Tag Archives: joining

60 Days: There is Still a Light that Shines

Inner lightWhen you come to a place that seems outside of G‑d’s realm, too coarse for light to enter, and you want to run away—

Know that there is no place outside of G‑d, and rejoice in your task of uncovering Him there.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Stay Put”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

The soul above awaits the time it will be privileged to descend into a body. For the soul senses how much it can accomplish here below; it can attain the level of “delighting with G-d.” So what is everyone waiting for?

“Today’s Day”
Shabbat, Cheshvan 15, 5704
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan

Given what I’ve been writing about in these past few days, the quotes above seem rather fitting. There is no place we can go that God cannot enter with us, ironically including into the church.

I’ve been experiencing a little “push back” (no, not at home) about my decision to re-enter Christian fellowship, as if Christianity was a step backward and that some other philosophy or theology were more evolved for the non-Jewish believer. I can’t say that the path I’ve selected is for everyone, I can only say that it is right for me, at least the “me” who exists today and needs to face a certain set of challenges.

Jewish mysticism sees the soul in Heaven awaiting “assignment” to a physical body so it can enact the will of God in the world of human beings. In a sense, that’s sort of how I feel right now, waiting to enter into the world of the church to see if I have anything to contribute to the body of Christ. I also (and I’ve said this before) must be careful to communicate that I’m not entering the church with “ulterior motives” but rather, to add whatever uniqueness of expression and perspective God has gifted me with to the ekklesia of the Messiah as it exists in my own little corner of the planet.

One of the reasons some people choose to attend a particular church is that they are “fed” there. I’ve never been really sure of what that meant (I’m not very good at “Christianese”) but I suppose it has something to do with the teaching or the level of emotional or spiritual support provided by the Pastoral and teaching staff. I don’t think I’m going to church to be “fed” as such, but I do believe that Christian fellowship will give me something that I’ve been sorely lacking.

O, God, who will dwell in Your tabernacle, who will rest on Your holy mountain? … One who speaks the truth in his heart … who swears to his own hurt but will not retract.

Psalms 15:1-4

In their mind’s eye, people believe that they are acting as truthfully as possible. We all know, however, how easily we can deceive ourselves. Since truth may be elusive, how then can we know that we have the truth?

There is a useful litmus test. We can know that we have the truth when we have the courage to feel the pain of accepting the truth. People lie because they think the lie will be less painful or costly for them than the truth.

People often fail to grow because they are reluctant to face the painful truth that they have done wrong. We have an innate tendency to avoid pain, and therefore we are apt to conjure up rationalizations that justify our behavior. These rationalizations are nothing but lies ― sometimes clever and convincing, but lies nonetheless. Facing the truth and accepting the pain that comes with it requires courage.

People who “speak the truth in their heart,” says the Psalmist, do not retract their word even if it is to their own hurt. On the other hand, those who constantly seek to change everything to conform to their maximum comfort are only lying to themselves.

Today I shall…

try to be courageous and not automatically withdraw from everything that is painful. I shall try to examine my actions to make sure I am not sacrificing truth for comfort.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Cheshvan 13”

While I don’t experience the church or Christians as a “painful truth,” in fact, I most likely have been denying myself an experience that I need in order to grow spiritually. It’s easy to say that the church is “such-and-thus” in some negative sense, and to let that be the excuse to keep me away. It’s also easy (but not as easy) to visit a church, and to say to yourself (and others) that “these people aren’t me,” or “I can visit them, but I’m not one of them.” Playing the “superiority card” at the church is no way to contribute to the body of believers, even if you (or I) think that they are less than what they can be and should be.

In the “Today’s Day” lesson for Friday, Cheshvan 14, 5704, we find:

“From G-d are man’s steps established.” (Psalm 37:23) Every one of Israel has a spiritual mission in life – which is to occupy himself with the work of construction, to make a “dwelling-place” for G-d.

That statement doesn’t actually apply to the church or any body of worship so much as it does to the individual and how we establish a “dwelling place” for God within us and within the world, but it still fits. If the Messiah dwells among us when two or three are gathered in his name, (Matthew 18:20) then it behooves us…it behooves me to gather with others so that he may be with us…and with me. Serving God isn’t particularly being served by God, but serving others and summoning the Spirit so that it may dwell within those who need it. There are so many who would hoard the gifts of the Spirit for themselves, but that’s not what we were taught. We can only be who God made us to be by being together and by joining others.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)

This teaching of the master is not unlike what we see presented from a more contemporary Jewish Rabbi.

G‑d did not give you light that you may hold it up in the middle of the day.

When you are given light it is in order to accomplish something, to do something difficult and novel.

Go take your light and transform the darkness that it may also shine!

It feels a little egotistical to say that I’m going to take my light and let it shine among my fellow Christians, but I feel as if the Master is commanding us to do just that; to share and to love and to be with each other. More than that, we are to place that light on a hill and let the rest of the world experience it as well. That’s pretty hard to do in isolation and I don’t think just “blogging light” cuts it. We have to uncover the light, we have to shine the light.

We have to be the light.

Let it be, let it be
Ah let it be, yeah let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be…

-Paul McCartney
Let It Be (1970)

Let it be.