As you read this we will have just finished the cycle of the fall feasts - a season of great enrichment in Israel and for the Messianic Jewish community worldwide. We began on Rosh Hashanah by blowing the Shofar, the sound that harkens back to Sinai and looks forward to the Second coming. Ten days later, Yom Kippur signified all of the meanings of the work of Yeshua our Great High Priest (Hebrews 8-10). We concluded with the joyful celebration of Sukkot, recalling the wilderness wanderings and dwelling in tents to the ultimate fulfillment of the coming world wide Kingdom. We hope that Christians incorporate teaching and recognition of the fall feasts into their heritage. Some in the Body of Messiah find connecting to Israel's heritage so enriching that in comparison they have little regard for the Christian heritage. However, many aspects of Christian heritage are also wonderfully enriching.

I cannot describe with any depth the fullness of one Christian heritage, for there are many streams. My goal is to put forth a general approach to Christian heritages, especially for those who have embraced Messianic Judaism and who are interested in recovering the Jewish roots of their Christian faith. There are many things I could criticize, but this article focuses on the positive features of the Christian heritage.

Responding to a False Theology of Jewish Roots

First I want to firmly counter a false theology that has grown up, mostly among Gentile Yeshua believers who believe that the recovery of Jewish roots requires that they embrace the Jewish dimensions of calling rooted in the Torah and reject Christian tradition. They attack the Church because they worship on Sunday and celebrate the resurrection on the "wrong" day of the year. As I argued in a past article (see, Calendar Confusion, March 2009), finding the exact right day for celebration was much harder than most suspected, even within ancient Judaism. The point here is that while God has ordained specific days of rest and celebration for the Jewish people, He has not required any specific days of rest for the nations: neither the seventh day Sabbath nor the Feast days. Gentiles are called to respect and understand biblically rooted Jewish practices and are invited to join us. We do enjoy seasonal celebrations with the Church during the times of the Feasts as part of the recovery of Jewish roots. However, many people who attack the Church as pagan need, as our teens used to say, to "Get a life." They need to understand that a tradition or a ritual is to be understood according to the meaning given to it by the practicing community. It is no more and no less. Sunday worship, whatever the reasons it began in the first century, is now universally understood as the celebration commemorating Yeshua's Resurrection on the first day of the week. Many Gentiles, who think they are discovering the implications of Jewish roots and then criticize the Church, simply have no deep understanding of the heritage of the Church. Indeed, sometimes the issue of properly restoring Jewish roots should begin by raising consciousness of the Jewish roots maintained by the Church already. Here are a few of the features of great richness from Christian heritages.

The Liturgy and Hymnology of the Churches

The liturgy of the liturgical churches is amazingly deep and enriching. It centers on the person of Yeshua and His birth, life, death and resurrection. These liturgies wonderfully cover the bases including Psalms of praise, confessions for sin, the doctrinal confession of faith, the proclamation of God's holiness (exactly parallel to the Kadusah in the Amida of the Synagogue) and much more. In addition, the liturgy of the ancient churches centers around the renewal of our participation in our co-death and resurrection with Yeshua (Romans 6). It is a renewal of the meaning of baptism. In addition, like the Synagogue, Scripture reading with blessings before and after is central.

The hymns of the Church have remarkable depth and meaning. The Wesleyan hymnbook, had such great majesty and theological insight that those who regularly attended services learned the full theology of Methodism just by singing through the hymnal. They praised God for all the dimensions of truth.

The Nature of Space when the Congregation is Gathered

Church architecture provides the setting for worship. Though I prefer sitting in the round so as to give orientation to the people as priests and a feeling of community, nevertheless there is great enrichment in recognizing the Jewish roots of Church architecture. In the ancient churches, the front represents the most holy place of the sanctuary, parallel to the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle-Temple. In the Eastern tradition there is still a most holy place where only the officiate goes. He returns as if from the Most Holy Place in heaven with the elements of the bread and wine that will renew the spiritual life of the worshippers by participating in the meaning of Yeshua's death and resurrection.

The building is modeled on the ancient Temple or the Tabernacle with the outer court (Narthex) the Inner Court (the Sanctuary of the People) and the Inner Court on the platform. The architecture conveys the meaning of New Covenant fulfillment through the symbols and types of the Mosaic revelation. Thus we see the table for communion (showbread), the eternal light (ner tamid), the seven branched lamp stand and even an ark for the Scriptures in some traditions. So though a church superficially looks very different than a synagogue, we see similar symbols. Even the less traditional churches maintain something of this architectural design.

