Welcoming Messiah Home

In 2001 I spent three days roaming around New York City with my oldest son. In this tour of my home town we made sure to include a visit to the house where I grew up which was also the house where my mother grew up.  It is a three story storefront. Think Sesame Street.

These houses are just down the street from the house I grew up in. This is how the neighborhood looks today!

We took the IRT subway from Manhattan to the Winthrop Street stop near my childhood home in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and then walked the few blocks to my address. The neighborhood had changed from my Italian and Jewish and somewhat Irish memories to what it is today: entirely West Indian and Haitian. The front of the house was now covered with what to me was a gaudy metal facade, not the bricks rubbed smooth with the fingers of childhood memory. And even looking at the address,  I couldn’t recognize the buiding. If not for the number, I would have walked past it. If it is true that “there’s no place like home,” it is also true that this place was nothing like what I used to call home.

The Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) uses as its missional tag line, “Welcoming Messiah Home.”  This is the Union’s way of epitomizing its broader mission of “Raising up congregations for Yeshua within the House of Israel,”  a noble goal. The leaders of the Union are to be commended for their hard work in distilling what they are about. But here’s the problem: When the Messianic Jewish Movement welcomes Messiah home, will he recognize it? Or will he need an address in hand, as I did, to keep from walking by?

Yeshua’s home is with the Jewish people: “He came unto his own . . .” but let’s not mistakenly think of this as mere tribalism. His home is among the Jews as a religious communal reality, a rich tapestry of existential transgenerational human covenantal context, stained with tears, with sweat, with blood, and  with the wine of celebration.

In order to welcome Messiah home, we Jews who believe in Yeshua should be living Jewish lives. In fact, the Bible reminds us that one of Messiah’s goals is to renovate our community, so that we return to the blue print given to our people by the God of Sinai: “My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes,” that is, his chukkim and mishpatim, the nuts and bolts of halachic living (Ezekiel 37:24).

But looking around in many neighborhoods of the Messianic Jewish movement, isn’t it clear that we have remodeled his home so that it is no longer built around Jewish life and community but rather on a modified or even substitute floor plan, furnished with somebody else’s furniture?

By all means, let’s welcome Messiah home. But let’s also make sure we haven’t remodeled it beyond his ability to recognize it for what it has always been meant to be: a truly Jewish home, filled with the furniture of Jewish life and laid out according to an all too often forgotten blue print.

About Stuart Dauermann

The blog of Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann, teacher, mentor, radio talk show host, denizen of Los Angeles, and a visionary with a long career in Messianic Jewish activism. You can hear Rabbi Dauermann as he hosts Shalom Talk, a weekly radio show, and even listen online at ShalomTalk.com. Rabbi Dauermann spends time traveling nationally and internationally, and throughout the year is in Israel as a Scholar in Residence at the MJTI Jerusalem Center. He has plenty to say about Jewish-Christian relations, the need for shalom in the world, and the agenda of Messiah, the Son of David.
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3 Responses to Welcoming Messiah Home

  1. Shalom Stuart,

    As one of the formulators of the “Welcoming Messiah Home” tagline, I’d say you catch the sense of it well, esp. in your paragraph beginning, “Yeshua’s home is with the Jewish people…”

    You seem to be combining two concerns about it: 1) will the home to which we welcome Messiah actually be Jewish in demographic make-up; and 2) will it be Jewish in a covenantal, religious, Torah sense? In other words, we’re both concerned about groups that call themselves Messianic or even Messianic Jewish and have few, if any, Jewish members. I hope we can re-take the Messianic Jewish brand as belonging to a Jewish people movement for Yeshua (which will doubtless attract and embrace some non-Jewish members too, but remain clearly Jewish in numbers and culture).

    And I’d agree that such a movement can only be improved, and probably can only fulfill its destiny, by embracing Torah. But one of our great on-the-ground conundrums is that non-Jewish members often seem more excited about Torah than the Jewish ones. With lots of Jews, it’s a real project to present Messiah as our Torah teacher, who upholds all that is written, and is pretty supportive of the oral tradition too. Maybe you have some thoughts on this. The Messianic Judaism that I envision has the dual assignment of calling Jews to Yeshua and back to a positive Jewish religious identity. We can see theoretically how that works, but the practicalities are more elusive.

    • Thank you Russ for ringing in in your inimitable manner.

      As for your concern about how Jewish members seem comparatively indifferent to Torah living, I have two things to say.

      First, in large part this indifference may be due not only to their negative assessments of and/or experience with Torah living from their families of origin, but also because of how we portray and advocate for Torah-living. Some people are so hectoring and clumsy about advocating for Torah living that they could make even sex unattractive.

      Second, in Ezekiel 37:24 we read that HaShem will bring the Jewish people to allegiance to the Messiah in the end of days, and in the second half of that very same verse, that all Israel will live according to his chukkim and mishpatim, the nuts and bolts of Torah living. This is most heartening to me. Many of us can remember when we were indifferent or even hostile to even the possibility of being Yeshua believers. We can also remember how HaShem changed us in that regard. The same Ruach HaKodesh who brought us to Yeshua-faith will bring the Jewish people, certainly including Messianic Jewish people, back to covenant faithfulness (see also Ezk 36:27). Of this I am absolutely certain.

      We should all be cooperating with this agenda, both in terms of submitting to it, and expediting it with others–but in a winsome manner, just as we should be advocating for Yeshua-faith, but not in a ham-fisted manner, if you’ll pardon the expression!

  2. Dwight Newman says:

    Significant and well-off [blessed] is the Owner of the asphalt road construction company [my employer] that employs me with a job, and commands my labor in return for the position he gave to me. (twenty-five years ago. oy.) I’m a skilled-laborer—but I’m set apart from all the other good (some even better) laborers who are currently unemployed—because I have a job. And I receive wages, not because I’m a good worker, but because I have a job. As a matter of fact, I’ve come close to losing my job on a few occasions over the years because of my attitude at work (not because of the quality of my work itself—which is quite good, if I do say so myself).

    Where in the berakot does it say that we are sanctified by virtue of our obedience to Hashem’s mitzvot? or by virtue of the quality of our performance of them? He gives us a command [like our employer gives us a job] and that command [the job] sets us apart from the unemployed masses who are out looking for an employer and a job. Hashem isn’t blessed because we bless Him, He’s blessed because He’s blessed—and the berakot simply give voice to the pre-existent reality of His blessedness. And we keep a mitzvah simply because He gives us the requisite authorization to keep it. It’s the command that sanctifies—the obedience [the labor] which follows the command [the job-position] is simply the outworking of the pre-existent reality of the Sanctifier of previously un-sanctified beggars. And the wages and the benefits are very generous—as any good and faithful Torah observant Jew will tell you.

    Now mind you, I’m a just a butt-head, blue-collar goy (full disclosure) with a union card—but tell me anyway—why would a Jew think that his employer owes him a job just because he’s in tight with the Owner’s Son? What’s he think? that money grows on trees or something? Or what? he doesn’t have to work for a living anymore? Or nu? he’s got a guaranteed job for life? We can say we know the Owner’s Son—we can even walk around town acting like we know Him—but all that matters at the end of the day is if He knows us, yes? I see a lot of Jews who think they’ve got a good thing going with the Boss, and so they don’t show up at work if they don’t feel like showing up. I don’t know—seems like there might be something a little wrong with the picture if you ask me.

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