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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

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Walking Alongside Oneself Versus Walking With God

I seem to remember that in the context of his marvelous novel Perelandra, C. S. Lewis opines that one of the consequences of the Fall is that man began to walk beside himself. As I recall, what this means is that humanity, instead of living within its proper identity and calling began to be divided so that we became not only acting, obeying, worshiping subjects, but became objects of our own scrutiny and of our own cyncism.

We can certainly see this in the account of the Fall. Adam and Eve, representing us all, having stepped out of the identities given them by God, become self-aware in a manner which at best would be termed "tarnished" " "The the eyes of both of them were opened,, and they know that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves tsogether and made themselves coverings" ['Gn 3:7]. What an extraordinary and profound text! It is not just that Adam and Eve experienced a decline in their self-concept. It is this move outside of oneself, this creation both of an alternative identity [as did they both when they stepped outside of their trust-identity with God and began to consider the "merits" of the Serpent's propostion], and also the alternative identity of self-scrutinizer. In their pristine, pre-Fall state, identity was discrete and unitary. Life was filled with joy, focus, purpose and fellowship on both the vertical and horizontal levels. But after the Fall, all of this was irretrievably disrupted and ruined.

This extraordinary insight has everything to do with how we pursue or fail to pursue our own spiritual lives. Let me speak, for example, of davvening, that blessed discipline which I find so nourishing and central to my own spirituality,

When I davven, I experience a sense of holy interpenetration. As I exercise kavvanah [focus and intentionality in the prayer process], I penetrate the text and the text penetrates me. The concepts, the categories, the spirit of the text become my concepts, categories, and illumine my spirit. It is glorious and intoxicating. It is intensely, repeatedly, and ever-creatively and freshly formational. But here is where or discussion of the Fall cum Lewish comes in. As I pray, I ever have the capacity to step outside of myself, to walk alongside myself, and to cynically stand in judgment concerning the "silliness" and "time wasting" quality of what I am doing. I dare to believe that this kind of cynical self-debunking is something of an echo of the Serpent's mentality in the Garden: "Yea, hath God said?." There is this abandonment of holy focus, this cynical relinquishing of one's chosen holy positioning as a servant intent upon hearing and obeying the Holy One and a Holy Tradition. And my experience demonstrates that such cynical self-scrutiny is insatiable. There is not holy posture, no act of obedience, no accepted mantle of discipline and holy obedience, which is subject to being ripped to shreds and defiled by this walking alongside cynical persona. We never lose the capacity to debunk our own chosen paths.

In this age of post-modernity, it will not do to try and prop up our commitments with evidentiary arguments. This will neither work nor satiisfy. What then shall we do?? Shall we simply succumb to our own cynical deflowering of all that is holy, pristine, and idealistic? Or is there some defense we can effectively and consistently muster against this breaching of our walls?

I suggest there is such a defense. It is the defense of knowing and determined choice. I believe the defense is one of faith, of choosing that way which one has come to believe is pure and good, preferring to follow that way to the end, even if, in the end, that way proves to have been illusory. For me this means continuing the pathway of Messianic Jewish faith and Jewish covenant faithfulness as we have received it through our holy tradition. It means cleaving to that which I have come to regard as holy, pure and right. One thing is sure, at least to me. The path of repeated and endless cynical debunking dwells within and spreads the darkness. There is no light and no life there, only a dry and hollow laugh.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Sufferings First, and Glories to Follow - A Messianic Jewish Resurrection Day Sermon

We begin with a portion of the Torah reading for Shabbat Tzav, today's reading:

"1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 Command Aaron and his sons thus:

This is the ritual of the burnt offering: The burnt offering itself shall remain where it is burned upon the altar all night until morning, while the fire on the altar is kept going on it. 3 The priest shall dress in linen raiment, with linen breeches next to his body; and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire has reduced the burnt offering on the altar and place them beside the altar. 4 He shall then take off his vestments and put on other vestments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. 5 The fire on the altar shall be kept burning, not to go out: every morning the priest shall feed wood to it, lay out the burnt offering on it, and turn into smoke the fat parts of the offerings of well-being. 6 A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, not to go out" [Vayikra/Leviticus 6:1-6].

