Nurturing Amidst the Suffering

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Luke 13:1-9

Grace and peace to you, from God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

One hobby that I have attempted for a while now is caring for and growing bonsai, the Japanese art form of creating little trees. My first experience was in college when I received a bonsai beginners kit which allowed you to start your bonsai from the very beginning as a seedling. That first attempt was not very successful. I tried again some years later and managed to overwater another bonsai and thus kill it. While on internship during seminary we had the awesome experience of going to a bonsai show at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens and my interest in bonsai was re-stoked. This time we got a couple of bonsai with the hope of being successful. Our cats did not have the same perception of the trees that we did. They would rather eat them. Thus, my experimentation with bonsai came to an end for a while.

When reading from Luke this morning and the parable of the fig tree I am reminded of my own failures at attempting to nurture and bring something to fruition. In our failures we suffer and most of the time it does not feel good. Honestly, it is awful and we get discouraged to try new things or to even continue in whatever it was that we were attempting in the first place. When we fail it brings upon us a sense of suffering.

If there is one thing within the world that many of us would do away with, suffering would be right at the top of the list. Suffering is uncomfortable. Suffering is painful. Suffering brings up too many questions of why. However, suffering is a part of the human experience that is unavoidable.

Not only do we witness the suffering in Jesus’ parable as the landowner wants to be rid of that which will not bear fruit, we also witness suffering at the beginning of our lesson as Jesus speaks of the evil of Pilate. The reference to the Galileans whose blood was mingled with the sacrifices speaks to an unimaginable suffering and shows the contempt that Pilate had for religions other than that of the Roman Empire. Suffering is also present in the eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them. Often times when things like this happen we want to ask why. Why does God allow this to happen?

First, God does not allow this to happen, nor does God cause the terrible tragedies in the world that some tv evangelists would like you to believe. Second, God is present right by our side and weeping along side us as we wonder and wander amidst the suffering that happens within our lives and communities. It is the sin of the world that welcomes the suffering and misdirects our ways. Sin and suffering do tend to have a connection as we look at the treacherous ways of Pilate as well as those in our own society today that bring about suffering from their violent acts.

Suffering is not a form of punishment as some may like to think. God does not bring suffering into our lives because of something that we failed to do or something that we even did wrong. Suffering is not a form of punishment for our sins. God’s answer to the sin of the world is not punishment.  God brings to the world a loving presence which breaks through all of the suffering when we open our hearts to its warmth and compassion.

If we venture deeper into the parable of the fig tree, we quite often want to assign God as the landowner that oversees all of the property. This is common since we see God as the author of all creation. In this respect, we then want to place Jesus in the garden bargaining with the landowner to please give him just a little more time to see this tree produce the fruit that you are expecting. I must nourish it and give it good fertilizer for that to happen. The suffering here occurs in the form of inaction. What if this is just a misinterpretation of this parable, which is most likely the case. Nowhere else do we see God in Luke as an angry and vindictive landowner that wants to be rid of those that are not bearing fruit and being calmed by Jesus. Luke instead portrays God as love and always waiting to share that love with those that have found their course veering in a different direction.

What if we are the landowners in Jesus’ parable of the fig tree? What if we are the ones that are quick to do away with those things in our lives that are not bearing any fruit? Do we have little patience to wait and see what will happen when the gardener tills and fertilizes the soil? Perhaps we as the landowners promote our own sense of how the world should work; we do not like to wait and we want things just the way that we like them and there just is not any room for something that is going to take a little while to grow.

As the landowner, we are met in the garden by love. The gardener has been there from the very beginning caring for creation and nurturing all things. God is the gardener. God is patient with us in all of our imperfections and all of our sin. God comes to us bearing good soil that is full of nutrients that encourage our growth and foster our relationship in God. In the garden we can learn how to care for those things that test us and that we so quickly want to push out of our way.

We can learn many things from Jesus and the example he has set for us in his walk. Our faith is nurtured as we allow God to feed and nurture us in the garden instead of trying to make things work the way we want them to.

Does the barren fig tree bear fruit when we let God nurture it? Most definitely! This season of Lent is a time for us to be nurtured and open to a deeper and truer relationship with God as we turn back to our baptism and are reminded of the covenant that was made with us on that day. We are marked with the sign of Christ forever!

