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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.

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Saturday, February 26, 2005

Hashem, Moses and Paul: Confused about Torah?

(The following is a study-lesson on Parshat Ki Tissa which I taught at Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue, Beverly Hills, CA, February 26, 2005. The beginning should be read tongue in cheek. )

I have a problem with two of today's texts, the Torah reading and the New Covenant Reading. But maybe some of you here can help me resolve my problem. My problem is with Hashem, with Moshe and with Paul--they seem to have a wrong attitude toward the Law of God--the Torah. And this troubles me greatly.

I am going to ask you all to be my physicians, my diagnosticians. As we examine the texts, I need for you to locate where I have problem.

So let's locate my problem with the texts and afterwards, decide what to do with them!

Shemot/Exodus 34:1 The Lord said to Moses: "Carve two tablets of stone like the first, and I will inscribe upon the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you shattered. 2 Be ready by morning, and in the morning come up to Mount Sinai and present yourself there to Me, on the top of the mountain. 3 No one else shall come up with you, and no one else shall be seen anywhere on the mountain; neither shall the flocks and the herds graze at the foot of this mountain."

Where is my problem in the Torah reading? Where do I find Hashem's and Moses' attitude toward the Law of God a problem?

Just this. The Israelites have already demonstrated they could not keep the Law--in this case, the Ten Words/The Ten Commandments! They built the Golden Calf, and broke the first two commandments [Worship Hashem only and no other gods, no graven image] even before Moses came down from the mountain!! That's why Moses shattered the tablets at the foot of the mountain! So here is the problem. Why would Hashem give the Israelites another copy of the commandments if they had already proven they couldn't keep them? Hadn't the commandments already served their purpose. . .to show them their sinfulness, their need for grace and for a Savior?

Why did they need a second set of the Ten Commandments? Such a puzzlement!

Not only do I have a problem with Hashem and with Moses,. I have problems with Paul. See if you can locate one of my problems in the following text.

"1 While Paul was looking intently at the council he said, "Brothers, up to this day I have lived my life with a clear conscience before God." 2Then the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near him to strike him on the mouth. 3At this Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting there to judge me according to the law, and yet in violation of the law you order me to be struck?" 4Those standing nearby said, "Do you dare to insult God's high priest?" 5And Paul said, "I did not realize, brothers, that he was high priest; for it is written, 'You shall not speak evil of a leader of your people.' "

The first problem with Paul is this: Paul doesn't seem to realize that we are "not under the Law" any more!!! This incident comes late in his life, when he has been an Apostle about thirty years. You would think he has his doctrine down straight! But look what happens here! After Paul reviles the High Priest and is rebuked for it, he then says "I did not realize, brothers, that he was high priest; for it is written, 'You shall not speak evil of a leader of your people.' " Here he is quoting from the Old Testament [Exodus 23;22]! From the Torah!! Doesn't he realize he is not under the Law any more?

And let's not read our 21st century worldview into this. He is not apologizing because he was rude. He is apologizing because he broke Torah! Doesn't he realize that we're not under the Law more? Doesn't he realize that maybe, just maybe, the only part of Torah we have to pay attention to is the Ten Commandments or maybe the moral law?

What's gotten into him?

But, as if that's not enough, I have more problems with Paul! Look what he says in the second paragraph of our New Covenant reading!! He says "I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees!" Shouldn't he have said "I was a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees?" And notice how the other Pharisees say, " We find nothing wrong with this man!" Didn't Paul realize that he wasn't a Pharisee any more?? What is he doing chumming up too the Jewish community, here so that the Pharisees there say they have no problem with him?? Doesn't he realize that the Jewish community is not his community any more and that his job is simply to confront them rather than earning their approval? What is he doing., pandering to them?

Such problems.

Well, there are problems here, but the problems aren't in the texts--they are in our presuppositions. Let's look at each of these problems in turn and see how the problems are not in the texts, but in ourselves.