Chayim ben Attar, an 18th century Moroccan, comments upon an anomaly at the beginning of this text. His observation is especially important for us today because it has everything to do with the subject of resurrection, which is what we always preach about here on the shabbat closest to Resurrection Day.

He notes that rather than beginning the discussion of the burnt offering with a description of how the offering is to be prepared, the text instead begins with a description of the disposal of the ashes from the night before—and all of this before even discussing how that offering may have been brought. Why begin by describing disposal of ashes from an earlier undescribed offering? Rabbi Elazar Muskin points out that Rabbi ben Attar "argued that it depicted Jewish history in which suffering seems to dominate, but in the end victory will reign. . . . Jewish history is not only fire and ashes; it is the promise of a glorious destiny." ["After the Ashes" in The Jewish Journal, March 25, 2005, page 40].

This insight is crucial not only to our understanding of Jewish history, but also to our appreciation of the story of Yeshua and the meaning of his resurrection, and ultimately important to an understanding of Israel's story and the pattern of all of history and our very own lives.

It is now and has always been, sufferings first, and glories to follow.

For example, over and over again, Messiah spoke to his disciples of how he must first suffer and die and afterward be raised on the third day. Always, it was suffering first, glory later. In Mark’s gospel, Peter speaks for all the disciples when he responds to Yeshua’s question, "Who do you say that I am?" by saying, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God." The text goes on to say, "And he began to teach them all that the Messiah must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and after three days rise again" [Mk. 8:31]. Peter speaks of this in his first letter, saying the prophets spoke the same way. . .sufferings first, glories later. He says this: "Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Messiah in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Messiah and the glories that would follow" [1 Peter 1:11-12]. On the road to Emmaus, when Messiah made one of his earliest appearances after his resurrection, he struck the same note: "He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" [Lk. 24:25-26].

Sufferings first, and glories to follow.

In his recent Jewish Journal article on today’s Torah passage, Rabbi Muskin tells a story illustrating how this of sufferings first, glories to follow, is demonstrated in the experience of Israel and in our individual lives as well:

"On a rabbinic mission to Israel in 1998, Natan Sharansky, then Israel’s minister of industry and trade, addressed our group.

"Sharansky recounted to us how he was invited to visit Russia a year after his election to the Knesset. It was the first time in history that a past prisoner of the Russian government returned as a leader in the free world. Sharansky told of other unique aspects of his trip.

'I was the first state guest who insisted not on going to the Russian Ballet," he said. "But rather I wanted to visit the former KGB prison where I was incarcerated.'

"The Russians were baffled by this unusual request. It actually took a good deal of time for Moscow to agree, and the trip was delayed until consent was granted. The Russians meticulously prepared for the visit.

"Sharansky said, 'It was so clean that it almost looked like the Ballet Theater. Of course they cleaned it up in my honor, and I thanked them for their kindness.'

"As Sharansky and his wife, Avital, toured the prison, he asked his hosts, 'Please show me the punishment cell.'

"The officials didn’t know what to do. They were not prepared for this request, and obviously it wasn’t on the official itinerary. Furthermore, they wanted to deny that there was such a room.

"'They showed me a regular cell and said it was the punishment cell,' he said. 'I told them that if there is one thing they cannot deceive me about, it is Russian prisons.'

"'So they finally consented and showed me a punishment cell that was empty. I then asked to be left alone with my wife for 15 minutes.'"

"When the Sharanskys reappeared, the journalists asked why he insisted on such a visit. They wanted to know if this was an act of masochism.

"‘On the contrary, it was the most inspiring moment of my life,’" Sharansky responded. "‘When I was a prisoner of the Soviet Union, my jailers tortured and taunted me and told me that world Jewry had betrayed me and that I would never leave the prison alive.’

