rather than what people imagine Jews to be like.

My accommodations were at the Royal Kona Hotel, and were marvelous. The view
of the ocean was breathtaking, and my balcony was about forty yards above the
ever-fascinating breaking surf. I got some good rest and read a couple of books. I only taught three and half hours a day. . . .

Why I Need to Davven - Part One

Davvening is praying traditional Jewish liturgy in a traditional manner. After praying recently, I got to thinking why I need this practice in my life. There are many reasons, but here are a few.

First, I need to davven because it puts me in "a different space." When I davven, I reconnect with my identity as a member of a Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation. It is not enough to remember that this is true: in davvening, in the postures it requires, the script one uses for prayer, the "processing of the psyche" that one goes through, I viscerally, experientially, and yes, spiritually, reconnect with this identity so that I have a greater likelihood of acting out of that awareness throughout the day.

Second, I need to davven out of obedience to Hashem's call upon Israel to be a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation: to not davven, to not bring Him this sacririce of prayer and praise is to be derelict from my duty as a member of that people who said to Him at Sinai, "na'aseh v'nishma"--we will do and we will hear [or understand].

Third, I need to davven because otherwise I am left to my own devices in seeking to express and nurture my spirituality, and prayer becomes narrow and repetitive, subjective, or a mostly neglected discipline, or a combination of any of the above. In davvening I submit to the wisdom of my people through thousands of years. I inherit and benefit from their trial and error. In submitting to the discipline of davvening, I say "Yes" to my role, "Yes" to my God, "Yes" to my identity as a member of Klal Yisrael. And I come into the world of Jewish prayer as participant, as learner, and as co-bearer of the priestly burdens, privileges and responsibilities of the people of Israel.

Fourth, I need to davven because the depth and diversity of the liturgy speaks to me in different ways each time I do it. Although the liturgy remains the same, the experience is always different. And perhaps this is because each day I am different. Were it not for the liturgy, I would lack any prayer measuring stick--a constant--a canon--by which to take notice of how I am different today from yesterday, and, to a degree, different from all of my yesterdays, or conversely, in some ways, like them.

Fifth, I need to davven because the discipline shapes my theology and spirituality as a Jew. And if I don't submit to this discipline, then other internal and external factors will end up shaping my theology and spirituality, generally in a manner disonnant with my Jewish identity. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, "You gotta be shaped by somebody; it might be the Jewish tradition, and it might be another tradition, but you gotta be shaped by somebody."

Sixth, I need to davven because of the regularity it calls me to [praying daily, and, if I want to go the whole nine yards, three times a day]. Even if I never get to the three times a day practice, praying shacharit daily is a call I need to heed. Daily davvening is a context in which I can manifest faitnfulness to the promises I made to others ["I'll pray for you,"] also constituting a daily appointment with G-d at which time progress is made on important matters, often in a manner structured around our inherited prayer agenda, the Amidah.

Seventh, I need to davven, in order to heed the eternal call "Seek my face." This regular appointment is like a daily audience with the King, and I often find myself smiling as I go into it, because in daily davvening, I sense His presence. It is not as if I generate His Presence out of my own subjectivity, but rather I find Him there, almost as if He is waiting for us there in the midst of the practice.

Eighth, I need to davven because I need the companionship of the tradition. There is a holy specialness, a different texture and awareness that davvening brings, a sense of being part of a transgenerational and transtemporal community. This is a necessary and life-giving alternative to the horrific isolation of modern hyper-individualistic spiritualities which are woefully fixated on "my personal relationship with God" which really translated into "my isolated relationship with God," [or perhaps more so, "my insular relationship with myself]." In praying within the tradition I am never socially alone. And of course, I experience this companionship in a deeper manner when I pray with a minyan.

Do You See What I See? A Messianic Jew Speaks to Christian Seminarians

When a Jew does research in a Christian setting, he or she sees different things than does the average Christian seminarian. In this address, I try to awaken a group of Christians to how certain Christian theological assumptions look to a Jew.
I spend much of my time doing theological research in the main floor reading room of your seminary library. And over the years I have had to develop more and more self control in order to resist the urge to throw this book or that across the reading room. From whence cometh these temptations?

