Tag Archives: humiliation

The Pilot Project for the Nations

Warning. This is pretty cynical. It’s been that kind of day.

@James — You wrote: “It does seem like the Bible is biased heavily in defining the roles and responsibilities of the Jewish people and is pretty skimpy with its “advice” to the Gentiles.” I think I mentioned somewhere above, in response to a similar comment from Drake, that this should be obvious because the literature was written by Jews for Jews, and its consideration of gentiles was only to provide a larger framework for the world in which Jews must exist as a part of that larger body of humanity. It was never intended to provide advice or guidelines for non-Jews, though such guidelines may be (and have been) inferred from it. I pointed out to Drake that it is inappropriate to “criticize” this literature for not providing such information, because that was not its purpose. One might as well criticize a cookbook for not including motorcycle-repair instructions, or a self-help book about quitting smoking for not addressing drug addictions in general. Now, it’s not entirely incidental, of course, that the instructions for a pilot program redeeming one of the families of the earth should contain information that can be generalized to other families; but to criticize a lack of generalized information is just not correctly appreciating the nature and purpose of the existing literature.

Comment by ProclaimLiberty (emph. mine)
Submitted 2015/06/30 at 10:53 a.m.
On Why Do Christians Hate Judaism

That explains a lot.

I actually like the references to the non-Jewish disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) in the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) being referred to as a “pilot program” (I know PL used “pilot program” as applied to the Jewish people and then generalized to the rest of us, but I think my interpretation fits better). It makes perfect sense. The phrase brings into clarity what I think we’ve been struggling with in the conversation taking place on the aforementioned blog post, as well as the one that started this whole thing out.

I don’t know if the Apostle Paul ever intended to flesh out his “pilot program” and develop a full-fledged halachah for the non-Jewish disciples. Maybe not. I’ve read more than one commentary stating that Paul believed the Messianic return was imminent, so he probably didn’t think he had to do anything but put band-aids on gushing arteries because Yeshua was going to be back so fast, he’d heal all our wounds.

Oops.

divorceThis also explains why, with the passage of time, the Gentiles decided to take matters into their own hands and, in a rather ugly divorce, separate themselves from their Jewish mentors and invent an identity of their own, one that diminished if not deleted the Jewish role in the redemptive plan of God through Moshiach (Christ).

Maybe I’ve been a little hard on the Church Fathers. Maybe they thought that turning against the Messianic Jews, all other Jews, and Israel was an unfortunate but necessary step if Gentile lives and souls were to mean anything at all, at least in a more fully developed form.

No real identity, role, or function for the Gentile disciples in Jewish space? No problem. Leave Jewish community and create an identity, role, and function for non-Jewish believers, excuse me, “Christians” that stands on its own legs, without any sort of need for Judaism. Heck, if they were stinging from being put on long-term hold in a “pilot program,” they’d just take it to the next level and write a theology that made Israel and the Jewish people the “bad guys”.

And it worked, at least, from a Christian perspective, for the past eighteen-hundred years or so.

Then, as Derek Leman recently wrote, Messianic Judaism had a “revival” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and then later in the 1960s. From there, after a few missteps, it picked up steam and is now beginning to realize itself as an authentic Judaism again.

And as I’ve said before, with Jewish realization of their identity in Messiah, there also came a Gentile realization that said, “I’m no longer the center of Christ’s attention, anymore” (not that we ever were).

And it’s not too far a walk from that point to, “I’m not only not the center of attention, but I’m pretty much irrelevant.”

Of course that defies certain statements in the Bible such as Galatians 3:28 which seems to establish some common ground between Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic ekklesia, but I think it stands to reason that if you admit the centrality of Israel, Judaism, and the Jewish people in God’s redemptive plan for the world, then the only place for Christians to go once they leave the pitcher’s mound is either the outfield, or more likely, the bleachers (the parking lot? …maybe a few miles away from the ballpark?).

shakespeareI’ve mentioned before that when Israel becomes the head of all the nations and King Messiah reigns from Jerusalem over not only Israel but over the rest of the world, the rest of the world will be composed of vassal nations, subservient to the head nation, the Jewish nation.