First, why did God make a second set of Tablets for our ancestors in the Wilderness after they had proven themselves unable or unwilling to obey the commandments? The answer is, because the people still needed the Law of God as a guide for life, even if they obeyed imperfectly. They also needed to know that these stipulations were what God expects of his Jewish people who claim to be in covenant with him.

We are wrong when we think of the Law of God as simply a means whereby we can either get a 100 percent passing grade, or else, by breaking even one commandment, fail, thus proving our need for a Savior. That would mean that as soon as we got the point that we couldn't keep the Law, and as soon as we came under the protection of the Savior, we could just jettison the Torah.

That's not what God did. He directed Moses to create a second set of tablets upon which God wrote again the Ten Words. They were still needed then and are needed now.

And the problems are in ourselves rather than in the texts when it comes to Paul too.

How many of us have heard the phrase, "We are not under law, but under grace?" Some people use this as a blanket statement of some sort, usually meaning something like this: "We don't have to worry about the Law anymore; instead, we depend upon God's grace and do the best we can and whatever we feel led to do." Sounds good. However, it is hard to defend this from the Bible. Frankly, there are all kinds of problems here.

First of all, I wonder how many people who use "we're not under law but under grace" even know where the phrase appears in the Bible? It is found in Romans 6:14, 15, and also in Galatians 5:18. In Romans 5, Paul divides God's salvation dealings with humankind up to our time into two broad eras, which he characterizes as "from Adam to Moses"--that is, through to the rule of Torah as God's way of instructing humanity and forming righteousness in His people, and then, the latter period, "in Messiah" or the era of the Spirit. In chapter six, he uses the phrase "under the law" to pertain to the first period, and "under grace" for the second period. But he does NOT use this to mean that there was no grace during the era of Moses, nor that there is no law during the era of Messiah. Rather, he is comparing each era in regards to how righteousness is formed in us.

Before Messiah came, and the Holy Spirit was poured out on His people, even though, in Paul's words, the Law of God was holy, just and good, and spiritual [Romans 7:12, 14], the human tendency to rebel against God's standards and his boundaries thwarted the formation of righteousness in us. We could approve the Law of God in our minds, and yet watch ourselves breaking that Law time and again. Paul says this is due not to some defect in the Law, but to sin that dwells within all of us as a principle of rebellion and lawless autonomy.

But now that Messiah has come, with the consequent resources of the indwelling Spirit made available, we have new resources available, and a different mechanism in action. Paul speaks of this in Romans 8: "the law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua"--that is, the way the Spirit works in us through Messiah Yeshua—"has set me free from the law of sin and death"—that is, the principle of operation that formerly prevailed--the way sin and death worked against righteousness-formation in us when we were apart from Messiah. Again, the idea is: just as sin once defeated the operation of Torah in us, marring the formation of righteousness in God’s people, so the way the Spirit works in us now defeats and replaces the way sin worked in us. "For what the law [and here he means, the Law of God] could not do in that it was weakened through the flesh [that is, our rebellious nature, dominated by the tendency to sinful rebellion], God did by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin; He condemned sin in the flesh [that is, he dealt a death blow to the domination of this endless defeating cycle by implementing new resources and a different approach].

But why did He do this?

He did this on order that "that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh [by the old principle of operation, with our limited former resources], but according to the Spirit [by the new principle of operation, with our new boundless resources].

But notice, the purpose is "that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fully met in us." God is not jettisoning the Law, but through the Spirit, enabling its actualization in us. As Paul will say a few verses later, it is "the carnal mind [that is] enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be." If we claim to be in the Spirit, we should walk in the Spirit, not fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, and subject to the Law of God.

So, those who imagine that "we are not under the law" means that we can have a take or leave it approach to God’s law, are inventing a position not found in the writings of Paul.

And his conduct in our chapter demonstrates that even under the high pressure, polemical conditions of a kangaroo court trial before the Sanhedrin, he evaluated his behavior by Torah. . . and here it is not one of the Ten Commandments, but a relatively minor passage found in Exodus 23.

Why is this an important issue? There are many reasons.