These temptations arise because of the irritation and outrage I often experience reading in standard Christian commentaries. For example, some years ago I was browsing a commentary on the Book of Acts, written by the esteemed evangelical icon John R.W. Stott. The passage under review was Acts 1:1-8.

"In Acts chapter one, we see the Apostles meeting for forty days with the resurrected Messiah, who spent that time giving them many infallible proofs that he had indeed conquered death, and speaking to them about the kingdom of God. We read in Acts 1:6-8:

"When the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, ‘L-rd, are you going to free Israel now and restore our kingdom?’ ‘The Father set those dates,’ he replied, ‘and they are not for you to know. But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ " [NLB].

In commenting on Acts 1:6, the Apostles’ question, "L-rd, are you going to free Israel now and restore our kingdom?," Stott says this:

"The mistake they made was to misunderstand both the nature of the kingdom and the relation between the kingdom and the Spirit. Their question must have filled Jesus with dismay. Were they still so lacking in perception? As Calvin commented, ' There are as many errors in this question as words.'"

Now here’s my dilemma. Please help me! I have looked and looked and looked in this text and I can’t find any evidence of Yeshua’s dismay. You are seminarians. Perhaps the dismay is in that last, great, refuge of all exegetes, the original Greek?

Obviously the dismay is not in the text. Not even in the Greek. If it is not there, then where is it? It is in Reverend Stott’s theological system!

This systemic dismissal of any kind of Jewish perspective on Christian truth is something that deeply troubles not only me, but also every Jew I know at this seminary. I am quite sure that that these students would agree with my contention that the Christian theological tradition at best ignores the Jewish people or views God’s dealings with the children of Jacob as merely a temporary means to an end. My people are at best simply an instrumentality that lays the groundwork for what God is doing in the Church. . We are the Parcel Post People of God delivering the package of salvation to the Church, only to then recede from view. We Jews are the stage hands of salvation whose only role is to move the furniture and scenery out onto the stage of holy history so the "real show" involving the Church can begin.

In his masterful work, "The God of Israel and Christian Theology" Wesleyan theologian R.K. Soulen chronicles and parses this Christian minimization of God’s dealings with the Jews, highlighting what such a practice costs the Church by way of forfeited truth.

His contention is that the only God the Church has is the God of the Jews. In fact, for Soulen, the gospel ought to be stated in these terms: "The God of Israel has worked in Jesus Christ for the sake of all."

He says, "If it is true that the gospel about Jesus is credible only as predicated of the God of Israel, then the integrity of Christian theology …depends upon bringing traditional forms of Christian thought into a further degree of congruence with the God of Israel" [xi]. Soulen demonstrates that apart from this congruence, "Christianity … embodies what is in effect an incomplete conversion toward the living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" [x].
My goal this morning is to demonstrate three areas where, like Soulen, I as a Jew find much Christian theologizing to defective, incomplete and even semi-converted.

Perhaps in our few minutes together, I will be able to help you to see things through my eyes, so that when we dismiss, you will be able to answer in the affirmative when I ask you, "Do you see what I see?"

Part of the problem is this: when I read most Christian theology I see another Jesus than I see in Scripture.

Our text is John chapter four. In this chapter, Jesus, or as his mother called him, Yeshua, identifies himself as a Jew. He does this when he says to the woman, "we worship what we know for salvation is from the Jews." Similarly, he is identified as a Jew by the Samaritan woman who asks him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a Samaritan woman, since Jews have no dealings with Samaritans."

The Church seems to miss the import of this, paying only lip service to Yeshua’s Jewish identity. It seems to me that too much of the Church sees Jesus as the generic Christ, the cosmic savior, the Metaphysical Hero—but not as the ultimate descendant of Jacob our ancestor who gave us this well [Jn 4:12], not as the Son of David, not as fully and as to his human nature, solely, totally, truly and permanently a Jew.