I have attempted the art of bonsai again. I currently have two bonsai trees that are a testament to what being patient and learning can result in. This time I learned from those that are experienced bonsai growers. All it takes is just the right amount of love and nurturing to grow a healthy and vibrant bonsai.

You are loved and nurtured by the gardener that calls us all into creation. May you be open to that love and nurturing as we continue into Lent.

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My Favorite Podcasts!

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So, do you have any favorite podcasts? Do you know what a podcast is? I have been listening to several favorites for the last couple of years as well as adding some newer ones recently.

For those of you still wondering what a podcast is then here you go. A podcast is a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically. As an Apple person, I have these podcasts automatically downloaded to my phone weekly.

Without further ado, here are some of my favorite podcasts.

For fun I like to listen to:

Serial – produced by NPR and hosted by Sarah Koenig, this podcast is in its second season as it investigates the case of Bowe Bergdahl, an American soldier,  who was released by Al-Queda in a controversial prisoner exchange. Sarah does not take any sides, and presents some interesting facts. The first season centered on Adnan Syed, a convicted murderer, whose conviction and guilt is in question. This is worth your time!

This American Life – another great podcast produced by NPR. This weekly radio show is hosted by Ira Glass and heard by millions of people. The topics vary from week to week, yet they are very relatable as you can imagine some of the situations happening in your own hometown.

KCRW’s Left, Right & Center – This podcast was referred to me by a friend and it brings the political issues of the week into conversation. All viewpoints are presented which does not favor one line of reasoning over another. The hosts of the show do a good job of keeping discussions on a level basis and arguments rarely get heated.

Marathon Training Academy  – for those of you that are runners, this is a great podcast that gives you smart tips for staying healthy while running as well as recaps of races. The guests that hosts Angie and Trevor Spencer have on the show range from authors to ultra runners. I have truly enjoyed this podcast and it motivates me to keep on running. They even have a MTA group that you can become a part of that is very interactive and supportive.

For those of you that like to delve deeper into theological questions and dialog these podcasts are great for both study and reflection. Some even address issues within the church.

200churches – I recently was introduced to this podcast and the creators goal is to present great ideas to small churches, 200 attenders or fewer in worship weekly. I have only listened to a couple of episodes and it has already gained my following.

Preachers on Preaching – this podcast is produced by The Christian Century magazine and is fairly new as well. Each episode has a different pastor discuss their experience with preaching and how they get to sharing the Word.

Working Preacher – this podcast is produced by professors at Luther Seminary, an ELCA seminary. This is a great resource, as well as their website,  for sermon prep.

Pulpit Fiction Podcast – another great resource for sermon preparation. This is probably one of my favorite go-tos if I am struggling to find something in the lessons during the week.

Home-brewed Christianity – Tripp Fuller brings this podcast to life with more in-depth theological discussions. He has some great guests on it all of the time and has actually just recently released a new book.

On Being  – this podcast could be placed in either category. It is great fun listening to some people’s thoughts regarding their faith and viewing themselves as spiritual beings. Krista Tippet asks great questions which truly allows each guest to show their true being. Humanity is at work in this podcast and can be easily related to faith.

Where Is Our Trust?

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Luke 13:31-35

Grace and Peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

As you get older you begin to learn a few things. The wisdom gained through life experiences and knowledge helps you determine the appropriate things to say and do given the situation that you are confronted with. When you are young, you have the impression that you can rule the world and nothing can get in your way. You even say and do the things that are not the smartest. A lot of times this can come in regards to our responses into what other people say and do. Our common thought is that if you are going to say or do something inappropriate to me then I will retaliate in a way that reflects back to you. If someone does something we do not like then we are most certainly going to give it back to them in one form or another.

Believe it or not, I was not always the pastor you see before you! I have done some pretty stupid things in my life and hopefully have learned from them along the way. One such example happened shortly after I received my drivers license. Please do not follow my example. I came up to a 4-way stop in my hometown and believed that I was the first one at the corner as a couple of other cars approached the corner from other directions. After stopping I proceeded to turn left when the truck opposite me decided that he was going to turn right at the same time. I made sure that I did not let him get in front of me, but as I did I honked and waved a friendly little bird in his direction. As I said, it was a stupid mistake! I was only sixteen and thought I knew the rules of the road. Well, needless to say, the driver in the truck (a pretty large man), was not amused and proceeded to park and get out of truck and came up to my car while I was at the stoplight and pounded on my passenger side window. I learned a few different things that day. One was to not anger someone that was much larger than me. The second was to never flip someone off while driving in the car. And the third was that even if you left the house with clean underwear on someone may scare you enough if you provoke them that it will no longer be clean!