First, as a counterbalance to our native narcissism and self-centeredness. Our relationship with God should not be expressed in doing what we feel comfortable doing.

Second, because alternative versions of honoring God are out there being advocated and embraced.

Third, as an antidote to our individualism which is NOT how Scripture views us or our responsibilities

Fourth, because honoring God in this manner is clearly what Jewish people are supposed to do.

Fifth, because if this what the followers of Yeshua did in the first century, who are we to say "I pass?"

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Building a Mishkan

(The following is lesson taught at Ahavat Zion Messianic Synaggue on Shabbat Terumah, when the Torah reading treats the building of the Mishkah (Tabernacle, Dwelling Place) in the wilderness.)

The Mishkan was the place where the congregation of Israel with God during their wilderness wanderings. It was a place they built, which God inhabited, and where they could meet with Him and honor Him.

Today I want us to think together of each of us building a mishkan--a space in the midst of our lives especially prepared to meet with God and honor him.

It is mistake to imagine we can know God in terms of colossal generalities. If that were so, God never would have instructed the children of Israel to build him a Tabernacle, a Mishkan for Him to dwell in. Knowing that God is the Lord of the Universe is nice, but you can't wrap your arms around that. It is too general and "way out there." When God directed the Israelites to construct the Mishkan, the Holy One knew that we need to encounter God within the confines of predetermined circumstances if we are to come to know him deeply and honor Him specifically.

We neither experience God in generalities nor honor Him in generalities: we meet Him and honor Him in the specifics, the details of life.

To know God deeply is to know Him in the details. To only encounter God in the universe-sized generalities is to know about Him but not to know Him.

Today we are going to look at three questions: What clues does the Bible give to this process? What does it mean to clear a space and build a structure in our lives where we can meet with Him and grow in our relationship with Him? and, What help is offered for this process by the Jewish tradition, which is community across time.

How did people encounter God in the Bible and grow in their relationship with Him? Among the practices we discover are the followiing:

•Public worship
•Regular Prayer
•Situational Prayer
•Reading Scripture, Study
•In- breaking visions, intuitive ways of learning
•Following the tradition
•The counsel and prayer of trusted elders
•Learning from the experience and counsel of one's forbears
•Intensification practices - such as fasting

What does it mean to clear a space and build a structure in our lives where we can meet with Him and grow in our relationship with Him?

1. It means recognizing that there is a need to do so
2. It means recognizing that this will take effort and sacrifice.
3. It means taking steps to insure sustaining the effort--often through enlisting the aid of others.
4. It is helpful to have a blueprint.
5. It means choosing the right materials and an approach that will achieve the desired ends
6. It means taking steps to make sure that one is not being deluded--there is need for linking with community and with tradition.

What help is offered for this process by the Jewish tradition, which is community across time?

In his excellent book, "On Being A Jew" [Baltimore:Johns Hopkins Press, 1990], James Kugel reminds us "The cliché about Judaism is still true: it is not so much a religion as a way of life. And the way to ‘walk through the door’ is to begin to adopt that way of life, to keep the Sabbath and our festivals and say the fixed prayers every day, to observe our laws of pure food and of proper behavior, and in all ways to try and act like a Jew" [32 ff].

This quotation again underscores the learning by doing aspect of Jewish spirituality as contrasted to the "learn first and then maybe do" model prevalent in American culture.

For Kugel, and for Judaism, the way we build our mishkan is by employing the blueprint of practices provided in the Jewish tradition--community across time. Seeing Jewish life as a "blueprint" is an apt metaphor. Imagine passing a beautiful home in Beverly Hills, and deciding, "I'm going to build me one of those!" You then invest the money, get the site and start building. Of course you cannot build such a home from the outward appearance! You must have the blueprint or you will never get the results you admire. Similarly, we need a blueprint for our Mishkan--and Jewish tradition provides that blueprint. And there is perhaps nothing in life more specific than a blueprint: everything is specified and measured to the "nth" degree.