In his masterful address at the November 2000 Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Dr, Craig Blaising addressed this issue squarely. Here is part of what he said:

"It is remarkable that the great creeds and confessions of the faith are silent on this point, being satisfied simply with the affirmation of Christ’s humanity. However, in Scripture, not only the Jewishness of Jesus, but also his Davidic lineage are central features of the Gospel. For example, Paul, in Romans 1, summarizes the gospel in this way:

"'The gospel of God which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.'

"This is the gospel which he says in Romans 1:16 is to the Jew first and also to the Greek. In 2 Timothy 2:8, he writes, 'Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel.'

". . . The point is that the incarnation is not just the union of God and humanity; it is the incarnation of the Son of God in the house of David as the Son of covenant promise. From a human standpoint, Jesus is not just a man, or generic man; he is that man--that descendant of David" [Blaising, Craig. "The Future of Israel as a Theological Question." Nashville, 2000:17-19].

Roman Catholic theologian Bernard Dupuy saw this clearly in 1974 when he wrote: "We have to get back to the One who became incarnate as a Jew among the Jews; to the One for whom being a Jew was not some kind of throw-away garment but his very being."

It is small wonder that the Church gives short shrift if anything to the Jewish identity of the Savior. This is because the Church neglects and obscures the fact that he covenants of grace are by the eternal counsels of God mediated through the Jews. The Church has in fact succumbed to the arrogance of which Paul warned her the eleventh chapter of the Letter to the Romans.

Yeshua is quite direct on this matter in his conversation with the Samaritan woman. In effect he says this: "You Samaritans don’t know what you are talking about, we Jews do know what we are talking about because salvation is from the Jews." The blessings that come to the nations do not come down from God like rain from out of the sky: Instead, they come through a conduit—a pipeline, and that pipeline is the Jewish people. The Jews are the people of promise, but not simply for their own sake. They are the people of promise for the sake of the world. As God told Abraham, Isaac and Jacob "In you and in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."
Returning now to that ultimate Jew through whom blessing comes to the world, it is clear that Church has transformed Jesus the Seed of Abraham, who is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Son of David and the ultimate King of Israel and the nations into a generic Christ, a cosmic Christ, a metaphysical a-historical figure. Christendom has made the Son of David into the "Son-of-Man-Without-a-Country."

Are you not terrified and dismayed by such an indictment? You should be! Why? Because no such Christ ever existed—such a faith is a faith in nothing, a theology of thin air, a soteriology of smoke and mirrors. This is what Jacques Derrida calls logocentrism. An Algerian-born Jew, Derrida contends that western philosophy and theologizing refer only to words as compared with other words, so that the concept of coming ever closer to the some objective single "truth" or "meaning" through rational processes is but a pompous illusion. For Derrida, all Western philosophical discourse is simply talk.

Is this what you believe? Is this your "Christ of faith?" Is Christian theology just holy words about holy words? Is it only talk? Or are your words of faith instead rooted in a solid rather than a metaphysical referent? Do your words refer to something substantial, something truly incarnate, the Word made flesh—Jewish flesh—covenant flesh? Are your words of faith grounded in the only true Christ who ever lived, Jesus the Son of David, the root and repository of all the covenants, the One in whom all the promises of God are Yea and Amen?

Lest there be any misunderstanding, let me plainly say what I mean: Jesus of Nazareth never has been nor is he now simply the Lord of the Church. He is first the Messiah of Israel, who unambiguously self-identified as a Jew, and was recognized as a Jew by all who met him. You cannot have a Lord of the Church who is not first, last and always the King of the Jews. He is not simply the cosmic Christ, the Son-of-Man-Without-a-Country, the Generic Savior, but bone of Jewish bone, flesh of Jewish flesh, the Holy One of Israel, and the Seed of David in whom alone all the promises to Israel and the nations are Yea and Amen.

Again, Dupuy puts it beautifully when he says it this way:

". . . It was in becoming incarnate in the Jewish people that Jesus offered himself as savior to the entire human race. We can acknowledge Jesus only as he appeared to us: as this particular Jew, this just and suffering servant; it is thus that he reveals himself in order to reign over the world."