For some reason, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 57 comes to mind:

Being your slave, what should I do but tend
Upon the hours and times of your desire?
I have no precious time at all to spend,
Nor services to do, till you require.
Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour
Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you.
Nor think the bitterness of absence sour
When you have bid your servant once adieu;
Nor dare I question with my jealous thought
Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,
But like a sad slave, stay and think of nought,
Save, where you are how happy you make those.
So true a fool is love that in your will
Though you do anything, he thinks no ill.

Of course, the accepted commentary on this sonnet states this is the lament of a neglected friend regarding a companion who has abandoned him and gone off adventuring with others, but I think it could be applied to the current discussion.

I know I’m probably exaggerating, but this series of blog posts are an evolutionary exploration into who or what non-Jews in Messiah are if at all in relationship with Jewish community.

In the blog post I mentioned at the top of today’s missive, I commented that the worst case scenario (for Gentiles) in the Messianic Age, given what I’ve just said, is a true “bilateral ecclesiology,” one extending world-wide with the Jewish people in Israel and the rest of us in our own nations, perhaps only visiting Israel on special occasions to pay homage to our Lord, but otherwise, as the defeated nations that had vainly attacked (or from the present’s point of view, will attack) Israel and were conquered and shamed for our efforts, we remain in our place and tend to our own affairs and only come to the King if summoned.

I wonder if the pilot program was ever meant to be developed further, even by Messiah, since the rather dystopian scenario (for Gentiles) I’ve just crafted doesn’t really need a lot more detail than said-pilot program provides.

solomon

I wonder if there’s a Gentile application to Solomon’s Ecclesiastes? We poor, dumb Christians rule and reign in our churches for eighteen-hundred years thinking we have the proverbial tiger by the tail, only to realize that we are the tail and we’re no tiger, not by a long shot.

Each and every insult, pogrom, persecution, injustice, and inquisition Christianity has ever visited upon the Jewish people in eighteen or so centuries is going to come back and land right on our collective necks with a solid, concrete “thump”.

Maybe the reason Gentiles don’t fit into Messianic Judaism is that we were never meant to. Maybe Mark Kinzer’s vision of separate silos for Jews and Gentiles is intended to be carried over into the Messianic Era. Maybe we had our chance to stay loyal to the Jewish people and Israel during the Age of the Apostles, but once we walked out of the house, so to speak, and slammed the door in Messianic Jewish faces, there was no going back…

…ever.

I see now why the Pastor and just about all of the other people I described Messianic Judaism to at that little Baptist church I used to attend didn’t accept a word of it. I know why “One Law” Hebrew Roots Christians (no, you aren’t “Messianic Judaism”) can’t accept it either. It’s a terribly humbling realization and one accepted only with great difficulty and personal reorganization of who we are. We can never be who we thought we were. Those people never existed, at least not to God.

What was Solomon’s point in writing Ecclesiastes again?

Oh, yeah.

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (NASB)

Yes, God will judge us, may He have mercy on the nations. Except that keeping His commandments, if you mean the Torah mitzvot, only “applies to every person” (assuming Solomon didn’t mean “every Jew” since his primary audience was most certainly exclusively Jewish), in the broadest possible sense.

torahOf course, it’s dangerous to attempt to apply any of the Jewish scriptures (and even the Apostolic texts are Jewish scriptures written by Jews for Jews) to non-Jews in any sense, so I’m skating on proverbial thin ice (a very hazardous thing given that it’s triple digit highs in and around Boise for the foreseeable future).

Yes, I’m being pessimistic. Half the time, I want to take this “religion thing” and say “to heck with it…if I’m not supposed to belong to the club, I’ll leave.”

