Thursday, September 24, 2015

Add Israel to Your Church's Belief Statement, part 5

What I’d like to introduce next is not directly related to Israel, though it is indirectly - in that the Church, in general, assumes a lot of things about the holidays they observe and doesn’t usually mention anything about them in their Belief Statements, such as which ones they recognize, what their timing is, and their significance.

Martin Luther brought over the major holidays from Catholicism into Lutheranism. It’s true, he did leave behind many of the minor ones, such as those that had to do with saints (which was good), but he passed on to his collective heirs (denominations) a bias against the Biblical holidays. Ironically, the “Jewish” holidays are Biblical and the ones Christendom observes are not Biblical. The subsequent Protestant denominations didn’t stop to question this practice and have promulgated this oversight right until the present day. I can just imagine your response at this point: Christmas, Easter, Pentecost – aren’t these Biblical? The underlying events are mentioned in the Bible, but the identification, timing, practice, and understanding of how they fit into God’s plan are not. 

The Biblical calendar has three Feasts/Festivals in the Spring, one in the summer, and three in the Fall, plus Hanukkah around December. Ironically the Catholic church inserted Christmas at the time of a pagan festival in December and changed the timing of Easter to guarantee it would never fall on Passover by aligning it with the stars. The Fall is left out of the Church's calendar, yet this is the most critical for Christians, since many believe the events before the Second Coming will occur on the dates of the Fall Festivals.

This was brought home to me very succinctly this past weekend. I attended a Shabbat service at a Messianic Synagogue in Ann Arbor Saturday morning. The two hour service reflected the fact that we are in the 10 days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The service was done at least 30- 40% in Hebrew, had the formal unveiling, reading, and procession of the Torah scroll, followed by an excellent sermon/homily. One acoustic guitar was played by the rabbi (Mark Kinzer), with a soft bongo drum in the background. The story of the Prodigal son was part of the reading from the New Testament.

That afternoon I attended a local mega church and had a very different experience. It’s not that it was bad - just different. With our coffee cups in hand, we watched/sang as the worship band played with electric guitars and a full drum set. The lighting was subdued but punctuated with swirling colored spotlights. The sermon included several videos, stories, and songs. The pastor did mention a Hebrew word, “Teshuvah” (repentance), since the theme was “Finding Your Way Back to God.” Coincidentally, the story of the Prodigal Son was read. The service was all done in one hour. Nothing in the bulletin, sermon, or announcements mentioned that we were in the High Holy Days of the Fall Festivals.

The worldview of the Bible is unique in that, while it supersedes all other cultures, it is flexible enough to accept differences as long as they do not go against Biblical truths. I was blessed in both services, but the contemporary one was out of context with the Biblical timeline. It was oblivious to the fact that the Fall Festivals were going on. As a fast growing seeker church, it was appealing to everyone. Introducing Jewish things would complicate the picture and take away from their focus which was evangelism.

What would I recommend instead? Good question; let’s check that out next time.

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