Do you see what Dupuy saw, and do you see what I see? Do you see a Christian theology that has turned away from the One and Only Savior to a fashion a Christ of its own choosing?

Jeremiah’s words to his generation apply just as well to Christendom as we know it: Instead of partaking of the Savior whom God sent into the world of, by, for, and through the Jewish people, instead of drinking at Jacob’s well, the Church has forsaken the fountain of living waters and hewn out cisterns, broken cisterns which can hold no water.

Another part of the problem is when I read most Christian theology I see another ekklesia/another people of God than I see in Scripture

Returning to John four, we find the Samaritan woman, Yeshua, and the people of the village all in agreement identifying Yeshua as the Messiah [Come see a man who told me all that I ever did! Can this be the Messiah?"] and also as Savior of the world ["We have heard from myself and believe that he is the Savior of the world"]. Although related, the terms "Messiah" and "Savior" are not synonymous terms, but rather reflect the Messiah’s two-fold ministry first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and then to that other fold, the other nations, the Gentiles.

We should not forget that the Messiah is first of all the King of Israel. The Messiah is not simply the King of all Nations, but rather he is the King of Israel and the nations. Once you think of this, you begin to see evidence for it all over the Bible.

He is the one of whom it stands written in Isaiah. "It is too small a thing that you should be my chosen one to raise up the outcasts of Israel. I will also make you a light to the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the furthest ends of the earth" [Isa 49:6]. He is the one whom Righteous Simeon called "a light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel." He is the one of whom it was said, "unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior who is Messiah the Lord."

Yeshua is the King of Israel. That means he is the one who is the personal guarantee of the fulfillment of God’s promises to His covenant nation. And it is only as he is first and foremost the King of Israel that he can also be "the Savior of the world" [John 4:42].

We must return to the apostolic understanding of the Jewish people as the foundational people of God. The ekklesia I see in Scripture is one in which Gentiles become co-heirs with Jews of Jewish promises, NOT replacement heirs who bump the Jews off the stage of salvation history and then redefine both the Christ and His people. It is not the Gentiles instead of the Jews, but the Gentiles because of the Jews and together with the Jews—for the blessings that come to the nations come from the hand of God to the people of Israel and through the hands of Israel to the nations.

Christian theology feels very uncomfortable with this kind of talk. This is in large measure because much Christian theologizing leans toward an ecclesiology which I term "the Church as The Borg."

"The Borg" is of course that planet-sized entity floating through space which has become part of the Star Trek saga. All who become members of The Borg become cyborgs, part machine, part human. Their individuality is eradicated in the process. What they once were is of no importance; their origins are immaterial. All that matters is that they are now part of The Borg, a multi-individual organization/organism that functions with maximum efficiency as each part does its work. It is known as "The Collective" and collective consciousness is the name of the game. Whenever The Borg encounters a new civilization, the message is beamed out "You shall be assimilated." And that is exactly what happens. Individuality, ethnicity, origins, all are subsumed under the greater good of absorption and full function within The Borg.

You don’t have to read long or hard in Christian theology to discover that the prevailing assumptions about the people of God are more Borg than Bible. Indeed, the Church as The Borg is the prevailing paradigm.

This is a subliminal subtext of Christian theologizing, but there is no shortage of explicit references to this paradigm. Consider this quotation from George Beasley-Murray’s commentary on Revelation:

"…the death of the Lamb of God, coupled with his resurrection, brought to men emancipation from sin’s slavery, that they might become members in the race drawn from all nations, a company of kings and priests to God in the new age." [Beasley-Murray, George Raymond. The Book of Revelation. London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1974:127-128, bold print emphasis added].

Here we see all of humanity subsumed into a new race: ethnicity is no longer significant. Once you were a Jew, once you were a Swede, once you were a proud Ibo, or Hausa, or Dongo, a Tutsi, a Cubana, a Salvadoreña, once you were a Korean. But none of that is important now. Now you are a Christian, and that is all that really matters.

Welcome to The Borg.