Maybe Thomas Gray was correct when he penned in his poem “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College:”

“Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”

While Christians were ignorant of their/our true place in the ekklesia and their/our station in the future Kingdom of Messiah, we felt like Kings and Queens, reigning and ruling with Jesus, King of the Hill, Top of the Heap, and so on.

Given the “alternate reality” I’ve just constructed, we’d better duck and run when Messiah really does return for treating the Jewish people and Israel so badly, especially if all of the nations we live in (everywhere except Israel) are going to war against God’s precious, splendorous people, and, as the Bible says, we’re going to get our fannies whooped.

So wising up, I look around and find that I’m just part of a pilot project, a starter kit, a house made of cards with cotton candy for a roof and play-doh for a foundation.

No wonder I’ve felt so “unfinished” or maybe just “unmade” in my version of being a “Messianic Gentile.”

But it all fits. It explains everything, particularly why there are so many questions and so few, if any, answers.

We really were never meant to go as far as we tried to go, were never meant to rise as high as we tried to fly.

Like Icarus, now that I’ve flown close enough to the Sun to see the truth, my wax wings have melted and I plummet to earth like a broken angel, though I’m hardly angelic.

“Being your slave, what should I do but tend upon the hours and times of your desire” indeed.

icarusI think I’d better crawl on my knees in abject humility or humiliation for the incredible arrogance I’ve been guilty of in even imagining I could be more or, worse yet, that I was more.

I don’t think I’ve understood being a servant up until now, not really.

A fallen servant is one whose wings have melted, and wallowing in soggy, warm wax, all I can do to serve is to scoop up some of that gooey, messy stuff. Maybe it’ll be good enough to make into a few candles to light the way, should the King decide to return by the road that winds past my small place.

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42 Days: Processing Sunday

The voice of God is in the force.

Psalms 29:4

The Midrash on this verse comments, “It does not say that `the voice of God is in His force,’ but in the force; it `is in the force of every individual.’ `’ What God demands of every individual never exceeds the capacities He gave that person. Similarly, the Midrash notes that when the first of the Ten Commandments states: I am Hashem, your God, it uses the singular possessive form, because every Israelite felt that God was addressing him or her individually.

The stresses of life may be extremely trying, and the burden some people must carry may appear to be excessive. Yet, we must never despair. Rather, we must believe that regardless of how great our burdens may be, we have the strength to bear it. This faith should give us the courage to struggle with and master our struggle.

Sometimes circumstances become so taxing that we believe we are at our breaking point. This is when a righteous person will be sustained by the faith that although his or her burden may be heavy, it is never too heavy.

Today I shall…

try to remember that God has given me enough strength to withstand the stresses to which I am subject.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Kislev 4”
Aish.com

OK, so a relatively gentle dressing down by a Sunday school teacher isn’t the end of the world, nor does it require a tremendous about of strength to “endure.” Still in reading Rabbi Twerski’s commentary and in recalling my own experiences on Sunday, I can’t be sure anymore that anything in the Bible before about Acts 10 (this may be a slight exaggeration, since I think there are a few parts of the Old Testament that actually mentions the nations) can or should be applied to anyone who isn’t Jewish (i.e, “me”). Even thereafter in the New Testament, there are a series of “trap doors” as to who is being addressed, and the intended audience of the writer makes a great deal of difference in determining who can use the message.

For instance:

I must share this: I thought Matt. 24:45-51 was just about how we live our lives and how we can die any second. But after reading places like Malachi, it dawned on me that (while it may in fact be true secondarily that it is about our faith duties), the Master might be talking about the Levi in the Temple in terms of servants and vineyards and stewardship, etc. When you take the universality out of it, suddenly it makes sense why early Messianic Jews sacrificed if or if not the Shekhinah were there. And that absence of Shekhinah or Temple does not invalidate sacrifice; the Master is simply on a walkabout.

I didn’t see that one coming, either.

The venerable sage Yoda once told a talented but stubborn pupil, “You must unlearn what you have learned.”

