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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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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Some Thoughts on Reading Darrell Guder (Part Two) - On the Messianic Jewish Movement, Evangelism, and Israel as God's "Good News People"

This posting is part of a continuing series of interaction with a book I am currently reading, "The Continuing Conversion of the Church," by Darrell Guder , a warm and highly competent missiologist, now Academic Dean at Princeton Seminary. My writing here is not by way of formal essays, as much as reflections as part of an ongoing process

Guder extensively explores what is meant by the gospel. Much that he says is instructive for the Messianic Jewish movement, either by way of agreement or by way of contrast.

He reminds us that the gospel is first of all “the gospel of God,” “the good news of God.” He sees the gospel as a message of God’s goodness, “a goodness which God has made known, has revealed, and which defines God’s purposes” (29). And because of Israel’s history with God, the gospel of Christ/Messiah is not the first good news of God they have encountered: “God’s people have experienced this goodness; it has been Israel’s gospel from the call of Abraham onward. . . . Through the particular encounter of God with Israel, the good news that God is loving and purposeful enters into human history and becomes knowable” (29). I would certainly add to this, that Israel’s good news has also always been that God is Redeemer. Therefore, using a bracket, I would modify one of Guder’s cogent statements as follows: “Jesus’ coming and his message are good news, as it has always been good news when God [comes to rescue his people and] makes God’s self and purposes known” (30).

Due to its pervasive supersessionist world-view, missiology in general fails to note how Israel’s experience with God is a proleptic foretaste of the gospel. Coining the term “crypto-supersessionism” might be of help here, which term means “supersessionist presuppositions functioning at a subconscious world-view level which, while unacknowledged, become evident in their effects.” Such crypto-supersessionism is evident even in dispensationalist Jewish mission circles where supersessionism per se is flatly rejected. Even in these circles, crypto-supersessionism is known by its fruits: anti-rabbinism, anti-nomianism, and anti-Judaism. Due to such assumptions, both the Jewish missions culture and the church fail to take due note of Israel’s repeated and continuing experiences with “the gospel of God,” when God has come to rescue his people and make himself and his purposes known. These experiences are proleptic, that is, they anticipate the greater good news that comes through and with Yeshua the Messiah.

This connection between Israel’s prior and ongoing experience with God and the gospel of Yeshua the Messiah requires that all conceive of the gospel presented to the Jewish people as “more of the same (that Israel has known) and much more than that.” This viewpoint highlights the tension between continuity and discontinuity, between oldness and newness, that must be maintained if we would rightly testify to the works of God.

Once one grasps this principle, this paradigm of continuity/discontinuity, oldness/newness, “more of the same and much more than that," becomes apparent in Scripture.

For example, when God calls Moses in Exodus 3, especially verses 5-10, and as expanded in Exodus 6:1-9, he establishes that this good news, this gospel, is both what they have experienced before (I am the LORD [who] appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty (3:2-3), and yet something new, (“but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them”) (3:3b). And see the passage in chapter six, how it also highlights oldness and newness, and how very much this too is gospel, the good news of redemption for Israel, couched in the context of promise fulfillment:

1 But the LORD said to Moses, "Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, yea, with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land." 2 And God said to Moses, "I am the LORD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they dwelt as sojourners. 5 Moreover I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold in bondage and I have remembered my covenant. 6 Say therefore to the people of Israel, 'I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment, 7 and I will take you for my people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.'" 9 Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel; but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and their cruel bondage.

Of many other passages that could be cited, Isaiah 63:7ff., so beautiful, it breaks the heart, speaks perhaps most poignantly of the continuity of God’s past mercies as a ground of hope for deliverance now.

7 I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel which he has granted them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. 8 For he said, Surely they are my people, sons who will not deal falsely; and he became their Savior. 9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. 10 But they rebelled and grieved his holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. 11 Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses his servant. Where is he who brought up out of the sea the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his holy Spirit, 12 who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name, 13 who led them through the depths? Like a horse in the desert, they did not stumble. 14 Like cattle that go down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So thou didst lead thy people, to make for thyself a glorious name.

