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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

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself off, and Start All Over Again

(This sermon on the Haftarah from Parashat Shoftim was presented August 26, 2006, at Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue, Beverly Hills, CA)

What is God’s diagnosis and what is his prescription when His people are in the doldrums, especially a congregation of His people? Today’s Haftarah provides an interesting diagnosis and prescription for this ailment.

12 I, I am He who comforts you!
What ails you that you fear
Man who must die,
Mortals who fare like grass?
13 You have forgotten the Lord your Maker,
stretched out the skies and made firm the earth!
And you live all day in constant dread
Because of the rage of an oppressor
Who is aiming to cut [you] down.
Yet of what account is the rage of an oppressor? (Isa 51:12-13)

His diagnosis is that we are controlled by things that ought not to dominate our concerns. And the root of this problem is forgetfulness. Like a doctor interviewing a patent and doing a case study, Hashem asks us, “Have we forgotten who He is, what He has done, what He can do? Our sense of obstacles, of ennui, of being too busy, too sinful, too tired, too unavailable for participation in the life of God’s people is a sign of forgetfulness of who He is and what life with Him is all about . . .if we ever knew at all.

The Prophet, speaking for Hashem, goes on to offer His diagnosis of a second kind of forgetfulness.

14 Quickly the crouching one is freed;
He is not cut down and slain,
And he shall not want for food.
15 For I the Lord your God —
Who stir up the sea into roaring waves,
Whose name is Lord of Hosts —
16 Have put My words in your mouth
And sheltered you with My hand;
I, who planted the skies and made firm the earth,
Have said to Zion: You are My people!

The Holy One, the Great Physician, asks us this: Have we have forgotten who God has made us to be as a congregation of God’s people, and what we are supposed to do? In this text, he told his people Israel that he had put His words in our mouth, sheltered us with His hand, and said to Zion, “You are my people.” Should we not take these words seriously ourselves—should we not grasp hold of our Divinely given destiny and mission as Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue? Or have we simply forgotten?

We turn now from the diagnosis to the prescription. What does Hashem tell us we must do to amend our ways, to pull out of the ennui, the disengagement, the victim mentality that tends to afflict us?

17 Rouse, rouse yourself!
Arise, O Jerusalem,
You who from the Lord's hand
Have drunk the cup of His wrath,
You who have drained to the dregs
The bowl, the cup of reeling!

Even if you feel you have blown it with God in the past, you should, and we should as a congregation, rouse ourselves from our lethargy—and notice, this is NOT something God can do for us. This is not something to wait upon from God—God says to us, “Rouse yourselves, Arise!” It is OUR responsibility. And if we don’t, then we will simply continue to languish. In our congregation, and in any congregation, there will be people in various stages of spiritual illness—this spiritual lassitude—some slightly ill, some quite ill, some very ill and immobilized.

The Prophet goes on to name another symptom of this illness, this lassitude, this potentially deadly disease that can afflict a congregation of God’s people.

18 She has none to guide her
Of all the sons she bore;
None takes her by the hand,
Of all the sons she reared.
19 These two things have befallen you:
Wrack and ruin — who can console you?
Famine and sword — how shall I comfort you?
20 Your sons lie in a swoon
At the corner of every street —
Like an antelope caught in a net —
Drunk with the wrath of the Lord,
With the rebuke of your God.

That symptom is an unwillingness, an unavailability to be really engage in the life and calling of the Kingdom of God as expressed in the life our one’s congregation. It is a sign of serious congregational disease when none are available for leadership and for responsibility.

The health of our congregation, and of any congregation, will be directly proportionate to the percentage of us who step forward to take responsibility for congregational nurture, outreach and life.

To sum things up, the Prophet delivers final directives for us if we would recover and live in spiritual health.

52:1 Awake, awake, O Zion!
Clothe yourself in splendor;
Put on your robes of majesty,
Jerusalem, holy city!
For the uncircumcised and the unclean
Shall never enter you again.
Arise, shake off the dust,
Sit [on your throne], Jerusalem!
Loose the bonds from your neck,
O captive one, Fair Zion! (Isa 52:1-2)

We are to awaken ourselves, to shake off our negative, defeatist persona, and, as if donning a garmnet, “clothe ourselves in splendor, and put on our robes of majesty. We are to shake off the dust of our victim, captive mentality, and take our seat on our throne—adopting a regal persona appropriate to who we are as the people of the kind of God who has called us with a holy calling, who has put His words in our mouth, sheltered you with His hand; and said to us, “You are My people!”

And finally,

Turn, turn away, touch naught unclean
As you depart from there;
Keep pure, as you go forth from there,
You who bear the vessels of the Lord!
For you will not depart in haste,
Nor will you leave in flight;
For the Lord is marching before you,
The God of Israel is your rear guard (Isa 52:11-12)

If we would go forth into this kind of life, we must remain aware that God has called us to a holy calling—it is a mighty way of life, a life of Divine calling and divine companionship, but it requires of us ongoing disciplined commitment, and disengagement from the things that defile. As the Newer Covenant puts it, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God” (2 Cor 7:1).

Or, we can just settle for the life of forgetfulness and oppressiveness from which the Lord wants to deliver our community.

For additional confirmation of this perspective, see Colossians 3, which similarly speaks of putting off old garments and putting on new —shucking off an old, sinful, defeatist sense of self, and stepping into the new sense of self that Hashem has provided in Messiah [see also Rom 13:11-14, Eph 4:17-32, and 1 Peter 5:1-9]. In reading Colossians 3, and these other passages, pay special attention to the metaphors of taking off one persona and putting on another.

God has done so much for us. The only thing he will not do is what he calls us to do here—to rouse ourselves, to awaken ourselves, to step up to responsibility ourselves, and to ourselves embrace the life of purity appropriate to our high and holy calling.

At 8/29/2006 6:24 PM, Anonymous Chayamindle said...

"God has done so much for us. The only thing he will not do is what he calls us to do here—to rouse ourselves, to awaken ourselves, to step up to responsibility ourselves, and to ourselves embrace the life of purity appropriate to our high and holy calling."

Rabbi Stuart/

Please lend us your wisdom on how we how as Jewish Yeshua believers as well as our Gentile friends should respond communally and individually to the new J for J-Jackie Mason fiasco that has dishonored our Messiah, outraged & embarrassed Jews & Christians alike and humiliated a fellow Jew?
Your personal reaction, insights, perspectives,& prescription for healing would be most appreciated in perhaps your next blog entry devoted entirely to helping us all through the aftermath of this spiritually tragic episode. Thank you & may all
your readers thank G-d for your marvellous mentoring!

At 8/29/2006 7:04 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Dear Chayamindle,

I have not seen the literature so cannot comment on its content or character. I have heard from a lawyer on the matter, and Jackie Mason has no case, as legal boundaries are VERY wide on matters of satire. OTOH, someone I know asked, "Ys, it's legal, but is it ethical?" But like I said, I have not seen the broadside so cannot comment well.

I will say this though: neither JFJ nor Rabbi Mason are stupid. You can be sure they are both well aware that they are getting millions of dollars of free publicity out of this, and both are grateful.

As for the rest of us, the guideline is this: it is alright for someone to poke fun at themselves, but never right for us to poke fun at them, unless we are such intimate friends that all concerned realize that no disrespect is intended. In Jewish ethics, humiliating one's fellow in public is considered a grave sin and we must all endeavor to avoid it.

Enough said. Shalom to you in the Holy City of New York.



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