When we live in a system where we respond to a negative situation with a negative response then all we are doing is punishing a bad behavior. Herod’s message comes to Jesus in our gospel this morning in threats of death. This is the system that is in place and he is playing by the rules that he is aware. If someone does something that we appreciate and is nice then they are rewarded. However, in Jesus’ case, where someone does something you are not fond of, like being a visible opponent of current culture, then they must suffer some form of punishment. This reward and punishment system is very familiar even today. The problem is when we place our faith in that reward and punishment system, or the law as it is also known.

We can easily misplace our trust in rewards and punishment. Paul labels the law in 2 Corinthians as both a “ministry of condemnation,” and also a “ministry of death.” When we place our trust in rewards and punishments then we exist in fear – the fear of failure, the fear of having done wrong, the fear of being punished. When fear is present, it leaves little room for love. Herod was not seeking Jesus out because he loved him. Herod was seeking Jesus out because he was fearful of him and he wanted to exterminate that fear.It was in the ministry of the law that Herod came to Jesus and condemned him for all he had said and done. A ministry of solely the law, or rewards and punishment brings about death and kills relationships. While death may be a reward for those that have suffered for a long time and punishment for those that have stepped outside of legal boundaries; reward and punishment cannot overcome death!

Jesus comes and walks with us in a counter-cultural way that speaks opposite of the reward and punishment structure. Jesus has come to banish the law from ruling our lives and brings about love. An abundant ever flowing love. In that love is mercy and mercy comes in the third day. Jesus’ reaction to the Pharisees is one that is not retaliatory, but one that speaks the truth and places trust in the third day. He will continue to cast out demons and heal both today and tomorrow, and on the third day he finishes his work. It may have been punishment from the Roman authorities that killed Jesus, however, Jesus placed his trust in God. The work of mercy on that third days comes in the form of Jesus’ resurrection so that we too can be raised up from death. If we rely on rewards and punishments then we are dead to love. Jesus conquers all of that!

In the mercy that comes to us from Christ our faith is nurtured and grows beautifully into something much greater. We must turn back to our baptism constantly to be reminded of that love that Jesus shares with us. There is only room for trust in our heart of Jesus and any trust that we place in rewards and punishment is misguided.

Jesus gives us mercy without any expectations so that we too may give mercy and forgiveness to those that we interact. We are called to live by mercy when we walk with the stranger and the alien. We live by my mercy when we are for our neighbors and sisters and brothers. We live by mercy when we welcome in and feed those that have been shunned away by others. One of our temptations during Lent may be to trust in rewards and punishment. Where does mercy reside in this?

May we take time during this Lenten season to repent of those temptations. May we not hurt people when we are hurt. May we not provoke others when we feel that we have been provoked. May we be cautious in rewarding those that are simply nice to us. May we offer mercy to all that come to us and may we give abundantly of the love that has been given to us.

Turning Back to Our Baptism

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Luke 4:1-13 (1st Sunday of Lent)

Grace and Peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord, Jesus Christ.

This morning we find ourselves in the early days of Lent. You may not feel different. You may not sense much of a difference as you look around. Though, as we look towards our paraments you can visibly witness the changes in colors as we mark time with the season.

Lent is a season in the church year in which many people either dread, or a season in which people look forward to on a yearly basis. Lent is a season of preparation as we walk towards Holy Week and the culmination of the three days leading to Easter. We begin on Ash Wednesday as we receive ashes reminding us of our own mortality and that only by the cross of Christ are we given eternal life.

The gospel of Luke brings us the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert which I believe we can all relate to, whether we want to admit it or not. Jesus, being tempted by bread, power, and safety could be those same things that we are tempted by. It could just as easily be translated over to youth, beauty, or wealth as well. As we prepare to walk in these forty days of Lent, Jesus makes his preparations in the desert for forty days, resisting the devil, and preparing for the ministry that lays ahead of him. This desert that Jesus finds himself in this, his training ground; one that continues to prepare him for the cross. Thomas Merton explains Lent in this manner:

“The purpose of Lent is not only (seeking repentance) , to satisfy the divine justice, but above all a preparation to rejoice in His love. And this preparation consists in receiving the gift of His mercy–a gift which we receive insofar as we open our hearts to it, casting out what cannot remain in the same room with mercy.