15 Look down from heaven and see, from thy holy and glorious habitation. Where are thy zeal and thy might? The yearning of thy heart and thy compassion are withheld from me. 16 For thou art our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not acknowledge us; thou, O LORD, art our Father, our Redeemer from of old is thy name. 17 O LORD, why dost thou make us err from thy ways and harden our heart, so that we fear thee not? Return for the sake of thy servants, the tribes of thy heritage. 18 Thy holy people possessed thy sanctuary a little while; our adversaries have trodden it down. 19 We have become like those over whom thou hast never ruled, like those who are not called by thy name.

The language contrasts the light of God’s steadfast love, his hesed, and the darkness of Israel’s turning away, spoken of here in such relational terms—“Surely they are my people, sons who will not deal falsely; and he became their Savior” (v. 8). Notice the echoes of the Exodus here, and of the language and the message of Moses’ call, “In all their affliction he was afflicted . . . in his pity he redeemed them . . he lifted them and carried them all the days of old” (See also Psalms 105-106).

The Isaiah passage speaks of continuity and discontinuity, of (incipient) promise and fulfillment, of the mercies of the past, the troubles of the present, and the hope of new good news from God. Past, present, future, all intermingle in this paean of praise to Israel’s God. After reviewing God’s history with Israel and theirs with Him (vv. 7-10), the passage speaks in verses 11 to 14 of how later deliverances were grounded in the precedent mercies of God in the Exodus and wilderness wanderings. This again echoes the rhythm of God’s dealings, continuity/discontinuity, oldness/newness, more of the same and much more than that. Then, in verses 15-19, the prophet applies this pattern to the current dilemma of God’s people, using language intermingling past and present, toward the hopes of a new redeemed future.

All of this calls for a dramatic redrawing of the approach long favored by the Jewish missions culture and the church whereby the Older Testament is seen primarily as prophetically predicting the realities of which the Newer Testament speaks. Such an approach is crypto-supersessionist when and where it assumes that the Older Testament is but a preparation for the Newer. It relegates the people of the Older Testament, and by extension the Jewish people throughout time, to the status of preparation but not the status of participation. Without disparaging Messianic prophecy as a phenomenon, I suggest that the patterns of Scripture and the texture of God’s dealings mandate that we also see the Older Testament as more of the same that the church knows as the gospel, “the good news of God.” Against the background of a religious culture which has become habituated in seeing the Jewish people as fundamentally lost, without hope, and without God in the world, (terms Paul properly applied to pagans), the church, the Jewish missions culture, and Messianic Judaism must learn to see Jewish people as “God’s good news people,” that people who have repeatedly experienced, remembered, and anticipated “the good news of God.” In fact, if the Jewish people were not God's good news people, there would be no good news from God for the rest of the world!

Am I saying that we therefore ought not to “bother the Jewish people with our Jesus?” Emphatically, No! Do we have anything new, important and crucial to say to the Jewish world? Emphatically, Yes! But in all our saying, we must deeply know that the Jewish people are “the good news people.” It is the habit of the church and missions culture to view Jews as bad news people. According to this construct, all Jews are necessarily going to hell, except those few who believe in Jesus—that’s bad news; the Jews have a leadership that fails to lead them toward God, and seeks to prevent their finding His embrace through Yeshua the Messiah—also bad news; their religion is one of fruitless legalism and rule-keeping devoid of the power of the Spirit and relational reality which is only possible through Yeshua the Messiah—bad news for the Jews again. The church, especially the conservative church, and the missions culture, seem decidedly negative about the Jewish people’s spiritual prospects and spiritual experience. This theme plays like a tape loop in the actions and theologizing of supersessionist and crypto-supersessionist Christianity. Missing from this message is the awareness that the Jews have long acquaintance with good news from God. As mentioned earlier in my adaptation from Guder, “Jesus’ coming and his message are good news, as it has always been good news when God [comes to rescue his people and] make God’s self and purposes known” (30). And this is good news for the Jewish people, not merely “as well,” but actually, God’s good news first for the Jews, for the Jews have always been God’s good news people, and the bearers of that good news for the rest of the world.