The Lord's Supper or Communion

Without arguing over the exact interpretation of the elements of the bread and wine, I want to assert that participation in the Lord's Supper in faith is really the renewal of our life. The churches have wonderful liturgy to make this special and real. The passages of the Bible are read, the "Holy, Holy, Holy" is said or sung, and praise to Yeshua who takes away the sin of the world is proclaimed. This provides a deep renewal for those who partake in faith. As a celebration of the Church, it is to be done under the oversight of elders.

The Christian Year

The calendar of the churches varies in the East and West, but both are based on Jewish roots. The center of the Church year is Passover-Resurrection. Is it the wrong date? Perhaps or perhaps not. Before Nicea (325CE) the Church was split over whether to celebrate the resurrection on the Jewish date of Passover or according to the Roman church tradition, which ensured the celebration always occurred on a Sunday. The crucial remaining fact is that Yeshua was crucified at Passover. This is the reason for the deep identification with his death before the resurrection day of First-fruits. The Church calendar is intended to help believers meditate on Yeshua's suffering and crucifixion. This only heightens the glad words of the following Sunday: "He is risen!"

The next great day is Pentecost, also a Jewish Feast day and I think more likely the correct day most years than the rabbinic calendar. It is the time to celebrate the giving of the Spirit and the first harvest of souls at Shavuot as the symbolic 3,000 added to the church mirrors and repairs those lost to Israel during the incident of the Golden Calf.

The Church also creatively establishes a calendar year that centers on the life of Yeshua. The events of His life and His teaching are sources for weekly meditation. Christmas provides a feast for His birth (probably the time of his conception at Chanukah and not the actual date of his birth). However, the meaning is right; it is the great celebration of the incarnation of the Son of God, our Messiah.

Government

The churches also have governmental experience. There is sufficient variety to instruct us as Messianic Jews, and we can gain wisdom from this heritage, whether from the oversight patterns of the ancient churches, the importance of elders in Reformed traditions and the Baptist value of ensuring freedom in local congregations.

Summary

We could go on and on ... My point is that many Christians today are cut off from their Christian heritage and therefore think that by becoming Jewish they have entered superior territory. By not having an appreciation for their own heritage, they do not have the necessary balance when they seek to appreciate our Jewish heritage. Such an imbalance can lead to a misapplication of how Jewish roots are to be integrated.

The Messianic Jewish movement seeks to bring understanding of Jewish roots to the Church. However, we can only attain the oneness of Yeshua's prayer (John 17:21) if we mutually appreciate each other's heritage. This cannot be done if Christians deprecate and criticize their own heritage and do not appreciate the depth of Christian heritages and the Jewish roots that are already there!

By Daniel Juster


Dan Juster leads the overall ministry Tikkun International. Donate to Tikkun International.

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Comments:
14:04 04Nov09 Wendy Poole -
This is a great article and depicts my feelings exactly. I was raised in a Christian Church and learned so much and have recently become a part of the messianic movement. I agree there needs to be a deep appreciation from both christians and messianics and certainly not any criticism. We must come together as Jew and Gentile to become the Bride that our Lord Yeshua will be returning for one day.

14:20 04Nov09 Sharon Blackford -
I greatly appreciate your article. I've longed for more knowledge of the Jewish roots of my faith - and have recently enrolled in the Messianic Jewish Studies program offered at King's College and Seminary as a means to that end. As I learn more about the history of the Jewish faith, I can see how Christians might observe their faith as somehow perverting the original. Many are made very aware of the pagan history behind some Christian holidays and therefore see the holiday as invalid. Your article has brought a new perspective to this argument and given the right attitude for celebration the origin really doesn't matter does it? Thank you for bringing balance to what can be a subject that can be divisive.

14:28 04Nov09 Rick Barker -
Thank you Daniel for this article! I just spoke to our congregation last Sunday from Romans 1:17 "to the Jew first" and this week wanted to touch on the tendency of some Christians who have gotten up on the right side of the horse only to fall off the other as it pertains to 'becoming Jewish'. I appreciate your words and clarity on the subject. Jews need not become Gentile; Gentiles should not become Jews! Let us discover the blessing of unity as we worship the King as the one new man together! Thanks again.

14:46 04Nov09 Mike Miller -
This is a great article, short and to the point.

15:17 04Nov09 Tchalla Pinkard -
Bashing is not one of our (believers) character traits listed in the book of Galatians and certainly not one of Yeshua's character traits. I pray that the reality of the richness of both sides are lifted up, admonished, and appreciated. The GOD of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was certainly glorified in this as much as the name of our Mashiach being lifted.