Kugel points out how we will learn the satisfactions of this kind of Mishkan building only by doing so just as children are brought into Jewish life through patterned practices, before they have any explanations offered them. "Long before they can properly understand, in fact, almost before they can talk, they are taught the difference between the Sabbath and the rest of the week, that certain things are done only in the one and not the other; and shortly after they speak their first words they begin to learn the words of blessing that we say before eating this or that kind of food or washing our hands before a meal. The understanding of God, if any, that may accompany these acts is, of course perfectly childish, but what does that matter? Because a place for understanding is opened up inside the children by their first doing these things, and that place will be filled with greater and greater insight as they go on" [32]. This accords precisely with the insights of Robert Wuthnow in "Faith of our Fathers." Wuthnow, America's premier sociologist of religion, demonstrates that spiritual identity is formed in children and transmitted inter-generationally through a pattern of ingrained practices, rather than through formal education and catechizing. The formal education and catechizing assures the children that, should they need explanations, these explanations are available when needed. It reminds us too, that our understanding will grow only as we build and inhabit our Mishkan of Jewish practice. It as we first do that we come to understand.

In last week's Torah reading, when G-d called our people into the Jewish way of life, their response was "na’ase v’nishmah" " we will do and we will understand" connoting, "let us do and let us [then] understand." Kugel reminds us "And this is true whether one is a child or an adult. . . One must begin by doing" [33].

You cannot build and inhabit this kind of Mishkan simply by attending shabbat services. Kugel rightly points out the "dailyness" of Jewish life, the sanctification of the mundane and the habitual [35-36ff]. The everyday, life-permeating ritual responsibilities and responses of the Jew living in community, at home, at business, in daily life, all of these become occasions for growing in awareness of God and for honoring him in the details of life. Remember: a relationship with God grows in the details, not in generalities.

Kugel reminds us. "It is not so much a matter of time: The time is there to be taken. But this way of living consists not only of those minutes of the day or week that are specifically given over to one duty or another, but also of the rest of the time, which is changed because of them" [36]. For example, when we make Jewish prayer part of our daily routine, the time between the prayer times is also transformed. All of life is transformed, just as the holiness of the Mishkan in the midst of the encampment of Israel radiated out to the entire encampment and indeed the entire land. Someday the Mishkan of God in the midst of His people will be so great, that all the world will be made holy by His radiating presence.

Building this kind of Mishkan is of course a metaphor for the need to adopt and adapt the biblically grounded Jewish blueprint/way of life as a means of creating a meeting place with God—as a means of creating the possibility of encountering God in new ways [36-27ff]. Kugel says ". . . this is the most basic principle of our way, to open up such a space in our lives and in our hearts. Then such a space will have the capacity to radiate outward. So the holiness of the mishkan radiated out to fill the whole camp of the Israelites during their wanderings, and the camp itself became changed as a result. And it was quite proper that the people be the ones to build God’s dwelling, because this is the way it always must be: the people create the space and then God can fill it.. . . . It is . . . very much a structure, a pattern of actions, that keeps open the heart in some fashion" [36-37].

Finally, Kugel reminds us "The space is made by human beings and can me made quickly or slowly. But when G-d fills the space it is always quick and never gradual" [38].

On a corporate and individual level, Messianic Judaism needs to build and inhabit a Jewish Mishkan, along the blueprint furnished by our holy texts and holy tradition. It is true that we we will modify the blueprint somewhat in keeping with the insights and experiences we share as those who know the face of the High Priest, people who honor Yeshua our Messiah . But by all means, may we build the space and meet the Holy One there. "Hashivenu Adonai elecha, v'nashuvah. Chadesh yamenu k'kedem--Turn us back to you Hashem, and we shall return: renew our days as of old."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A Jewish View of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and The Divestment Controversy

(I was recently invited to address a group of Presbyterians in various stages of immersion in the clerical world of the PC(USA). I was asked to give a Jewish community perspective on the recent discussion and decisions in the PC(USA) concerning divestment from those firms doing business with Israel which the PC(USA) deem to contribute to what they term the Israeli "occupation" of the West Bank. I was encouraged to be frank, and I was. What follows is approximately 20 percent of my presentation, which was presented holographically. This means I first stated my position in one sentence, then in paragraph, then in one page, then in a ten minute treatment, then in a 20 minute treatment. What follows is the one page version.)

