Twenty-years ago the spirit of the Lord kindled something new, and the ministry of first fruits of Zion was born. With the teachings of First Fruits of Zion, Christians and Messianic Jews began to rediscover the Torah.
Two decades later, First Fruits of Zion and the Messianic Jewish movement still lives, breathes, and is ready to thrive. At Shavuot 2012, First Fruits of Zion breaks new ground as we present our game plan for the future of Messianic Judaism, for Jewish believers in Yeshua, and for Messianic Gentiles from all nations. Come and hear the vision, become a solid member for change—be inspired to kick-start a fresh revolution by learning practical ways to facilitate study groups, Torah studies, and other outreach efforts.
from the Shavuot Conference 2012 webpage
First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ)
I have to admit to being a little nervous about attending this conference. Oh, I’m also really excited. I’ll get to see some old friends that I don’t get “face time” with very often, and actually meet people I’ve only communicated with over the web. But like some “fine wines” (yeah, that’s a joke), I don’t really travel well, I like to get to bed early, and I don’t enjoy large crowds. I don’t really thrive in a large conference environment.
But more to the point, I haven’t been to anything like this for a number of years and as an “unaffiliated Christian” in a world of Messianic Jews, Messianic Gentiles, and others who don’t traditionally identify with the mainstream church, I’m not sure what to expect or how I’ll be viewed by everyone (not that I should care, I suppose).
For one thing, the tallit and tefillin are staying at home (I’ll still bring a kippah). When I backed away from the One Law position (the basic Idea that all of the 613 commandments or mitzvot that observant Jews believe apply to them also applies to all non-Jewish Christians by virtue of being “grafted in”), I backed away from just about everything that had an outward Jewish religious practice. I started to imagine (not that she’d say anything) what my (non-Messianic) Jewish wife might be thinking every time I put on a tallit and laid phylacteries to pray. For me, it was easier to come to peace with the direct interfaith part of our marriage if I didn’t try to “walk her side of the street” so to speak. I put most of the religious items I used in “Messianic worship” in a box and there they’ll stay until I have a good reason to bring them out again.
So I don’t consider myself “Messianic” in the sense that most (probably) of the attendees at the Shavuot conference consider themselves Messianic (the non-Jews, that is).
There’s another issue here though. This whole classification of Christian vs. Messianic among non-Jews is just a little crazy. I know that it’s meant to differentiate between traditional Sunday Christians and those who have become more aware of the Hebraic origins of our faith, but it’s gotten to the point where we’re almost acting like we have two different religions.
I’m not OK with this. If Jesus was and is King of the Jews for Messianics, then he was and is King of the Jews for more traditional Christians. Recognizing the Jewishness of Jesus and then encasing that fact with a Messianic “bubble” only isolates that information and the truths it contains from all other Christians everywhere. Rather than focusing on the differences between how many non-Jews in the Messianic movement see things and how most other Christians see things, maybe we need to spend more time paying attention to how we’re alike.
I know a number of non-Jews who self-identify as “Messianic” visit and read my blog posts. If that’s you, I want you to practice something in the privacy of your own homes when you’re all alone. I want you to say out loud, “I’m a Christian.” Repeat it a few times. C’mon, don’t whisper. Really belt it out. “I’m a Christian.”
“I’m a Christian.”
Was that awkward? For some of you, it probably was. No, I’m not making fun of you or trying to be mean. My point is that whether you consider yourself a “Messianic Gentile” and pray wearing tzitzit and tefillin or you think of yourself as a Christian and feel no need to adopt any Jewish customs or commandments in your prayer and worship life, God is One. He’s the same God. Jesus is Jesus. He’s the Messiah, the Lord, the Savior, the Christ.
He’s the same guy for Messianics and Christians. We just picture him differently.
But how does he picture himself?
We don’t really know, but it wouldn’t hurt to stretch ourselves a little and try to see Jesus from a Jewish point of view and within a functional Jewish context. That’s probably a picture closer to his reality than many in the mainstream church see him.
However, you may be very comfortable with the division between Messianics and Christians. You may be asking yourself why you’d want to go through all that trouble and mess up your comfort. Because he is the Christ and we are Christians. He is the Master and we are his disciples. Jesus didn’t ask us to stand apart from each other, he asked us to be a united body and to work together like the different parts in your body.
I’m not a typical Christian. I don’t go to church. I have particular standards regarding food items that most Christians don’t observe. I have certain other convictions and perspectives that you won’t find in most churches. But I’m still going to be a really different “breed of cat” than most of the other conference attendees when I get there in a few weeks. In some ways, I’ll be just as nervous attending the conference as I would be if I decided to visit a church next Sunday morning.
But the point is, I shouldn’t have to feel that way. I probably wouldn’t if I got my wish (and my prayer). My wish and my prayer is that all believers come together in unity and truth, regardless of how different we are, and recognize our mutual fellowship and discipleship as followers of the Messiah King, who came once for the salvation of souls and who will come again to repair the world.
My wish and my prayer is that we who are grafted in realize that we are all Christians.
When you think of yourself and what you believe and then think of other believers and how different they are from you, try to consider how much you have in common with each other. That’s what I’m going to be doing on May 24th at Beth Immanuel.
And if you happen to be planning on attending FFOZ’s Shavuot Conference 2012, post a comment and let me know. I’d love to meet you when we’re together in Hudson, Wisconsin…and meeting in spirit and in truth.