When we present the gospel of Yeshua the Messiah to Jews, we ought to highlight the continuity of this gospel not simply with Jewish prophecy, but with Jewish communal experience throughout time and to the present day. For example, is not the founding of the Modern State of Israel, the regathering of Jews from the four corners of the earth, and related matters good news from God? Of course it is!

In this regard, it is proper to insert just one word in the song of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people [again], and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant, the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life" (Luke 1:68-74).

In Yeshua the Messiah the God of Israel has kept his promise to his people, and not to them alone. It is best that we consider these mercies as an occasion when God has done it again, and has outdone himself. It is a Dayenu experience! God did this, then this, then that, then this, but now he has outdone himself yet again.

The good news of Yeshua is not the first good news from God that the Jewish people ever heard. Rather, this is more of the same and yet, much more than that!

And more to come on this subject.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Worst Sin of All - A Sermon for Parshat Behar/B'chukotai

This is a sermon I preached last shabbat, May 12, 2007, at Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue. It concerns a sin in which all of us are too practiced.

Our Torah text this week has the phrase, "v'kashlu ish b'echav" and they shall each one of them stumble over his fellow [Lev 26:37].

Of course, in context, the peshat meaning of this phrase, its simple reference, is to people fleeing from disaster. However, our tradition comments on these words in another way, pausing to consider the meaning of one stumbling over one's brother or sister. The tradition pauses to discuss what it means to cause your brother or sister to stumble.

Rashi comments that the meaning of our verse is as follows: "One shall stumble through the iniquity of another, for all the people of Israel are responsible for one another."
Of course this is in line with what we discussed last week about thinking of ourselves as being related to "klal Yisrael," the community of Israel of all places and all times.

A Reform Jewish authority reminds us, "We, as Klal Yisrael, share mutual responsibility and mutual benefits. Jews feel a bond with other Jews, wherever they live in the world. Kol Yisrael arevim ze baze--All Israel is responsible for one another."

Theodore Herzl said, "We are a people, one people."

Yeshua of course spoke of causing one's brother or sister to stumble, in the context of causing one's brother or sister to sin. In this he and Rashi are in full agreement. Remember Rashi's statement, "One shall stumble through the iniquity of another, for all the people of Israel are responsible for one another."

Yeshua's words are striking: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck he had been cast into the sea." [Mark 9:42].

In this context and in others, of course to stumble is to sin--to stray from G-d's path.

The matter for our consideration today is to highlight one of the chief ways we cause others to stray from G-d's path; one of the chief ways we are in danger of causing others to stumble. In fact, in Jewish life, what I am speaking of today is considered to be one of the most serious of all sins against others in the community. And what is that?

It is illustrated for us in today's New Covenant reading. When the crowd of men brought to Yeshua the woman caught in adultery, many of us might imagine that the worst sin is sexual sin. We certainly act that way! Let someone be caught embezzling, or gossiping, or shaving his taxes a bit, and we cluck our tongues and move on. But let someone be caught in a sexual sin and we go all to pieces with ourselves. You might imagine that the terrible sin being treated in this passage is sexual looseness. But you would be wrong. No, another, more heinous sins is demonstrated here. And what is that?

Yeshua hints at it when he stoops down to write in the dirt at his feet when the woman is brought to him. Why does he do this? I believe it is because he is embarrassed for her. And here we come to what in Jewish life is one of the most serious of all sins: embarrassing someone, especially in public. The men who brought her to Yeshua were oblivious to the fact that they were committing such a horrible sin. While they were concerned about someone else's sin, they themselves were committing one even more grave.

There is a tremendous lesson here, one that especially needs to be taught this week, at this time here at Ahavat Zion. You see, whenever we undertake to teach about G-d's commandments and the imperative to keep them we risk stirring up the kind of attitude that inhabited these men.

It's what I call being a commandment commando, or perhaps a virtue vigilante.
Years ago I knew a Pastor named Higgs. He was a fine man. He told of having once pastored an independent Baptist church where everything was just so: people didn't smoke, they didn't dance, they didn't chew, the men didn't wear beards and always had their hair neatly trimmed, and the ladies stayed away from ostentatious jewelry, obvious makeup, and short hemlines. You get the picture.