"'Today, the KGB does not exist, the Soviet Union does not exist, and 1 million Jews have left the punishment cell called the Soviet Union. This is what I went back to see. This is what I am thankful for.'"

For a long time people have debated if Isaiah 53, which talks about the Suffering Servant of the LORD, is speaking of the sufferings of Israel or of the Messiah. The answer is "Yes." The answer is of course, "both." Israel suffers as the servant nation, and Messiah suffers as the epitome of Israel. Yeshua is the one man Israel. And the pattern of his life is and will continue to be the pattern of Israel’s life until He comes again: sufferings first, and glories to follow. The pattern that Natan Sharansky noted, of his own sufferings and eventual exaltation to a position of rulership, the pattern that he noted of the sufferings of Russia's Jews with their eventual liberation, while their enemies were judged and dismantled, all of this is part of the pattern of Messiah’s life, of Israel’s life, the pattern woven into the warp and woof of creation.

One of my good friends, Tony Perone, is visiting here here today. He is a successful businessman, the newly and happily retired owner of a printing concern. The operations of his company are now in the hands of his children and sons in law. You can be sure that when he instructed his children in how life works, and how business works, he told them, "First you do the hard work, first you suffer, you bleed a little or maybe a lot: only afterwards come the rewards." Sufferings first, glories to follow. As Proverbs puts it, "Prepare your outside work. Make it fit for yourself in the field: and afterward build your house" [Proverbs 24:27]. Sufferings first, glories to follow.

Paul the Apostle spoke as well of how this pattern is replicated in our individual lives and beyond. He said: "18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently" [Romans 8:18-23].

The story of Purim which we celebrate at this time of year, speaks as well of this divine pattern of God’s dealings in history: sufferings first, glories later. The Jews in Persia suffered under the edicts of hateful Haman, and Mordecai, who was to become the deliverer of Israel suffered many things. . .but afterward he was led through Shushan in triumph, exalted to a position of rulership, with the Jewish people delivered and their enemies vanquished. This is very much the pattern of God’s dealings: sufferings first, glories later. And Mordecai is therefore something of a foreshadowing of our Messiah: a faithful lover of his God and of his people, who suffers first, is later exalted, and is the means through whom Israel’s enemies are vanquished, and Israel itself is liberated and exalted.

But meanwhile, as Paul says, like the creation itself, and like all of God’s children, Israel groans and waits.

In today’s New Covenant reading we read about the connection between the sufferings of Messiah and the destiny of Israel.

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, "Look at us." 5 And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, "I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. 11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's, astounded. [The lame man experienced the same pattern: sufferings first, glories to follow].

12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people, "Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name, by faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. [Messiah experienced the same pattern: sufferings first, glories that followed].

17 "And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old."

Peter is not focusing here upon the pattern of individual lives, upon the need for individual repentance, although of course that pattern is true. He is speaking in the prophetic mode to Israel as a people. What he is focusing on is God’s plan for Israel—that the sufferings of Messiah and his glorification are meant to lead to Israel’s repentance, their turning as a nation back to God in covenanat faithfulness through this same Messiah, and that this would lead to two things. First, "that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord," that Israel as a whole might experience what some call Millennial blessedness, a time of national vindication and divine renewal, and second, "that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old" that is, that the glories that God has planned for all humanity and for all creation might be consummated. This is what Paul referred to when he said " 21 . . . the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time" [Romans 8:21-22].

So what’s the point of all this? The sufferings and resurrection to glory of Messiah are good news on many fronts and in many ways.

[1] We are most apt to focus on the meaning of his resurrection for us as individuals, that through his death and resurrection we receive forgiveness of sins, and the hope of our own resurrection: "Because I live, you will live also." This of course means that those who have "fallen asleep in Messiah" will be raised. As the second benediction of our Amidah says, God "keeps faith with those who sleep in the dust." The Resurrection is the downpayment on that consummation. Of course, this is true. But it is far too limited a view of the resurrection.