17:10 04Nov09 Linda Okerstrom -
Thank you, for these clarifications which are important as we learn to walk as "one new man." Both sides need to recognize what God has done, in the birth and establishment of our Faith through the Jews as well as the continuance of the Faith which the church developed during the centuries when Jewish influence was rejected and lost. I wait for the day when my dear Jewish believing friends can discover and appreciate the good done through the church during those 2,000 years since Yeshua in order to balance the sometimes overweighted persecution which also took place through the Christian church and which has caused them great hurt. There is a good heritage in the church which also belongs to the Messianic believers community. For me, I love discovering the riches of my Jewish roots. And I'm thrilled to be learning what it truly means to walk as "one new man", each with our diversity as well as our common bond under Yeshua.

18:11 04Nov09 'T' -
Thank you for sharing the insight. However, I still don't like celebrating Santa Clause and bunnies & eggs on Easter (I don't even like calling it Easter) though... Would you call them "heritage" that the Christians need to keep?

  -- Dr Juster replies: I think these are the things that have seeped through that are best left behind! Now if we can just get the President to stop those Easter Egg rolls on the White house lawn! I also prefer calling the day Resurrection Day.

18:16 04Nov09 Terri Bonnema -
Thank you very much for this article. It is encouraging and helpful to us Gentiles who are just now discovering what it means to be grafted in to our Jewish heritage. I look forward to hearing more on this subject in the future.

19:34 04Nov09 Ruth -
Having worshipped in various Christian denominations and having been the wife of a Church in Wales priest, I am aware of the Jewish influences in the main stream Christian Church. However I now worship in a church which follows the LORD's Festivals and worships on Shabbat. I do not feel that I have "become Jewish" but feel that my relationship with the LORD has been deeply enriched. There is so much subtle anti-Jewish and replacement theology preached in many churches that sometimes it is neccesary to be very different in order to make a point and to encourage people to examine their faith and their God more closely. I enjoy being "grafted in" and long for the day when all believers are one.

  -- Dr Juster replies: The main Christian Holy Days are Good Friday, Resurrection Sunday and Pentecost. All of these are based on the Biblical calendar, though by different calculation than the Rabbinic calendar. I see no problem with a church being led to embrace more of the Biblical calendar, especially the fall calendar. However, for most people from the nations, keeping all the days as sabbath days is too onerous. Recognizing the days on the right seasons and teaching on them is more doable.

21:36 04Nov09 Lea -
I can't imagine practicing something that has such pagan roots, and was started to drive a wedge between Gentile and Jewish believers. I appreciate where you are coming from, but cannot agree. I do not seek to critcize at all, as everyone is free to do as they wish, but so many of the Christian traditions are rooted in paganism.

02:39 05Nov09 Jane Oloo -
Thank you for setting us right, Mr Juster. As Christians who pray for the Jews we have become a little unbalanced on these matters especially regarding the emphasis on the church worship on Sundays, not on Sabbath. I also am happy to note your recommendation on inculcating the Jewish feasts without denigrating our churches which uphold Christmas, Easter etc. For me it's all about a personal choice to keep the seven feasts.

05:06 05Nov09 anonymous -
As long as traditions do not stand in contrast to Scriptures and in Yeshua, I feel they are o.k. to practice, once they have been discerned and prayed over, whether it is in Jewish or Christian traditions. As a stark example: an Easter bunny or X-Mas tree in my view would not qualify. Same goes for Jewish/Rabbinical traditions. Lighting Shabbat candles, blessing the bread and wine and family would again qualify in my view - just to give a few examples of pro and con for both types of believers, who are One in the Messiah anyway, regardless of human heritage. Maybe we all should remember the foundation - Our heritage in the salvation of Yeshua is one and the same.

08:49 05Nov09 Garnett Miller -
What a refreshing article. I have been struggling with the feeling that being in a Messianic Christian congregation that I was to snub my nose at my Christian background; that somehow it was to be scorned. Thank you for a very clear article and it was uplifting to me to know leadership appreciates the value of what the Christian Church has been to many believers through the years.

20:52 05Nov09 Susan -
I agree with Lea. I do not think it was G-d's will for the early faith to fall into apostasy in just under 300 years after the resurrection, with Christianity being made a state religion that was spread by the sword by Emperor Constantine who continued to worship his sun god. Most of Paul's letters had to do with him trying to set believers straight when they were starting to follow some false belief. And that was shortly after the resurrection. Just think, how can we expect to have got it right over centuries? Over the last 1,700 years, countless members of the body of Messiah have counted the cost and taken up their cross to follow Jesus. These were the light in the darkness. Is this in spite of the Christian religion, rather than because of it? Just because we as believers "sincerely" practice our faith in a particular tradition does not make it right with G-d.