“Now one of the things we must cast out first of all is fear. Fear narrows the little entrance to our heart. It shrinks up our capacity to love. It freezes up our power to give ourselves. If we were terrified of God as an inexorable judge, we would not confidently await His mercy, or approach Him trustfully in prayer. Our peace and our joy in Lent are a guarantee of grace.”

We are fearful of leaving things behind. Those “things” can be relationships, possessions, habits, or even our own personal desires. As we look inward these next several weeks we also may come to realize that we may benefit by fasting from those things. Fasting is not an easy task. It can bring heartache and longing. It can bring a sense of emptiness. However, fasting can also bring us grace and a deeper relationship with God. We must be careful to make sure we are fasting for the right reasons because the worst thing we can do during Lent is to be tempted to earn God’s favor through self-denial. When we fast it disrupts our lives in a way which helps us to see more clearly.

I was really struck by temptation entering my cell for the first time when I went on retreat at The Abby of Gethsemani. No, there was not a plate of cookies or cake awaiting me in my room, though that would have been a temptation within itself. I was struck by the picture icon that hung over my bed. The icon itself, a scene from this very reading in Luke that we hear today. The icon is painted by Brother Lavrans Nielsen, a member of the community at Gethsemani. The devil in all black seems to be tempting Jesus by asking him to turn a stone into a loaf of bread. Jesus’ rebuke is short and simple, “One cannot live on bread alone.”

While my retreat was in January, there was still some time before the start of Lent. This made me think about those temptations that we attempt to resist as we prepare for our own journeys. Often times we are tempted to take a course that turns us away from God and thus distancing ourselves from the love that flows so freely. The reality is that God’s love never fades for us and when we return we are welcomed with arms wide open waiting to embrace us in a love that is overpowering.

While we are tempted to turn away from things that disrupt our lives, I invite you to welcome that disruption in. Welcome in those things that disrupt you from habits that have shaped us in ways that do not direct us toward God. Some of these we may be aware of while others may have just slipped into our daily lives without us truly noticing. Instead of turning from God , I encourage you to turn back.

Turn back to your baptism in which you were marked by the cross of Christ forever. Turn back to the baptismal waters that have washed over you and cleansed you of your sins. Turn back to your baptism where you were welcomed into the family of God with a deep loving embrace.

As we turn back to our baptisms, we must take the time to repent of those things that turn us away from God. We must say “no” to those things that distract and lead us away from experiencing the oneness of God. We must say “yes” to those things that feed us and bring us back to the baptismal waters.

During these forty days you will be tempted. You will be tempted by those things that always tempt you as well as some new things. Remember it is these forty days that we use as preparation. In this preparation we are continually receiving the gift of Grace from a God that walks with us. In these forty days may those things that you say “yes” to become habit and may your relationship with God be strengthened.

We Are Marked

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Ash Wednesday Homily, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

 

We are a marked people! From our baptisms when we are marked with the cross of Christ forever, to our deaths where we are returned, earth to earth, ashes to ashes.

We are marked in our daily walk and in our actions. We are marked by our professions, whether it be pastor, teacher, engineer, retail worker, manager, construction worker, sales person, and many other titles. Some of us may be full-time students, while others never give up learning. We are marked as parents, grandparents, sons, daughters, nieces or nephews. We are marked by our faith traditions, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, or Catholic. We are marked by race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, ability or disability, wealth or lack there of.

These are labels. Labels that are easily understood and ones that allow humanity to be sorted into groups which we think we may be able to understand, yet at times are often misunderstood. Most of the time labels cause a division which is neither good for the individual nor for the community.

This evening we gather together so that regardless of any markings or labels that may be placed upon us we are reminded that we are one in Christ. One community breathing in unison to the ebbs and flows of life as we know it with each other. We are called to be together in the community as we listen to God through the prophet Joel:

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the aged; gather the children, even infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her canopy. Joel 2:15-16

This evening is Ash Wednesday. This evening we are encouraged to come before God and repent of our sins known and unknown. We do not come before God, receiving ashes, for our own sake, but to give our thanks and praise to all of creation. Knowing that God is in all and as we receive the ashes, the God in us becomes one with the dust that we will become in the future. The ashes remind us of our finiteness in this Earthly existence and also the weight of our own sins.

