61 Days: Preparing for Re-entry

I see church as a less than ideal environment for anyone who wishes to follow Torah…I see the need for rescue missions but for everyone in churches…I think they all need to be rescued — rescued from anti-Judaic doctrines…I see those anti-Judaic Christian doctrines as negatively affecting both Jews and gentiles. There is only one faith and it’s a Jewish faith — it’s the Judaism proposed by Yeshua and the authors of the New Testament.

-a comment from Peter
on Gene Shlomovich’s blog post
One Law Gentile Has a Change of Heart

I’m probably going to regret this, but I really can’t avoid writing this “meditation,” especially given the angst-filled missive I posted yesterday. But in having my conversation over at Gene’s blog, I realized that I’ve been just as guilty of misjudging Christians and been treating the church just as unfairly as I think Peter is. However, he’s right in that he can at least go to a church without writing a month’s worth of daily blogs exposing his every doubt and misgiving, as opposed to me dragging my heels every inch of the way between here and the nearest chapel.

Peter suggests that Christians need to be rescued out of the church and returned to…what?

Well, let’s go back a step. Rescued from what?

rescued from anti-Judaic doctrines…

So you get a small army together, raid a local church during Sunday services, scoop everyone up in a big net, and fly them via helicopter to…where? A late Second Temple era “ekklesia?”

But they don’t exist and frankly, we don’t know how to replicate one. Even if we did, is that our goal? To transport all 21st century Christians back in time twenty centuries to the first “churches” established by Paul in the diaspora? To what end?

OK, I get it. If the Gentiles never stopped worshiping the Jewish Messiah with the Jewish disciples, chances are supersessionism would never have developed and we’d all be hunky-dory together, Jews and Gentiles all praying to Jesus, right?

Well, maybe not.

So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

Romans 11:11-24 (ESV)

What picture is Paul painting here? This letter was addressed to a congregation of disciples in Rome that included both Jews and Gentiles. He’s “toggling” back and forth between each population in this letter, trying to keep each group from playing the “superiority card” against the other. He’s telling both the Jewish group of disciples and the Gentile group of disciples not to get too cocky, because God is the final judge of who will be on the root and who will knocked off, and for that matter, who will be put back on again. The “glue” was (and is) faith, not simply being Jewish or being non-Jewish.

But even this early in the history of “the church,” the friction between Jewish and non-Jewish disciples was evident…and this was a combined congregation, with Jews and Gentiles worshiping together, breaking bread, fellowshiping, davening together.

On the one hand, both the Jews and Gentiles in Rome would have been part of the Roman culture, but on a deeper level, Jews, no matter where they live, have their own culture, apart from the surrounding goyim. Chances are, the “Messianic” Jews lived in a Jewish section of Rome, apart from the Gentile disciples. Chances are, there were a thousand other cultural, ethnic, lifestyle and halalaic differences between the Jews and Gentiles that, while they were held together in their faith in the Messiah, they were also separated in these many other ways. Why do you think Paul had to write “neither Jew nor Greek” to other churches as we see in Galatians 3:28?

Often, we miss these matters when reading the New Testament, but the struggle to integrate the non-Jewish nations and the various cultures they represented into the worship of the God of Israel must have been an enormous task for the Jewish disciples who were, at that time, the leaders and mentors of the ekklesia of Christ. Friction between the Jews and the various people groups from the nations was inevitable from the beginning. Maybe that’s part of the reason Paul wrote to the Roman Gentiles, ” a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”

The partial hardening upon Israel has to come! If the Messianic (Christian) faith had remained exclusively or primarily Jewish at that point in history (and especially if the Gentile disciples were expected to take on the full yoke of the Law as a minority of Hebrew Roots practitioners believe today), then either the Gentiles would not have accepted Jesus in such great numbers or, they would have “reinvented” the faith anyway, alienating the Jews and recreating the Jewish Messiah as the Goyishe Jesus.

Does that mean that part of God’s plan for integrating the nations into faith and trust in God through the Jewish Messiah was a separation between Jews and Gentiles? It certainly could be seen that way. Does that mean we must always be totally separate and even hostile toward one another? Absolutely not. The budding Messianic Jewish movement of the past few decades, which is now gaining increasing traction, is evidence that we can interface and fellowship while retaining our national and cultural distinctions.