Most Jews are not surprised that the Presbyterian divestment discussion and decisions identify the PCUSA as anti-Semitic, biblically twisted, and morally selective because it fails the Sharansky test. This test, developed my Natan Sharansky, specifies three criteria of contemporary political anti-Semitism: the application of double standards to Israel, the demonization of Israel, and the delegimization of Israel.

We are not surprised, because this is what we have come to expect from Christendom in general, which deems itself the new Israel, therefore leaving the Jewish people at best vestigial as far as being the chosen people of God. This is the tradition of supersessionism, the transfer of chosenness status to the church, which has superseded Israel in this status. This theology is also called by some "Replacement Theology," because the church has replaced Israel.

My PhD research demonstrated that this position pervades Christian theologizing except for those theological camps stigmatized by the "enlightened" theological establishment. Thus, anyone holding for a continuing theological status for the Jewish people and for the Jewish state is labeled "a Christian Zionist" or a "dispensationalist," words which at Fuller Seminary and in the PC(USA) means to be a "theological hayseed," "red-neck fundamentalist" and "biblical idiot."

This smacks of what UC Berkeley linguist George Lakoff, in his best seller "Don't Think of an Elephant" calls "framing." "Framing" pertains to the conceptual field of the language we use. Lakoff says ""You can't see or hear frames. they are part of what cognitive scientists call the 'cognitive unconscious'--structures in our brains that we cannot consciously access, but know by their consequences; the way we reason and what counts as common sense. We also know frames through language. All words are defined relative to conceptual frames. When you hear a word, its frame (or collection of frames) is activated in your brain" [2004:xv].

Lakoff, a Progressive Democrat, discusses framing as the reason Republicans have been winning elections, and the Democrats losing. The Republicans have set the stage of the debate through the language they use, and language almost predetermines results. For example, when taxation is discussed under the rubric "tax relief," even before debate is begun, tax is assumed to be a burden, those who cut taxes are rescuers from that burden, and those who seek to increase taxes are oppressors.

Similarly, the PC(USA) has skillfully stigmatized the theological legitimacy of Israel in their own circles through labeling adherents of such a position as "Christian Zionists," ["Zionists" being a ""bad word" due to its being stigmatized in the UN as a form of racism, and due to the political milieu of Left-leaning Presbyterians], and "dispensationists" is likewise a stigmatized term, explicitly associated in PC(USA) documents with such caricatures as John Hagee and the authors of the "Left Behind" series of books. What sophisticated Presbyterian would want to be identified with such people? Thus, the entire discussion is foreclosed through how the position of those who theologically favor the State of Israel is framed. Skillful, and, in my view, by no means accidental.

The presumption of Israel's replacement by the Church is as subtle as it is pervasive. So it is that the respected Reverend _________, of the likewise Fuller-respected _______Presbyterian Church in _________, California, writing of the divestment controversy, performs theological sleight-of hand which makes the Jewish people disappear as the people of God, thus delegitmizing the Jewish state. In a sermon delivered July 25, 2004, he quotes Rev. _________, of ________ Presbyterian Church, whose words precisely mirror his own sentiments. Watch carefully as the Jewish people disappear as the Israel of God, and notice who becomes Israel instead!

"I for one, will never back off on my support for Israel's right to exist peacefully. I oppose terrorism, whatever the source. Israel has a right to protect itself. But it also has a higher calling to do justice in the way the prophets of the Old Testament proclaimed. The State of Israel is unbelieving Israel. Only a small percentage of the population has any religious orientation. True Israel, in the Old Testament, was never seen as a racial, blood identity. Israel is a spiritual identity fulfilled in the new Israel, made up of believing Jews and Gentiles, who have bowed the knee to Jesus the Christ. Members of the body of Christ are our Arab brothers and sisters who we cannot forsake, nor can we tolerate their oppression."