[2] There is also a meaning for us in all of life. The death and resurrection of Messiah is a message of hope because it reminds us that suffering itself is not simply tragedy. Woven into the warp and woof of all creation is this pattern, "sufferings first, glories to follow." If you are suffering, or know others who are suffering, this too is a message of hope.

[3] There is message of hope here as well for God’s people Israel. Since the Messiah is the one man Israel, what was true of him will be true for Israel as a whole: sufferings first, glories later. The Resurrection of Messiah is not only the vindication of His own claims, and a vindication of sinners who can now rest assured that their sins have been carried away through the cross and open tomb. The resurrection of Messiah is a vindication of Israel’s hope: that through this same Messiah, Israel itself will one day enter into the glories that have been prophesied of her, through this suffering, risen, and vindicated Messiah.

[4] And there is a meaning too for all of the cosmos. The entire cosmos yet awaits. . .and groans while doing so. . .for the revelation of the glorified children of God. Then the cosmos itself will experience its Divine consummation. The resurrection is proof positive that this consummation is coming.

At the end of Rabbi Muskin’s article on our Torah reading he says something that deeply describes the mission of Ahavat Zion and of Messianic Judaism as we understand it. He says this: "Jewish history is not only fire and ashes. It is the promise of a glorious destiny. Our job is to make that destiny happen sooner rather than later." The way we at Ahavat Zion can do that is to live in faithfulness to the God of Israel and to work and pray toward that day when all of our people shall look upon Him who was pierced and mourn for him as one mourns for an only son. May the day come quickly, when, in the power of the Spirit and to the honor of Yeshua, there is a messianic movement that lives in covenant faithfulness to the God of Israel. May we so live and so speak before the God of Israel as to be worthy of the confidence of our people, living, working, praying toward that day when these words of Peter are fufilled: " Repent therefore, and turn again [toward Messiah] that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord."

May it come soon and in our days.

Friday, March 04, 2005

A Letter About Charismatic Influx and Divine Order

(What follows is the major part of a letter I wrote recently in response to an inquiry from a friend in Messianic Jewish leadership. It was an e-mail, so don't expect this letter to be a meticulously crafted tome. Still, it outlines some of my concerns and points of balance in these matters).

First of all, don't you agree that we ought to draw a distinction between the moving of the Spirit/the power of the Spirit and our sensations ? Was this not in part the lesson of Elijah's experience in the cave [on Horeb]? That God was not in the earthquake, in the the fire, in the wind, but in the sound of a gentle blowing. . .in the still small voice? Elijah was discouraged, and perhaps because of the powerful manifestations he had known [as on Carmel], had become addicted to and needful of "fireworks." He was discouraged because of the disarray and threat around him, and God reminded him in at Horeb that He was still at work, but in a quiet, counter-intuitively subdued but irresistable manner.

So with us. Let me explain further.

I remember the last time I was at a Glorieta, New Mexico UMJC Conference. I had spoken, and a young woman came to me asking for prayer. I laid hands on her, and in dependence upon the guidance of the Spirit, prayed for her. After she got up [she had been kneeling], flushed and perspiring, sensing that the Lord had been present with her in the time of prayer, she said to me "Did you feel the heat?" The answer was "No, I felt nothing." It is always like this when I pray for others, and perhaps so for many others as well. [It is true as well that] I sometimes sense the Spirit's moving as a sort of gentle gladness. I sometimes have what I term "visual words of knowledge," where there is an image implanted in my being that is both unobtrusive and persistent, like discovering a white package in the middle of one's living room. It is only upon noticing the package and inquiring about it, unwrapping it, so to speak, that its meaning becomes apparent--so it is with visionary means. . . But in each case, the Presence is real, the effects profound, but the style subdued.

And that is the crux of the matter which you allude to: we tend to confuse style with substance, and this is always an error.