While Ash Wednesday tends to be a solemn service, it is also one in which we are reminded of Christ’s never-ending love for all of humanity. While we came from dust, and to dust we shall return, we know that in the promise of resurrection that the dust itself bears Christ.

We are called to repent of our sins at all times, yet on this Ash Wednesday we are reminded even more so of the call to turn back to God and find life in God’s grace and forgiveness. Ash Wednesday is the doorway to Lent and as we walk through it you are invited and encouraged to participate. To participate in self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love.

In this season of Lent may we learn what it means to say “no” to those things that lead us away from God. During this season of Lent may we also learn what it means to say “yes” to those things that give us renewed life in God. May we remain strong in fasting from the “no’s” and be fed from feasting on the “yes’s.”

May we:

•Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling in them
•Fast from emphasis on our differences; feast on our oneness
•Fast from the darkness around us; feast on the light of Christ
•Fast on ill thoughts; feast on the healing power of God
•Fast on words that pollute; feast on words that purify
•Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude
•Fast from withholding anger; feast on sharing our feelings
•Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism
•Fast from worry; feast on trust
•Fast from guilt; feast on freedom
•Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation
•Fast from stress; feast on self-care
•Fast from hostility; feast on letting go
•Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness
•Fast from selfishness; feast on compassion for others
•Fast from discouragement; feast on seeing the good
•Fast from apathy; feast on enthusiasm
•Fast from suspicion; feat on seeing the good
•Fast from idle gossip; feast on spreading good news
•Fast from being so busy; feast on quiet silence
•Fast from problems; feast on prayerful trust
•Fast from talking; feast on listening
•Fast from trying to be in control; fast on letting go.

Loving God, let us fast from anything that leads us away from you. Teach us to feast on all that brings us closer to you. Amen. (From the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, MN)

 

Transfiguration as Epiphany

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Luke 9:28-43

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and Lord, Jesus Christ.

There are times in our travels when we just put on the cruise control and let the road take care of itself. Or at least that is what we hope will happen. Sometimes it does not go quite that way though, does it? I recall a scene from National Lampoons Vacation where Clark Griswold is driving along the highway at night and the next thing you know he has his head laid back and is sleeping as the car takes the next exit. Surely, he is going to kill someone or is entire family. Miraculously the Griswold family ends up right in a motel parking lot after driving through neighborhoods and nearly causing a few accidents.

I remember a time when I went to school one morning, I believe this was after I was able to drive and I notice the passenger sideview mirror had been knocked off my father’s truck. He worked the third shift for the most part while I was growing up and apparently he dosed off and it took him hitting a mailbox to wake him up.

We cannot evade sleep when our body truly needs it. Just a couple of years ago, Kiefer and I were driving back to Michigan from a trip we made to Kansas City and I had been awake for nearly 24 hours when all of a sudden I notice some very bright lights flashing behind me. Now, The Illinois State Trooper that pulled us over was pretty nice; especially to startle me back to reality and ensure that my senses were heightened the rest of the trip.

Sometimes we slumber when it is not necessarily the best time. We end up running into mailboxes or startled back to reality by state troopers. Do you think the disciples of Jesus were any different? This morning we are pulled into a great sense of mystery. Peter, John, and James went along with Jesus as he hiked to the top of the mountain. After the efforts that they had to exert, the disciples were weighed down with sleep, yet they did not fall into a deep sleep, like they would later as Jesus was praying at the Mount of Olives before his arrest. I assume they were in a similar state as I was when I was pulled over by the state trooper. I was tired, and perhaps sleep deprived, but not really sleeping.

Peter, and his companions, were certainly tired, but fought the urge to let their eyes fall shut. It is a good thing that they did not. Much like the bright lights of a state trooper car, the disciples were caught in a dazzling array of light that emanated from their leader that they had been following around in ministry. What they were now experiencing could be seen as the Epiphany of Epiphanies! They were shocked and in awe of what they were witnessing, sleep would have to wait! The Transfiguration that we experience today is the revelation of Jesus’ divinity. Yes, Jesus is fully human with us in flesh and blood, and he is also God incarnate born fully of the Holy Spirit.

We have been journeying these past five weeks with Jesus in the season after Epiphany, yet being witness to the little epiphanies that take place all around Jesus and his disciples. It is in the cradle that we find the newborn Jesus, born incarnate of God, bringing a hope and promise to all that have been waiting. Even for three magicians from the East that felt called to follow a star.