Jim told the story of how one day a young lady who never had been to their church wandered in. Now she didn't know the rules too well. In fact, her hemline was too short. Before she could even sit down, as Jim told it, one of the "saints" in the congregation went up to her and commented on how inappropriate her hemline was. Well, that young lady turned around, went out the door and never came back. Now who committed the greater sin, the girl with the short hemline or the woman who carelessly embarrassed her? The message the scripture today is clear: it was the righteous commandment commando who committed the greater sin.

Our tradition is steeped in the importance of not unduly embarrassing someone. For example, “Torah tells us that Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden for having partaken from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and eaten of its fruit. However, the Torah never tells us what kind of tree it was. Why? Had the tree been identified, people might have said, "This is the tree that brought so much affliction on the world." G-d wanted to spare even the tree the embarrassment of being singled out.”

There are three b'rakhot, blessings, attached to the recitation of the Shema in our service, two blessings before the Shema, and one after. The first one preceding the Shema is said in front of the open ark. The cantor chants, "Blessed Art Thou O Lord, who formest light and createst darkness, who makest peace and createst all things." Just before he says that blessing the ark is open with the Torah exposed to view: before he says the first word, he is supposed to close the curtain of the ark. Why? So he should not demean the Torah by praising something else [the formation of light and darkness] while the Torah is open to view.

Now, if our tradition takes care about showing due respect to inanimate objects, not embarrassing them, how much more ought we to take care lest we embarrass people who are made in the image of G-d?

One Talmudic discussion specifies that if someone has repented of his former sins, you may not recall those sins to him, nor even mention that kind of sin in his presence. You must not remind a convert of her roots outside of the covenant. And the greater the station of the person shamed the greater the sin in shaming him.

A story to illustrate the lengths to which people should go to avoid shaming others. Once R. Gamaliel II said, "Send seven scholars to the upper chamber early in the morning and we will set up the calendar of the year. When he got there he discovered eight had come, and he stated: "Whoever came without being invited must leave." Samuel the Small said, "I am the one who came without permission, not to participate but to learn." Gamaliel said, "Sit down, my son. You may stay, but the Halacha states that only those who have been specifically appointed to the task may participate." In fact, it was not Samuel who had not been invited, but rather another scholar. However, Samuel wished to spare him the embarrassment and stood up himself.

Another story: "At the Passover Seder, one of Rabbi Akiva Eiger's guests accidentally spilled some wine onto the tablecloth. Noticing his guest's embarrassment, the Rabbi discreetly shook the table so that his cup of wine also tipped over. Then he stated, "Something must be wrong with the table. It is not standing properly.

In our adult Bar Mitzvah class we are exploring ways to honor God in Jewish ways. That is good. Many us are becoming zealous to study the commandments, which G-d has assigned to the Jewish people. That is also good. But if we would keep the commandments, and if we would honor the standards of Jewish piety, we must also remember not to play the role of commandments commandos, zealous to correct others. Or as Yeshua put it, being so concerned to remove the speck from someone else's eye that we fail to deal with the beam in our own.

Our tradition reminds us by the way that we are obligated to correct others when they transgress. Lev 19:17 states "Hochach tocheach et amitecha v'lo tissa alav hatah"--"you shall reprove your neighbor or you will incur guilt yourself." I am NOT saying that we should never correct another: that would be very dysfunctional. But there are ways to correct someone when they are transgressing the way of holiness G-d has placed before us. Here are some hints as to how we might properly administer correction.