I thought what I have learned in the past ten years or so was actually going to be helpful and useful when I went back to church. Now I realize it’s just getting in the way. Or maybe I should just keep my big mouth shut, but I’m discovering that’s easier said than done.

But if my past experience can’t be my teacher, is this all I’ve got left?

The greatest teacher in the world is known as: “Trial and error.” This has given more people more wisdom than any other teacher possibly could. “There is no greater wise person than someone with experience.”

What does it mean to have experience? It means that one has learned from trial and error. If everyone would get it right the first time, experience would not be needed.

Having the courage to try — even though you might make a mistake — enables you to learn from trial and error. This is a valuable reframe.

Instead of becoming overly frustrated or discouraged when you make a mistake, realize that you are now becoming wiser.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Daily Lift #642, Learn from Trial and Error”
Aish.com

Wiser, huh? That’s like learning the layout of your brand new house by going in blindfolded and walking around, bumping into walls and furniture until you have everything, including the bruises, committed to memory.

If “unlearning” and “relearning” by trial and error (I think I know the “error” part fairly well) is going to be my primary method of “learning church,” then it’s going to continue to be very uncomfortable. It wasn’t that long ago that I said getting a few metaphorical bruises in church wasn’t the worst thing that can happen, and that’s still correct.

It just isn’t all that much fun, either.

I’m writing this on Sunday and still trying to process Sunday. If it seems like I’m repeating myself, that’s just me trying to find my way out of this loop of thought. I think I’ve said this before, but I didn’t realize how far it extended. I used to think that the entire Bible had something to say to just about anyone. Now I’m really realizing huge chunks of it probably don’t speak to me at all. Scripture then, is like a vast field full of treasure, but only certain bits and pieces can be utilized by me. The rest is intended for others and perhaps, even the parts that are meant for me, only tell me how I am to serve those others.

The lesson I learned at Sunday school may be more pointed than I first realized. Not only do I take the seat furthest from the head of the table so that the groom (Messiah) may have the best seat, but it is only for the purpose of serving the groom and his guests (the Jewish people) that I have been invited to the wedding feast at all.

Humbling to be sure. It is clear that I have much to learn…and unlearn. Dust and ashes indeed.

43 Days: A Failing Grade in Community

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:37-40 (ESV)

I just came back from a very interesting Sunday school class discussing Pastor’s sermon on Acts 7:44:53 and in fact, I really think I embarrassed myself.

I didn’t mean to, of course.

We were talking about how Christians might limit God and put Him, and our faith, “in a box,” so to speak. It was an extension of what we had learned about the Tabernacle and the Temples from today’s sermon (Pastor does believe that Ezekiel’s Temple will literally be built, which was a relief to hear). One woman in the class was discussing how our true duty as Christians is to believe, quoting from parts of John 6 and Christ’s “bread of life sermon.” I jumped in (and it wasn’t the first time I shot off my big mouth in class today) and said something about feeding the hungry, giving the thirsty something to drink, and visiting the sick, as evidence of our faith.

Then Charlie, the class teacher said something that stopped me cold.

He basically told me that he thought the “final judgment”section of Matthew 25 (specifically Matthew 25:31-46) has been misunderstood. He reminded me of something I had mentioned just a few minutes before; that Jesus was a Jew talking to other Jewish people. He said he understood from the passage that we Christians have a special duty to love the Jewish people and that how we Christians treat the Jews is how we shall be judged.

Wow.

He didn’t put it exactly in those words but like I said, it stopped me cold. I was being very gently rebuked for applying to humanity something that should only be applied to the Jewish people.

Like I said, wow! Really?

I still don’t think that we’re supposed to ignore the needs of a desperate world around us, but I suddenly saw those verses in a new light. I’ve never heard that interpretation before and I don’t know if anyone shares it, but it makes a sort of sense, particularly in light of some of what the “strict: form of Messianic Judaism teaches about the church’s duty to Israel and the Jewish people.