Years ago two women from my congregation were chatting in the kitchen of my synagogue. Woman A said to Woman B, "You really ought to start coming more often to Ahavat ZIon. The Spirit is really at work here." Woman B, responded, "I'm glad to hear that. There used to be a lot more hands in the air than there are now." Woman B was naively equating the Divine Presence with hands in the air. This is a BIG error. My response to that is Nazi Germany. There were lots of hands in the air there, but this said NOTHING about the Presence of the Spirit.

Pneumatologically I am something of a Third Waver--I first entered into conscious sensitivity to what might be termed the operational immanence of the Divine Presence as a paradigm shift in thinking and in expectation--to take as a given that the Holy One is present, and to learn to count on His presence and seek to be both attentive to and reliant upon His presence. This is what I term "the immanence of the transcendent God." However, in keeping with Paul's admonitions in 1 Corinthians, chapter 14 for example, it is clear to me that we must not indulge in manners of manifestation which will make us appear crazy to the unitiated or "unbelievers." This is Paul's word to the Corinthians about their collective public speaking in tongues. . ."If you're all acting this way, and the unitiated or unbelievers come in, won't they think you are mad?" It is also crucial to remember that "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets," meaning that except in the rarest of occasions when the Spirit's manifest Presence is so overwhelming that EVERYONE knows it, no one should be allowed to say, "I couldn't help myself--the Spirit was on me/led me/made me speak." Paul says that is not true. . .and so must we.

So. . .I think, following Scripture here, we must not equate God's power and presence with flashy manifestations [earthquake, wind, fire], we must realize that He *normally* works gently [John 3 says this too, about the coming and going of the Spirit], and we must learn to not be addicted to mannerisms as if they are inseperable from the reality of the Spirit. As communities, I believe we must continue learning to not be self-indulgent but to always have in mind those whom Paul terms "the uninitiated and unbelievers."

For the past year or more I have been experimenting with a once monthly service called an Emmanuel Service, which is especially geared toward cultivating among those present an awareness and responsiveness to the Divine Presence. I have another of these services tonite. We are learning to become aware of that gentle blowing, that still small voice, real, powerful, present, but neither culturally derivative nor behaviorly bizarre.

As for your brilliant word about the charismatic tendency to wrongly equate spontaneity with the Divine Presence, I could not agree with you more. I sometimes teach from 2 Chronicles 5 on this matter. Notice how scripted and liturgical was this event, and notice how extraordinary was the Divine visitation! The same was true of the dedication of the priests and of the altar of the Tabernacle when the fire fell, the same was true when the angel visited Zechariah when he was burning incense as had fallen him by lot, operating in a very scripted and liturgical manner, every step conscious and learned, the same was true for Cornelius when he was praying at 3:00 PM [mincha prayers] and the angel visited him, and for Peter on the housetop. In all of these cases and more in Scripture, it is in the midst of customary and ritualized faithfulness that the Divine Presence comes. Contrary to the postmodern expectations of charismatics and Third Wavers, the coming of the Spirit is not invariably a spontaneous inbreaking, but rather a visitation amidst customary and ritualized faithfulness. Indeed, the same was so on the Day of Pentecost. Is it not clear that the apostles and company, gathered in the upper room, among other things, must have been thinking and praying about Shavuot?

It is not structure that is stultifying so much as cultural discomfort, sometimes prejudice, and the learning curve. The more we learn to make the words of the liturgy our own, the more we enter into them and they into us, the more delights we find in the process. But we ought to realize that God is there and God is glorified in such service even when "I am not getting anything out of it." As I tell my people, the big question about a service is this: "Who is getting served?" Would it not be helpful to remember that the service is our priestly service to GOD in solidarity with our people throughout time! And would you not agree that it is when we fall to feeling or expecting or even demanding that the service ought to rather "meet my needs" that the doorway to dissatifaction is most widely opened?

This is a paradigm shift for all of us. But it bears consideration. In a service, who is being served? And what is our priestly duty as a Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation? Should we not give ourselves to learning the script, or must every service be improvisational theater?

More later. You are a blessing to all of us.