• We must not simply rebuke the transgressor. We are obligated to teach people the right thing to do before they have occasion to do the wrong thing.
• We must always bear in mind that G-d is a G-d of process. He is perfect, but not a perfectionist. In a couple of weeks we will be celebrating the gift of Torah at Sinai. Does anyone imagine that the Jewish people were flawless in obeying Torah the day after they received it? Of course not! People are in process, and we must learn to accept them as such.
• We must learn hear again the word of Scripture, which states, "The Kingdom of G-d does not consist in food and drink, but in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." This does NOT mean that food and drink are matters of indifference, but rather that they are not the point. Commandment Commandos strain out the gnat and swallow the camel: they correct people for minutiae while they are guilty of a far more grave sin in embarrassing or mishandling them, and later, perhaps, gloating as they proudly tell others of how they had occasion to correct some ignoramus.
• Our tradition states that when we rebuke people or correct them, we must do so in private.
• Even when we do so in private, we must take care not to shame them. The story was told to Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel of a person who had rebuked a neighbor sharply, and then stated, "I wasn't able to effect a change in that person, but at least I made his face turn red like a beet." Rabbi Finkel commented, "Our sages explain the verse Leviticus 19:17 states 'rebuke your fellow man' is followed by the words 'and don't incur guilt because of him' to teach us that even when rebuking our others, we are forbidden to embarrass them. Yet you are proud you embarrassed this person!"
• If someone who is easily embarrassed transgresses, you should not rebuke her directly. You should first engage them in discussion of other matters and hit obliquely as possible about the area in question.
• Speak pleasantly and softly to someone when you must correct their behavior and as much as possible present the preferred behavior as being in their best interests. As the Chofetz Chaim said, "If you are sincere in your actions and words, your message will penetrate the most stubborn heart."
• You must take great care not to grow angry when rebuking someone, for rebuke delivered in anger will not be heeded, and the purpose of rebuke should be correcting the other person for their own good and not for your satisfaction!
• Each situation is different, and each person is different, so the manner of admonishing someone or the decision whether or not to admonish someone in a particular case should be evaluated. Sometimes it is better to let matters slide until a more opportune occasion or to perhaps leave the correction to someone else who will be better received.
• Certain kinds of transgressions that are detrimental to the spiritual well being of the entire congregation ought to be handled by the elders or rabbi.
• If someone has sinned against you, it is better that you correct them than that you harbor resentment in your heart.
• It is meritorious to overlook a fault.
• You should draw a distinction between matters of commandment and matters of custom--the former are always more important. Don't sweat the small stuff. By doing so, you might drive a person away from the faith or from the congregation, which is of course a grave sin.
• We should learn to cultivate gratitude for having been corrected.
Above all, we must be careful to not simply become list-makers. Some people have a need to be right, and a need to not be wrong. In many cases this is because of their temperament or the way they were brought up. Such people often have an overdeveloped need to correct others, because this shows others they are wrong while reassuring the corrector of how right she is. These list-makers are always seeking to update their list so that they will have the very best and up to date list of the authentic rules. They are overly preoccupied with rules and have a tendency to relate to rules better than they relate to G-d or to people. Paul spoke of such people who major in the categories of "Do not handle. Do not taste. Do not touch. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility and severe treatment of the body. But they are of no value in checking self-indulgence" [Col 2:23-24]. Elsewhere he speaks of those who hold to the form of religion but in their conduct fail to exhibit its power. They are hung up on the details and oblivious to the substance.

Let's be sure we are a congregation, which avoids embarrassing others like the plague--for embarrassing people needlessly is a plague. Let's seek to promote right practice in the most effective way possible: by setting a good example ourselves and by conducting ourselves in such a manner that we are the kinds of people that others WANT to learn from, rather than being the kinds of people whom other flee from.

It is a great sin to set a stumbling block in someone's way: and humiliating others in the name of G-d is perhaps the worst stumbling block of all.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Some Thoughts on Reading Darrell Guder (Part One) - On the Messianic Jewish Movement and Evangelism

(Last week, Darrell Guder, Academic Dean of Princeton Seminary, spoke at Fuller Seminary, here in my home area. He is a nice man, quite a scholar. As part of my own continuing education, and preparation for a book I am writing, I am reading some of his work. What follows is some interaction with his book "The Continuing Conversion of The Church" [2000]. More to come, by the way!)

Darrell Guder speaks of how he “began to see this separation between evangelism and community as a problem of ‘reductionism,’ with questionable consequences for all concerned. The church, which is intended to be the evangelizing community, tends to reduce or neglet its essential missionary character” (ix).

