Sunday, August 17, 2014

Carousel of Thoughts

Photo Credit: Aral Tasher
Sometimes one can't write because he doesn't have anything to write about. Sometimes it's because he has everything to write about. Seems that every so often, like clockwork, my thoughts evolve into a carousel of ideas and questions spinning around and around, faster and faster, until finally they blur into nothingness. Perhaps that's where I reach my breaking point. Anyway, that's where I'm at today. The thoughts run round and round and I just don't know what to do with them. I suppose I could share a few of them here.

What follows is a semi-coherent rant; I make no guarantees as to how interesting or intelligible it may be.

Striving for stability in the Messianic Movement
I've mentioned a couple of times how our movement is still quite young and struggling to find its feet. So, naturally, the problem solver in me wonders how we can strive for maturity. How can we achieve stability? What steps must we take? Just a few things that I think we need:
  • A respect for our Jewish and Christian brothers. By respect, I don't mean simple agreeing to disagree. I mean acknowledging that they have been in this conversation much longer than we have and they have something to offer. I've been reading books like God in Search of Man and Mere Christianity--books that work to build a firm foundation with far more depth than what I've seen in our young movement. We don't have to agree with all that they say. But, we do need to consider the conversation they've had up to this point and see if we might learn from their successes and failures.
  • A flexible framework for reading the Bible. I'll be honest--I think a strict literalistic hermeneutic is destroying our credibility and our unity. The Bible is complex. Some parts seem to contradict and some parts just plain don't make sense. Too often we ignore the difficult parts of the Bible or settle for pat answers. I've also seen how applying a strict literal hermeneutic can result in split congregations and totally off-base doctrines. All I'm asking for is a little more humility in our walk and talk, a little more honesty about our own biases, and a little less fear of being wrong.
  • Tradition. I'm not talking about any specific tradition, but just that we need a tradition. We need rituals to remind us of what we believe and who we are. We need to see the Word in symbols, in actions, in worship and prayer--not just in study. We need something that we can pass onto our children, something that they can grasp hold of and run with.

Teaching my own family
Right along with the last point comes figuring out how to raise my own children. I'm married now. Raising a family is not longer a distant dream, but is now a very near reality. I want to have a faith that I can pass on to them--something they can stand firm on and get excited about. They need foundation, instruction, and vision. They need a story they can get caught up in. How can I share that with them?

Focusing on the core of my beliefs
If I'm going to teach my children, I need to know what I believe. I keep coming back to the question: What is my core? What is at my center? And the answer that keeps coming is these three things: Faith, Hope, and Love.
  • Faith:
    • God is the Creator of the Universe
    • He is our Father; He is our King
  • Love:
    • God created man in His own image, inscribing His signature on every human soul
    • We stand before God broken and beautiful: Accepted by His Grace, Humbled by His Mercy
  • Hope:
    • We eagerly await the Redemption on the captive, the Resurrection of the dead, and the Restoration of all things
    • We long for a place to call Home

Conversation with Humanity
I mentioned above about how I believe we need to get involved in the Judeo-Christian conversations. I would go even farther than that. We need to get involved in the human conversation. I believe in interfaith conversation. I don't mean some sort of relativism or some big "let's all just get along" campaign. I mean being honest about our similarities and differences. Finding what we can learn from one another and how we can work together, without compromising our own faith.

We are all under the same curse, looking for some spark of hope in this dark world. We are all made descendants of one man, made in the image and likeness of our Creator. Some of us our built on self-destruction, yes, but that does not mean we have to treat each other like enemies. I'm a puritan at heart; I'm tired of separatism. Let's work to bring redemption to this planet.

Communion with God
I started looking into the idea of communion and the sacraments (whose number varies depending on your tradition). The idea of a sacrament conveying God's grace to us intrigued me, though I did not quite understand it. When we partake of the bread and the wine and proclaim the death of Yeshua, what is really happening here?

The other day during worship at church, the pastor got up to read from the Word of God. He told us, "Pay attention to these words, for they are a means of grace to you." A means of grace. Those words echoed the doctrine of the sacraments. They also echoed Deuteronomy: "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD" (Deut. 8:3) and "He is your life and length of days" (Deut. 30:20). Our life comes from God, through His Word, by His grace. 

Later at communion the pastor said of the bread and the wine, "This is the Word of God in pictures." And suddenly it started to click. God's Word is not limited to the English (or Hebrew) text on a page. It comes through symbols and traditions, through prayer and worship, through acts of justice and acts of mercy. This is His grace to us.

I'm not talking about some extraneous doctrine here. I'm talking about the source of life. Just as the two revelations are our starting point for understanding the Bible, receiving the Word of God is the beginning of life for us. It is what transforms us, as it is written: "be transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Rom. 12:2).

Well, I suppose I should wrap up my rambling here. I know it was fast and poorly organized, but it feels nice to get this all off my chest. These are my thoughts; feel free to share yours (or question mine) in the comments.


  1. Very interesting thoughts. I especially liked what you said about the family, passing this faith down to children, and how you broke down "faith, hope, and love."

    I do get cautious however about inter-faith conversation and creating our own traditions. I think they can be great things but should be handled carefully. Familial traditions can be educational and inspiring--as you said, something kids can hold onto. But faith-wide "Messianic Judaism" tradition worries me because it can become or replace Yah's law. Now I know that you're well aware of this and are not suggesting anything close to that. I actually enjoy your optimism about how this movement will learn to treat these things.

    Because I'm also tired of the separatism. Abraham didn't have the privilege to read the Torah every day (hint, hint), but he heard the voice of the Almighty and acted with faith, justice, and mercy. These are the "heart matters" that we should be focusing on, I think.

    1. *become like law or replace...

    2. It's a fine line to walk for sure. But, then again, we were told "the path is narrow" and that the answer is neither "to the right or left." It's so easy to pick one side or the other: embracing some tradition blindly or denouncing tradition altogether, embracing all religions as equal or declaring all others as heretics. There is truth (and falsehood) on either side and we've got to figure out which pieces are truth and how they fit together across this great divide.

      And I absolutely agree with you about the heart matters. Thanks for sharing your thoughts =)