It is stunning what he does, and for Jews like me, absolutely chilling. The state of Israel is labeled as "unbelieving Israel," and dismissed as being without theological standing or significance. Then he substitutes "the new Israel" made up of [Jesus] believing Jews and Gentiles. Therefore, only Jews who believe in Christ are part of Israel. Then, having pushed the descendants of Jacob off-stage as the people of God, he moves the sons of Ishmael into their place: Members of the body of Christ are "our Arab brothers and sisters who we cannot forsake, nor can we tolerate their oppression". So, Arabs are Israel and Jews are not. Stunning!!

Israel is delegitimized theologically, demonized as unbelievers, and subjected to a double-standard for its failure to do justice in the way the prophets of the Old Testament proclaimed. Somehow, Israel's use of violence and restrictive measures marks them out for special opprobrium. Somehow, the non-stop violence from the Palestinian side, most of it directed at civilians, creating myriads of orphans, widows, and parents bereaved of their children, is "understandable under the circumstances," receives no chiding, escaping the prophets' and PC(USA)'s censure. But not so Israel. Is this not a double standard, and is Israel not being demonized and delegitimized here?

So we see these Presbyterian icons failing the Sharansky test. So does the PCUSA.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Antioch-Jerusalem Continuum

One can postulate that in the First Century New Covenant context, there were a variety of congregations distributed across a continuum from the Jerusalem Congregation [strongly or even monolitihically Jewish, strongly oriented to Jewish life and Torah] to Antioch [cosmopolitan, demographically and stylisstically diverse]. Congregations in our day will similarly be varied and distributed across a continuum.

Let's talk about this.

The Antioch congregation was appropriate to its context, a cosmopolitan area, predominantly non-Jewish. Although connected by fraternal bonds to the Jerusalem center, it became a center of its own, and "the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch."

I know of a congregation that meets on Sunday morning, recites the Barchu and the Shema, lights some candles, and even has Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. They would have no trouble being called a Church, although they call themselves a Hebrew-Christian Fellowship. And that is really what they are--a Jewish style church. They would not call themselves a synagogue. And of course, it is more than a matter of what day of the week they meet. More deeply, their ethos is of being a Jewish-style church, preserving some nostalgic tie with Jewish identity but no real tie with Jewish life and the wider Jewish community. They meet on Sunday because, as their leader has told me, the people would view a change to Saturday as too inconvenient and the elders would not stand for it. So, although there are nice people in this group, and not a few Jews, their unresponsiveness to Jewish norms, and their at the very best token connection to things Jewish renders them, in my opinion, unsuited for a group like the UMJC even if they changed their meeting day to shabbat.

As another example, their Torah, used only for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs is no Torah at all. It is a prop: the scroll does not have Scripture in it but is made up of scratch pad scraps perhaps from a sofer's shop--but believe me, I am not exaggerating: you will not find B'reishit, Shemot, Vayikra, Bamidbar or Devarim in that "Torah." To the outsider it looks like a Torah. But it is prop. And so is Jewish identity and the candles, Barchu and Shema as used in this group--it is a prop used to give a veneer of Jewishness to something which is not livingly connected with the Jewish historical stream or anything rightly called Judaism.

Back to the Antioch-Jerusalem Continuum. I celebrate churches, and consider the diverstity of the Christian churches in the world to be a blessing and to the glory of God. Such varied expressions would be found at the left-side, the Antioch side of the Antioch-Jerusalem continuum. And even when there are Jews present in such churches, as in Jack Hayford's Church on the Way here in the LA area, where there are very many Jews, this Jewish presence does not convert these churches into synagogues or congregations in our sense of the term. The ethos, the response to Jewish norms is of course not there, even though these people are my brothers and sisters in Messiah. So a substantial Jewish demographic presence does not therefore equal a Messianic Congregation or an expression of Messianic Judaism. Even a Torah can be a prop for something which is not Messianic Judaism rightly so-called. I am sure I am not alone in seeing this Hebrew Christian fellowship as a church and not a synagogue.