This got me thinking.

When Darrell Guder speaks of the church as “intended to be the evangelizing community, [but which] tends to reduce or neglect its essential missionary character,” I ask “How are MJ congregations evangelizing communities and to what do we bear witness in all our being and doing?” For too many of us and for too long, our reflex in answering such questions has been to pull out a Bible verse or bunch of Bible verses, operating out of an assumption that describing our calling as servants of the gospel only requires of us that we have an adequate knowledge of Scripture, and hopefully an encyclopedic and impressive knowledge. As impressive as such persons might be, what this position misses is that our witness is not simply some slotted answer or packet of authoritative and safely orthodox information in the communally approved Bible translation. This is no witness. This is no gospel. This is a crumpled napkin in place of a Royal Decree.

No, the only gospel witness worthy of the name must be breathless and trembling. “The God of our Fathers has visited us! He has come to rescue us! He is Alive! He is King! He has Come to Deliver Us! Come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our God our Maker! He is Risen, just as he said! I have seen the Lord! The hour has come and the Kingdom of heaven is at hand! Repent and believe the Gospel!” Such proclamations are not position statements. They are not bullet points. They are not planks in some organizational platform whereby this group can separate itself from another group, demonstrating its own greater purity. No! This is no gospel at all!

If our witness is not breathless and trembling, if it does not stumble and tumble out of trembling lips and flushed tear stained faces, then it may be a report of facts, it may be a witness to a proposition, it may be testimony to some kind of a four-colored conference folder and organizational platform, it may be some short answer on a theological quiz, some bumper sticker, or some manifesto of religious positioning, but it is not in any manner a witness to the gospel. For the gospel to which we bear witness is the ever-astoninishing, worship-inducing, fall-on-your-faces, holiness and awe, hard breathing, heart-pounding, community-revolutionizing report that the Holiest of holy ones, the Creator of all, who spoke and the world came into being, whose very Presence requires our honor, love, praise, adoration and obedience, has come to be among us and bids us follow him now!

I am reminded of Moses at the bush. The good news Moses brought to the Israelites was not the message of who God was, or who he had been. His report to his people was no oral exam on whether he had properly studied the approved books and positions. No, Moses was sent to tell the children of Israel that the Ever Present One, the Eternal Now, had come to rescue them, and to bring them out from under the burdens of the Egyptians to a good and spacious land, in fulfillment of His promises to their ancestors.

But Hashem is not simply the Self Existent One, so that Moses’ missional message, and by extension, ours, would be some sort of metaphysical report, “Go back and tell them you have just encountered Ground of All Being.” Rather, Moses’ message and ours is that the One in the Bush that burns continually, The Ever Present One, has taken decisive action to deliver His people, to relieve their burdens, to reveal Himself, inspiring total, astonished worship, honor, glorification and praise. The only gospel that is truly the gospel is full of fear and trembling and joy. The only gospel that is truly the gospel reports that God is here now, taking decisive action to redeem us. The only gospel that is truly the gospel bids us rise up and follow Him now!

So we return to Guder’s statement, that “The church, which is intended to be the evangelizing community, tends to reduce or neglect its essential missionary character.” This is no less true of the Messianic Jewish movement.

For the Messianic Jewish Movement to be some sort of an evangelizing community, it needs an evangel—a gospel—a good news that revolutionizes its life, which it therefore embodies and communicates in all its being, speaking, and doing. The good news can never be a static message—a collection of propositions. No! And the good news is not something to be delivered by disinterested surrogates, like some sort of mail-deliverers who have no idea of what is within the envelope they put into your mailbox. No! Those charged with communicating the good news are people who have experienced its power—its force—its revolutionizing life-giving strength, its embodied livingness and glory.

Think of Moses coming down the mountain with the good news that he had met with God there who had given him the Covennant by which Israel should henceforth live. Moses’ face shone—he was himself evidence of the message be proclaimed. Are we? Or are we just surrogates delivering a message which we hardly comprehend and experience, if at all?