On Sunday I returned from five days in Chicago where I attended the annual UMJC conference. This is our Messianic Jewish umbrella organization and by its nature is representative of a multitude of synagogues with quite diverse expressions of our faith. No doubt the style of the New England congregations such as Ruach Israel are on a fairly far point on the spectrum from some of our brother and sister places of worship, particularly in the west and south.
Attending the conference is a reality check as to the lack of uniformity within our Messianic Jewish movement, a fact which is not helpful to its cohesiveness. Not only are there the internal dialogues, but also, there is the challenge of understanding our role vis-à-vis the Christian community and its interplay with ours, both corporately and individually regarding Gentiles who come alongside us.
So at the conference’s marketplace I fell in love with a pendant designed by an Israeli artist Moshe. According to those who know him, he may be on the cusp of believing in Yeshua but has not said so formally. The piece that spoke to me was a sword with its hilt in the shape of a crown. According to Moshe, the spirit of HaShem came to him with this beautiful imagery one night at midnight. He worked inspiredly until he finished the piece that same night at 4 AM. It felt very special to him too.
The conference had reinvigorated my passion to continue the dialogue about Yeshua with our Jewish brothers and sisters. And the diversity of the participants reminded me of the challenge we face in taking this on. So as he described his inspired vision of fighting (the sword) for His Kingdom (the crown), it deeply resonated with me. His artistic expression reminded me of the feelings I have when speaking with my Jewish brothers and sisters about the hypocrisy of their marginalizing us Messianic Jews, their own people, especially as Jewish people generally are so open to diversity. It was a symbol of speaking truth to power. I just had to buy it. So I did.
When I got home, I decided a longer chain would be nice and there on my vanity mirror hung a beautiful rustic Star of David that used to belong to Sid’s mom, Ruby. I immediately put the sword pendant on the chain with the Star of David and it felt complete – my Jewish soul was now armed to fight for His Kingdom as I admired the Jewish star and crowned sword dangling together.
As I was sharing this moment with Sid, he said, “You know the crown and sword are symbols of Christianity.”
Okay, not that there’s anything wrong with that, or with Christianity, but how did my Israeli artist Moshe’s inspired words in crafting this beautiful sword resonate so deeply with my Jewish soul, so much so that it now felt even more inspired as it hung with the retro Mogen David? How could this be a Christian symbol? As a mainstream Jew for most of my life I was once again shocked at my ignorance about “that other religion” (as my bobbe would say.)
As I Googled sword/crown/Christianity, I learned these two symbols together had indeed over time been adopted as Christian motifs. And yet the very many meanings (“reward in Heaven coming after the trials; victory over death; by this sign thou shalt conquer, sword of the spirit”) were not what Moshe imparted as he handed me the pendant while he prayed over us. His rendition, so artfully different than the various Christian versions, was yet another interpretation, for him and me, the Jewish one. Interestingly, by the hilt being a crown, his artistic expression did not in the least resemble a cross as did the Christian portrayals with traditional hilts set perpendicular against the sword blades. Yet all bring forth different, beautiful, perspectives of our walks with Him.
The whole experience was analogous to our Messianic Jewish experience, and as punctuated by the UMJC conference – we live in Jewish space, yet one that is inextricably interwoven with our Christian world’s historically deeper understanding of Yeshua. We learn from our Christian brothers and sisters, and yet, as we reclaim our identity as Jews knowing Yeshua, we work to define what that identity looks like. Such is the struggle in our MJ movement, but one that we must strive to overcome. For we are called to do this work.
And so, I am armed with my sword with the crown hilt, ready to fight for His Kingdom, with Ruby’s Eastern European Mogen David spiriting the battle. I believe they are for such a time as this.