It continues in the waters of baptism as Jesus wades into the water seeking his own baptism from John the Baptist. It is here that we hear the voice from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus’ ministry continues from baptism to the wedding at Cana where he performs the miracle of turning 6 large vessels of water into wine. An epiphany after epiphany. Just last week we heard how he returned to his hometown of Nazareth and announced the mission that he was called to and managed to ruffle some feathers of those in charge, but others were elated at the news which he had to share.

Jesus’ story is one of proclaiming life for the world, being rejected, and in the process inviting disciples to join in his mission. Luke shares his gospel exactly for this purpose. Luke writes for people who have heard the faith and come to believe but want, yearn and hunger to understand more deeply. He opens up his gospel with an address to Theophilus, “so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.”

In a way, is this not what all of our journey in this life is all about. We want, yearn, and hunger for even more as we seek to become more knowledgable in our Christian faith and get to know Jesus on a deeper level.

This morning is a perfect example as we officially welcome new members into the community of Trinity Lutheran Church. These brothers and sisters have had their own epiphanies along the way and are seeking to continue to be in relationship with a caring community proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. We have those that are inquiring what it means to walk along in the faith and are seeking your support and guidance as they walk towards baptism. We have a child, not quite a year old yet, which will be baptized with parents and sponsors whom will promise to raise her in a life of faith. We have an entire family baptized less than a year ago who is still hungry to learn more and willing to profess their faith in Christ and commit to being in community with all of us here. We also have three families who have walked along in the faith from the time they were young and have been welcomed into this loving and caring community over the past year.

Each one of these sisters and brothers have had their own epiphanies along the way which has led them here today. All of us most likely have fell asleep or into a deep slumber along the way, but Jesus is still with us. Jesus comes down the mountain to be with us in our own challenges and struggles, just as he is present with the boy with an unclean spirit.

It is in our baptism that we get a glimpse of the Transfiguration as Jesus comes to us in the cleansing water. It is our Epiphany to be transformed into a life of love and be surrounded by a community that cares for us. May you use the epiphanies that appear to you along this journey of life to keep you awake and open to the presence of God.

Book Review: What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Jewishness of Jesus by Rabbi Evan Moffic

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It is easy for many Christians to forget the fact that Jesus was born to Jewish parents, and he himself was actually Jewish. This tendency to forget becomes even more apparent when we live in a culture where the importance of Jesus is often times overlooked in mass consumerism.

The question comes to mind, wondering if Jesus really had the intention of an entire new religion being created out of the movement that he set into motion. It is reminiscent of Martin Luther’s hopes to reform the Roman Catholic Church, not to actually see the church break apart and the creation of Lutheranism.

Jesus growing up Jewish and practicing the faith had a great impact on his actions throughout the gospels. Jesus is not only the Savior, but he is also a prophet that comes bearing a message of good news for all to hear, while also emphasizing points from the prophets that have come before him. Rabbi Moffic does a wonderful job of bringing this all to the forefront for people that want to dig a little deeper into the Jewishness of Jesus. Jesus comes to us through the gospels in a sense of a prophetic Judaism which “is the voice in the Bible that critiques ritual and emphasizes justice and spirit.” This prophetic Judaism that Rabbi Moffic refers to can relate the teachings and ministry of Jesus in his time.

Rabbi Moffic’s explanation for many of Jesus’ actions may seem foreign to many Christians that are new to the concept of Jesus truly being Jewish. Jesus being raised in the school of Jewish thought, learned the Torah and how to debate so that he may defend his faith. Moffic’s point is that “Jesus’s teachings display all the hallmarks of rabbinic Judaism. Jesus interprets the biblical texts, he asks questions more than he answers, and he uses stories to illustrate deeper truths.”

Jesus would most likely have been part of the school of Hillel thought. This can be seen because, “debates rarely end with absolute victory by one point of view over another. Life is more complicated than black and white divisions. Within Judaism the school of Hillel generally won the day not because its arguments were always the most logical or cohesive. They won because they value the real person over the legal principle.” Jesus sought out relationships with people, especially those that could not defend themselves.

There are points within the book that I don’t necessarily support. At times, the arguments made seem to counter that of our basic Christian beliefs which are stated in our creeds. We must realize though that we do view Jesus in different lights as both Jewish and Christians. This does not negate the fact though that Jesus was Jewish himself. Overall, this book provides some great background to Jesus’ actions in his ministry and where the foundation was laid.