I feel like I really missed something and frankly, I feel pretty humbled (and not a little humiliated) by the whole experience. I have to admit that after some of the conversations I’ve had lately about how certain corners of Messianic Judaism tend to treat Christians like red-headed, left-handed, ne’er-do-well, mentally deficient, step-children, that I also fell into the trap of thinking I had a “leg up” on a few things, given my background. I failed not only at community but especially at humility.

But it’s so confusing because there seems to be such a mix of ideas, opinions, and interpretations going on, and a lot of it seems very traditionally Christian. Then I hit a major speed bump in my assumptions about the church environment I’m in and came to a complete halt. I guess this is something about me God wanted me to learn…and He chose a pretty public spot in which to teach it to me.

Fortunately, it happened near the end of class and I could beat a hasty retreat back to my car and home.

I had intended to write about how the Pastor interpreted the role of the Temple in Judaism, and especially his rather unique understanding of what Stephen was accusing the Sanhedrin of, relative to “putting God in a box.” But then my own failure in putting Christianity “in a box” took precedence, not just in failing to consider the consequences of the Matthew 25 teaching, but in daring to think I actually had something to contribute that might be new and interesting to the class. I was arrogant and I was wrong.

Oops.

When I was anticipating going to church this morning, I got a feeling of boredom, like I’d have to put up with a bunch of “Christianese” for the sake of reconciliation and community. Now I wonder if I should even go back, having stubbed my toe that badly. Maybe I have nothing to contribute at all. Maybe my personal, internal template just can’t be adjusted sufficiently to integrate with these people.

It’s 43 days until my self-imposed time limit, which seems like a goodly amount of time, but it also translates into a maximum of six more Sundays until the end of the year. Let’s figure that I won’t be going to services on December 23rd for obvious reasons, and that takes me down to five Sundays, each a maximum of three hours of exposure to this community. Fifteen more hours total. So far, not including my interview with Pastor Randy, I only have nine hours under my belt.

I took a risk today. I spoke my mind again in class. I really tried to keep quiet and self-contained in services, even sitting in the very back for fear of taking up someone else’s seat, but in class it’s harder because it’s interactive. Things seemed to be going well or at least “neutral” until that last string of words that came out of my mouth.

Like I said…oops.

Anyway, I have a week before I have to face my embarrassment again. We’ll see how it goes. After nine hours, I don’t feel any closer to this community than I did when I first walked in the door, apart from recognizing a few faces. Fifteen more hours to go until I have to make a decision. I might not go back at all except I set a time limit and I am determined to see it through. Maybe it would have been better if I knew nothing at all. Maybe it would have been better if I had a personality that was so shy that I could never speak in a group.

But if I keep my commitment to those last fifteen hours, will it really do any good? I just don’t seem to “do” community very well. There’s a saying attributed to Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens):

“It is better to have people think you a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

Today, I removed all doubt.

My Strength

Do you want to enhance your life? Keep repeating throughout the day, “I love you, Hashem, my strength.” As you repeat this a number of times each day, you will feel yourself being strengthened spiritually and emotionally. You will be able to remember that Hashem is your Rock, your Fortress, and your Rescuer (Psalms 18:2,3). Hashem is the source of your strength. Recognizing this, gives you an inner strength that will sustain you on a high level each and every day.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Sustaining Inner Strength, Daily Lift #581”
Aish.com

As I write this, it is the morning of the last day of Rosh Hashanah as it is traditionally celebrated. Yom Kippur is yet to come but it is fast approaching. Many Jews around the world are rapt in solemn awe of God and praying, repenting and seeking forgiveness and redemption for themselves, their loved ones, the state of world Jewry, and the state of the world.

I said not too long ago that it’s important to take care of yourself. Letting yourself get beaten up too much, even for the sake of Heaven, could inhibit you from performing those tasks that God set before you for the sake of Heaven. While it is important and sometimes even vital to “fight the good fight,” it is also said that you should “choose your battles.” Remember, especially in the blogosphere, there are many, many people who argue for the sake of arguing, though they will always tell you that they have a more noble point to make. I suppose it should be easy to pick out the toxic people who blog or worse, who are part of your face-to-face life, and then avoid them, but engaging such people and trying to “debate” them is like staring at the aftermath of a terrible auto accident. It’s horrible to watch, but you can’t turn away.