I’m quite familiar with the history of supersessionism in the church and the long centuries of enmity between Jew and Christian and thankfully, that is slowly ending. But is the “cure” for this supersessionism to remove the Christians from the church and to include them in a Jewish synagogue setting, attempting to integrate them into modern Jewish cultural and religious practices?

Or is there another way?

What about Christians who are not supersessionist staying in the church or returning to church? What about being members of a church so that the church can become more aware of its heritage and its connections to ancient Judaism; so it can begin to recognize the face of the Jewish Messiah King as the actual face of Jesus Christ?

I launched Going Back to Ekklesia a day early because I needed to write this “sequel.” I needed to firm up my commitment to return to fellowship with other Christians and not treat them as an “alien other” that I’m just “visiting” but not actually a part of. If I am to champion the cause of Christianity to those “Christians” I encounter who disdain the name, then I must belong to the group of people, the church, who have faithfully followed the cause of Christ.

I apologize to anyone who I’ve offended by my previous comments, particularly in my hesitation at joining fellowship. I realize now, by seeing the church through another’s eyes, that I was being woefully unfair and unkind. I ask that you accept me as a fellow brother in the faith, though I probably won’t always talk as you’d expect a Christian to express himself (just read my blog posts to see what I mean). If my personal “wall of separation” is to come down, then I’m the one who has to remove it.

I have no illusions that I’m so powerful or smart or cool that my single contribution will be some sort of “big deal,” but if nothing else, I’ll remove any sort of dissonance from my statements and I’ll have something “real” to talk about.

Whatever comes your way today, whatever situation you walk through, you are safe in God’s hands. Any storm that swirls around you swirls around Him. He is your Shield, your Strength, your Rock, your Fortress. Nothing is getting through without His permission. We may not always understand why He allows what He allows, but we can cling to the blessed fact of His everlasting love.

Marie

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15 thoughts on “61 Days: Preparing for Re-entry”

  1. Shalom from London,

    Last Sunday, I finally accepted the offer to speak at my church. I shared at both services and spoke to about 500 adult Baptists. I worked from Romans 11, here are some shorts from my sermon:

    Christianity has struggled to find a place for Israel. While Israel has remained central in God’s historic and prophetic plan—many Christians have either forgotten or never considered the need to have an “Israel-Centric” theology. From my view and understanding of Scripture a proper understanding and placement of Israel in ones faith is critical.

    Today I want to encourage you to consider your faith from this perspective. It is easy to forget Israel. Israel is “over there” and we are “here.” Israel we say, “rejected” Christ and we “received” him. Israel represents the “old way” and Christians represent a “new way.” God’s work with Israel and the Jewish people is defined by “works and judgment,” whereas his work with the church and Christians is revealed by “grace and love.”

    These dichotomies have been created as Christianity struggled to understand its relationship with the God of Israel and the Messiah—the king of the Jews. To answer some of these difficult questions let’s turn to Paul’s teaching in Romans 11. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, speaking to the community of Rome, must have seen some of these early developments of separation—a temptation to depart, separate, and distinguish Gentile faith in Messiah from his (God’s) historic and future work with the physical people of Israel.

    **Read the entire section of Romans 11**

    I have titled this sermon, “Wholly Christian” and we will use the outline of a, “A Holy People,” “A Holy History,” “A Holy Future,” and “A Holy Land” for our discussion. I see Christianity as “whole” and “holy” when it is properly connected with the people of Israel. Christianity depends on God’s faithfulness to his people Israel. Christianity needs to see itself as partners with Israel, the expansion of the people of Israel, the very stars in the skies and the sand on the seashore promised to our father Abraham.

    **

    The Message was well received. My church is changing rapidly into a post-supersessionist framework. The church is going on a tour to Israel next summer and now has a Torah study on Wednesday night with 80+ students.

    When you here our hints to join a church–it is to be a source of blessing and a place to be blessed.

  2. Thanks for taking time out of your travels to comment, Boaz. You should write a book…no, another one, chronicling your personal journey in the Baptist church (the names may be changed to protect the innocent…not sure if you’re old enough to get that one) to show that A.) that it’s possible to be “Messianic,” and retain a Jewish identity (Michelle Van Loon commented on this as well yesterday) within the church, and B.) that the church will accept the message you’ve delivered above, as it progresses through a developmental process.