It is more than a matter of demographics. The congregations I have mentioned here have more Jews than many congregatioins in our Union. Neither is it a matter of "orthopraxy," which I find to be a misleading term. No, the divergence goes deeper than practice and demographics. The difference is one of fundamental orientation toward the Jewish people and toward Jewish life.

As I said in my definition, there are in the world congregations sprinkled across the spectrum from Antioch to Jerusalem. Each would see its primary point of reference to be either Antioch or Jerusalem--rooted in and oriented to the Church universal [Antioch] as a primary point of reference, or rooted in and oriented to the Jewish people [Jerusalem] as a primary point of reference. The Pastor of this Hebrew Christian fellowhship, a nice guy and a Jew, has real problems with me in this area, and saw fit to warn someone about me because of this issue--he views our rootedness in the Jewish people to be doctrinally deviant.

One of the questions that ought to be asked in our circles is which side of the continuum we orient toward, and in our expression, which affinity we really manifest.

And now, to a recent related experience.

Recently I taught a lesson on Parshat Terumah, which speaks of the building of the Mishkan [Tabernacle], and the haftarah speaks of the building of the Temple. The New Covenant reading from 1 Cor 3 spoke of the congregatiion being the Temple of the Spirit dwelling there, as He dwelt in the Tabernacle and Temple. As is my habit I distributed copies of my notes to the congregation.

Someone in my congregation, I am not sure who, but a person with evangelical anxieties, wrote on her notes, "Stuart: you teach as if we don't need Jesus." I have known such people. What they long for is a teaching which says [1] Judaism will never get you to heaven, nor even into a real relationship with God; [2] But Yeshua will; [3] Therefore, accept Yeshua and you will both go to heaven and know God; [4] Then simply read the Bible and pray, and of course [5] avoid gross sin, [6] confess your sins when you do sin, and [7] attend services regularly, [8] and witness of your faith to others and [9] even give what you can. What such persons have trouble seeing and accepting is that I don't base my teaching on the inadequacy of Judaism but on the sufficiency of Messiah, who I see to be the unacknowledged Messianic King of the Jews. I also see Judaism as a way of life as something holy, and a fit Mishkan for the Triune God to dwell in and for us to meet Him there. This person doesn't really get that: she would feel less anxious if I adapted the patterns and categories of Baptistic evangelicalized piety.

Also present at the service, I discovered later, was the mother of a Messianic Jewish lady. This mother is surely in her late sixties if not a little older. This lady clearly, [1] knows what we believe, and has heard about Yeshua from her grown daughter for twenty years or more; [2] She heard us read from the New Covenant, and heard me mention Yeshua in the Alenu, etc. We did not hide our light under a bushel; [3] She loved the service and the sermon and, despite the fact she is normally a very outspoken person, had no complaints.

I consider her comfort with our service a wonderful confirmation of my practical philosophy. I believe we should be forming congregations where Jewish people will feel comfortable and interested, in all stages of considering Messiah. It is as they come to our services, and become involved in our communities, that they will through a process of time, come to embrace Yeshua as Messiah [I immersed people just like that not long ago, who had been involved as active workers in my congregation for a couple of years]. I don't live to satisfy the anxieties of evangelicalized Jews who need certain buzz words and negating perspectives about Judaism in order to feel we are on the right track. I also don't live to make sure my non-Jewish members always feel comfortable. Those that we allow to bond with us know we exist for the sake of the Jewish community, and are wonderful people prepared to make sacrifices for Zion's sake.

In my not so humble opinion, it is possible to pay lip service to outreach to the Jewish community, but in reality, to form and conduct our congregations so as to please and not upset people who are already believers in Yeshua. It is not a question of trying to "win the approval of the Jewish community" in some fawning manner, as some people mischaracterize my approach. For me, it is a question of which side of the continuum we are oriented to, Jerusalem or Antioch, it is about how serious we are about Jewish norms and Jewish life, it is a question of whether the Jewish people are presently our people, and also a question of whether we are serious about our remnant responsibility to them.