21:55 05Nov09 anonymous -
Finally! I am so relieved and happy that you have addressed these issues as I have, sadly, seen much excess, exclusivity, superiority, and much religiosity within the Messianic groups -- and particularily with non-Jews trying to become Jewish, and in their zeal for connecting with their Jewish roots, suggesting (and sometimes pressuring) Gentiles to abandon their Christianity as if it (church & Christianity) was now the enemy to turn our backs on. This is liberating and brings such wonderful balance, effecting a true unity of the faith as expressed through both the Christian church and the Messianic in the "one new man"! The Jew really needs the "Gentile" Christian and the "Gentile" Christians really needs the Jew, that we might fulfill the prayer of Yeshua who prayed to His Father that "they" might be one!

08:59 06Nov09 Daniel Buffenmeyer -
This is an excellent article. I had no interest at all in my own Christian heritage. It was only after serving in the Messianic movement for over 10 years that I began to see the many parallels between the traditional churches and Judaism. One could even argue that the ancient churches actually practiced a Gentile form of Messianic Judaism, the main emphasis being on Christ. Baruch Ha Shem!

13:02 07Nov09 Charles Reece -
The long-deceased Messianic Jew, Alfred Edersheim, has already shown in his wonderful 1876 book, "Sketches of Jewish Social Life", on how the first-century Gentile churches -- thanks to the Jewish apostle, Paul -- on how he deliberately modeled the Gentile churches' administration and rituals after the First-Century synagogues. This book is a great read for Gentile Christians to educate themselves on the "Jewish Roots" behind their centuries-old ecclesiatical beliefs, practices, and customs.

17:37 09Nov09 Patricia J. Kessler -
Thank you for this very important article. I too am of Christian Heritage as many of your readers are and have gone through many transitions as I grew in returning to my Jewish roots. I also agree that we must not denigrate our various Church histories and as I have come to understand my Jewish roots, that has given me more understanding into my Christian Heritage. But home to me is in the Messianic community and I celebrate the feasts Jewishly as well as Christmas from a Chanukah perspective.

16:16 14Nov09 John R Peacher -
I appreciate your explainations of the depth and breath of those who follow Messiah. Most tend to distinguish themselves with one distinct group or another. I was led to Genesis 21:9,10 after reading your article. Sarah told Abraham to "cast out the bond woman and her son, for the son of the bond woman is not to be heir with the free woman." The Apostle in Galatians says we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.
Salvation is of the Jews! If not for their setting aside for the most part for a season, just a wink in time using God's time piece, no one from the nations would be grafted into the vine. Grafted into the vine; not becoming a vine in themselves.
Although I was not raised in a practicing Jewish home, I remember my Grandfather reading to me from the Prophets and the Law, sitting at the kitchen table. His love of King David, Samuel, Jeremiah, Amos and all of the others gave me a fervent love of the Old, which is the foundation of the new covenant.
We are in this together! Whether born Jew, Greek or heathen, we are all one in Yeshua! The different cultures and aspects of our love for the God of all creation adds distinct flavor that only heaven understands; and I would add that heaven takes great joy in. He rejoices over us all with singing!!

16:44 11Dec09 Sidney Webb -
I'm a gentile who did a self check on my walk. I asked, "Why can't you put the same amount of energy used in Traditions of Men towards the Commandments of Men?". We still celebrate The Mass of Christ, however, we no longer bring in a tree and dress it with silver and gold. I don't think one has to "throw the baby out with the bath water" when it comes to tradition. Finally, if gentiles are forbidden to practice Torah and The Holy Days (Isaiah56) we have no choice but to adopt our Nation's ancient feasts. In New Orleans our Parades are still in honor of different idols during Mardi Gras before Lent. Before these public feasts the Mayor conducts a mock pagan sacrifice to honor them (Dionysis, Zeus, Saturn, Bacchus, Endymion, Orpheus, Oshun, Nemesis). I don't think G-d would condone these because we're gentile and not Israel. Allow us to keep His Feasts, the alternatives aren't good tradition.

  -- Dr Juster replies: Nothing in my writings say Gentiles are forbidden to celebrate. My point is that they are not responsible to keep the Feast as Sabbath days with extra-biblical Jewish trappings. I consider that the Church celebrates two of the Feasts already, Firstfruits (with the wrong name) and Pentecost. All Gentiles are welcome to the Feasts.


Also in this issue of the newsletter:

Marty Shoub: Sasha - He Who Edures to the End
Eitan Shishkoff: A Tribute to a Spiritual Father
Freddy Intrater: Light to the Nations
Mati