    I’m not that only person who has had reservations about re-connecting with the church. It’s one thing to tell someone how to do something but it’s far more illuminating to show them. If God is so gracious, maybe the future of this blog is also in telling that story, but literally, that story hasn’t been lived out yet, so the writing of it from my perspective, is yet to come.

  3. James,

    Blessings as you look in your area for a place where discipleship, study, and the repair of the world are seriously engaged in a church family. I believe (with hopefully not a naive faith) that there must be at least a dozen such places near you.

    Derek

  4. Thanks, Derek. Still waiting for the reply email from the Pastor I contacted about changing our appointment (I was going to meet with him Friday, but I have to go out of town with my son). As always, progressing hopefully.

  5. when your sitting in airports it is not to difficult to “take the time!” I did venture out today and visited a cigar shop frequented by W. Churchill and ate a cabbage roll at a place that Lord R” J. Sacks frequents. Some people would call this a weird form of devekus.

  6. James,

    Once I heard a woman speak who’d come from an alcoholic mother who’d reaked havoc on her growing up. She was terribly wounded and bitter and she just couldn’t see how God could have allowed her all those horrific (and they were) experiences. That is, until she found herself in ministry and making a powerful difference in the lives of teens with alcoholic parents. When she realized her painful past was her “boot camp” and her experienceses had given her the credentials with these teens, she began to actually thank God for her mother and her past!

    I believe the church is hungry for deeper connection to God, for dots to be connected to the ancient yet vital and pertinent Word of God. And lets face it, its Israel’s story, (about Israel’s God, Israel’s Land and Israel’s redemption and then– life from the dead!) As Boaz said, its a Holy Story thats been skirted around for 1900-2000 yrs. But they’re (the church) stuck in a cycle of RT and it can only go so far. Someone needs to put a stick into the spokes and stop the cycle, even if its one person at a time.

    Thankfully, I believe we’re living in the day where that system (RT) is running out of gas. But people don’t know what to do or where to go (as you and many others have noted, church attendance is down and I believe this is at least part of the reason, among others).

    But if those of us who “get it” about Israel and His precious “first-born” son, and how horrific RT has been and is (on SO many levels) don’t insert ourselves into the mix, then who’ll do it? The painful stuf we’ve endured with working all this out is our creds. We gotta share. And it’s best done in interpersonal relationships.

    I hear God calling, as for me I’m saying “hineni”… (Raising my hand high, saying: Here I am, I’ll go, send me!)

    Blessings to you James!

  7. Thanks, Lrw. While I admit to having to “work up” to the “re-entry,” it’s not really a supreme act of courage. I can only hope and pray that my timing is right and I’m doing what He wants me to do at the time He wants me to do it.

  8. As you know, my own journey with the Body hasn’t been easy. It still isn’t – and yet I am blessed. God honors our obedience, even when that obedience causes us to grit our teeth sometimes. He will be faithful to guide you to a place of worship, learning, fellowship and service; a place where you, your experiences and your gifts fit.

  9. I posted a comment to this, but don’t see it. If I give you the same encouragement twice…well, heck, who hates being encouraged?

    Being part of the Body isn’t easy. You know that my own journey with the church has been a struggle – still is. But we need each other. God will guide you to a place of worship, learning, fellowship and services that is right for you.

  10. Hi Marie,

    Your original comment ended up in the spam filter somehow. I marked it “not spam” but I can’t see it appearing here. Oh well, guess i’ll have to settle for only “one” encouragement. 😉

    Oops. Found it.

    I’ve been going over the church’s website and oh yeah, it’s very Christian. I tend to think of church as a culture with its own mores, values, and customs. Since I haven’t really attended anything you’d call a “traditional” church in about fifteen years, this will definitely be an interesting “cultural” experience. For instance, the Men’s Bible Study is at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays. Wow. I’m at work by 7:30 or so.

    Hoping for an evening class to “ease me in” to fellowship, but we’ll see how things go after my meeting with the Pastor this weekend. I am indeed depending on God to “transition” me into where He wants me.

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