But that’s not the point of life nor is it the reason God caused each of us to come into existence.

As young boys, Abaye and Rava were sitting in front of Rabbah, when Rabbah asked them, “To whom do we speak when we are saying a brachah?”

-Berachos 48a

Abaye and Rava both said that it is to ‫ – רחמנא‬the Merciful One— that we daven. When Rabbah asked them where ‫ רחמנא‬is found, Rava pointed toward the beams of the roof, and Abaye walked outside and pointed to the sky. Rabbah declared, “You are both destined to be great Rabbis! This is what is meant when people say that large squash plants can be detected from when they are already just blossoming.”

We often find Hashem referred to as “‫ – רחמנא‬The Merciful One”. This is rooted in our belief that everything Hashem does is only for our benefit. Hashem is infinitely compassionate, and He is merciful and kind in all His ways. When we recite blessings before we eat, it is an expression of our belief in Hashem’s precise supervision and specific care of all aspects of the world. Our proclaiming a brachah inspires an influence of holiness upon the world, and all spiritual entities associated with this food and the process involved in its preparation are activated.

Daf Yomi Digest
Gemara Gem
“Making of a Gadol”
Berachos 48

That’s closer to the point. “This is rooted in our belief that everything Hashem does is only for our benefit. Hashem is infinitely compassionate, and He is merciful and kind in all His ways.”

For some people, the solemn, august ceremony of Yom Kippur may not particularly emphasize God’s compassion and mercy. Particularly for non-Jews or Jews who were not raised in a religious home, encountering Yom Kippur “abruptly” in the middle of your life may seem not just humbling, but humiliating. You have sinned. You have failed everyone who depends on you, and you have failed God. How is it possible to approach the Throne and beg for another chance, another year, another life? After all, you’ve failed so often and so severely. People don’t change. People can’t change (or can we?).

Last year at this time, I wrote a blog post called Dancing with God on Yom Kippur. Seems like a rather odd image, but actually, it’s more appropriate than you might imagine. God is all about second chances. God, of course, knows how frail and error-prone we human beings are, and how easily we are lead astray, most often by our own delusions and desires. We think God wants us to talk incessantly when He really wants us to be quiet. We think God wants us to be a warrior, battling everyone who has a different theological bent than we do, but He really just wants us to be lovers of peace.

All things being equal, human beings would mess up a free lunch. We are the only elements in all of God’s Creation who don’t understand how to fit in and live our lives purposefully.

It takes great strength to face the worst aspects of who you are. It takes enormous courage to say, “I’m wrong” and “Will you forgive me?” not just to God, but to other people you or I or anyone has hurt. Most people don’t have that kind of strength and courage without humbling themselves before God. Most people defend themselves by becoming defensive and never imagine that they have made mistakes. Well, perhaps in their heart of hearts they do, but they fear the sense of self-humiliation that they think will accompany apologizing and making amends. They think it will trap them in a downward spiral of depression but in fact, it is ultimately liberating.

Remember what Rabbi Pliskin advised: “Keep repeating throughout the day, ‘I love you, Hashem, my strength.’ As you repeat this a number of times each day, you will feel yourself being strengthened spiritually and emotionally.”

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1 (ESV)

It may seem like a strange paradox, but in order to gain the strength we need to serve God in the coming year, we must become the least of all people, humbling ourselves even though we are terrified of feeling humiliation. We must become the least of all creatures, smaller and more helpless than even an infant. In humility, as children of God, we have the right to ask for His mercy. It is in our weakness that we are strong.

And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 18:2-4 (ESV)

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. –2 Corinthians 12:10 (ESV)

I love you, Hashem, my strength.