Over and over again it becomes clear to me that if I really believed what most Christian theologizing says about the Jews, I would either have to be a self-hating Jew to be a Messianic Jew, or I would have to apostasize from that faith in order to maintain my allegiance to my Jewish people. The only way I can be both a Jew and a believer in Yeshua is to adopt a hermeneutics of great suspicion pertaining to the theological tradition of the West, or what might be called, The Theological Tradition of the Borg.

Finally, the problem is this: when I read most Christian theology I see another consummation than I see in Scripture.

In John Four, Yeshua speaks of a time when people would no longer worship God on Mount Gerazim [which the Samaritans favored] or Jerusalem, the holy site of the Jews. But does this mean that Christianty transcends nationality in the sense of making national identity and origin of no importance? There can be no doubt that Christian theologizing moves in this direction.

For example, in dealing with the question of whether the 144,000 of which Revelation speaks might be Jewish people, Robert H. Mounce dismisses the possibility in a very telling manner. Listen to the assumption which informs his dismissal:

"A few commentators interpret the 144,000 as a literal reference to the nation Israel. But this interpretation seriously complicates the book of Revelation by bringing in racial distinctions that no longer exist in the NT purview . . .. The Church is the eschatological people of God who have taken up Israel’s inheritance" [Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation (Revised Edition). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998:158].

Here he combines in one paragraph two problematical areas of Christian theologizing, the Church as The Borg even into the eschaton, a people of God with no racial distinctions; and the assumption that Israel is now off the stage with the Church having taken her place.

Of course I have problems with this view for a variety of reasons. Considering Revelation’s reverences to God as "King of the nations" and the one to whom "all nations will come" [Rev 15], and the one who "ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation" [5:9], the one who will "dwell with them as their God, [and] they will be his peoples" [21:3], it seems incontrovertible that Mounce’s theological presuppositions are controlling his conclusions to the unjust disenfranchisement of Israel and the reduction of God’s purposes to the salvation of the kind of undifferentiated humanity of which the Bible never speaks.

Behind Mounce’s interpretation and that of almost the entire Western Church stands what might be called "spiritual vision eschatology." Craig Blaising explains for us what is meant by the term and offers us a very appropriate and telling alternative:

". . . In the history of the Church supersessionism [the Church’s replacement of Israel] and spiritual-vision eschatology fit hand in hand. What do I mean by spiritual-vision eschatology? I mean that traditional eschatology which sees eternal life as a timeless, changeless, spiritual existence consisting primarily in the human soul’s full knowledge of God. This knowledge is understood to be like a direct view, vision, or beholding of God. This is the sum total of what eternal life is and it defines what is meant by heaven. The resurrected body is expected to be a spiritual body in the sense that the body is composed of spiritual substance or has been transformed into spirit. The emphasis is on the individual’s unchanging visionary-like epistemic experience of God. This spiritual-vision eschatology traditionally has seen earthly life as a symbol of spiritual realities. Supersessionism fits well with this view in denying a future for Israel since a future for Israel literally has no place in a spiritual-vision eschatology. A future for Israel would demand a national and political reality in the eschaton with all its context of land and fruitfulness. This is all thought to be carnal by spiritual-vision ideology. It is simply not possible. As a result, Israel can only be a symbol of a spiritual people headed for a spiritual destiny.

"To take the future of Israel seriously would demand that this spiritual-vision eschatology be modified at best or, at the most, replaced entirely with a different eschatological concept. We are not talking here about that alternative which spiritual-vision eschatology has thought was the only alternative, that is one that is carnal in every sense of the word carnal, in the manner say, of Muslim eschatology. Rather we are talking about the alternative which most biblical theologians see expressed in Scripture, that is, new creation eschatology. New creation eschatology emphasizes the liberation of the cosmos from sin, the bodily resurrection and glorification of the righteous, and the liberation of the cosmos to share in the liberty of the children of God. It does not see the eschaton as simply a continuation of the past, but does emphasize its continuity with the past as seen in the resurrection of the body. New creation eschatology does not see the eschaton as a timeless, changeless or essentially visionary-like epistemic state. It is not eternal in the classic timeless sense but everlasting. New creation eschatology has a place for the earth, the cosmos, for the fullness of created life, but especially for resurrected human life living under the lordship of the resurrected Jesus Christ in fellowship with the Triune God. It would see human life in created wholeness--not as undifferentiated individuals but as differentiated individuals. But neither would it see them as just differentiated individuals, but rather differentiated in ethnic and communal dimensions as well, since these form an essential aspect of our identities. And what will we find here except Israel and the Gentiles who are together blessed by God, living under the lordship of Jesus Christ to the glory of God." [Blaising, Craig. "The Future of Israel as a Theological Question." Nashville, 2000:23-25].

In conclusion, let’s just recap.

1. As I read Christian theology, I see another Jesus than I see in Scripture. The Church has transformed Jesus the Seed of Abraham, who is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Son of David and the ultimate King of Israel and the nations into a generic Christ, a cosmic Christ, a metaphysical a-historical figure. Christendom has made the Son of David into the "Son-of-Man-Without-a-Country." Do see what I see?

2. As I read Christian theology, I see another people of God than I see in Scripture. I see the Church as The Borg, devouring cultures and assimilating people into a multi-individual entity which presses people toward uniformity—everyone being the same, rather than what the Scripture holds out to us—that unity whereby people remain different yet live in peace. I see the Church arrogating to itself the status of being the New Israel, having treated the Chosen People Israel, like stage-hands, like the Parcel Post People of God whose only task is to deliver the stuff of salvation to the Church and then get out of the way. I see a Church which has succumbed to the arrogance which Paul warned about, a Church which has forgotten it is a guest in the Jewish house of salvation, grafted into a Jewish olive tree, co-heirs with the Jews who were are, and evermore shall me the foundational people of God Do you see what I see?

3. Finally, as I read Christian theology, I see another consummation than I see in the Bible. In contrast to the prevailing paradigm of spiritual-vision eschatology, I see an eternal state in which all of us are fully human, with resurrected bodies and ethnic identities in tact, rejoicing not simply as nationals but as nations in the presence of the One True God in all the beauty of our cultural and ethnic distinctiveness.

I believe the Bible teaches that in the eternal state we will not be less different but more so, allowed at last to be as God created us to be, not accommodating ourselves to those political realities which oblige us to blend in and "not make waves" We will be utterly diverse, we will all appreciate, rejoice in, and understand totally the richness of each community’s cultural contribution and perceptions. We will be gathered together, united but not uniform—all of us redeemed, all of us glorified, and all of us living in total peace and unity.

A gospel of uniformity is what I term the "Gospel According to Pol Pot." The G-d of Israel and the Church is not the G-d of uniformity. Rather, His Spirit works toward that unity in which we are utterly different and distinct and yet living in complete love and peace with one another. In short, I am one of that growing number of people who recognize the neo-Platonic nature of Spiritual vision eschatology and who recognize the weighty evidence in Scripture for a new creation eschatology.

Meanwhile, I see the outworking of what Yeshua told the Samaritan woman, that salvation is from the Jews. I see a Church drinking living water from the same well as the Samaritan woman, a well the Church did not herself dig, a well of living water that is first and foremost Jacob’s well.
Today, I want to issue a challenge. And it is this: Christian theology is not inspired the same way all Scripture is inspired. As you continue studying and learning, I suggest you ought to adopt a hermeneutics of suspicion whenever you are reading or hearing Christian theology. Whenever a statement is made, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit you should constantly be asking [1] Is this really what the Scripture is teaching? [2] Is this really the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? And most importantly, [3] What is the agenda of the people who are presenting this theology? What position or tradition are they trying to prove or prop up? What are they trying to disprove? What are their deep community interests? What system are they seeking to validate?
Sometimes it is good to be suspicious. It is good to be wise as serpents—even when reading theology or perhaps especially when reading theology!

In all of this, may the God of Israel be with you as you continue to come to Yeshua, the Son of David, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Jacob’s Living Well, who said of Himself in this same Gospel of John, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink, and out of their inmost being shall flow rivers of living water." L’chaim!