This past Sunday I had the opportunity through a ukulele group I’m in to provide music at an Episcopal church. Our group led several songs (“This Little Light of Mine”, Amazing Grace”, and “Simple Gifts”), the rest of the music from the traditional hymn book. It was a spiritually growing and moving experience for a number of reasons.
First, this being the 22nd anniversary of my coming to faith in Yeshua, I noticed how much I had changed regarding my comfort level at being in a church. In my earlier years, and for sure when I was not Messianic, as a result of knowing of and personally experiencing anti-Semitism, I was uncomfortable in church services. I had no real church experience other than for weddings and funerals (and when I came to faith in Yeshua).
Nevertheless, not only did I feel at peace on Sunday at this church, I also could relate to the service. Most importantly perhaps given I wasn’t allowed as a child and young adult to even say the name “Jesus”, I am happy to report that saying“Jesus” [instead of “Yeshua”] is just all right with me” (to quote the lyrics of the song by that name). I’ve come a long way, baby (another reference to a commercial some may remember). Baruch HaShem for spiritual growth!
Interestingly, the service itself was so suggestive of our own Shabbat services which are in sync with traditional Jewish services, with a twist, i.e., the central place of Yeshua in our liturgy. The flow was similar. There was even a time when people called out the names of those needing healing prayer. One section started with “Holy, holy, holy” and went on very similarly to the “Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh” part of our services. I could observe and analyze, but also felt joined with fellow believers in Him as we worshipped together.
During the service I was mesmerized by a floor to cathedral ceiling window through which I gazed as if at a framed picture of an enormous tree located in the side yard of the building. The day was sunny with a light breeze. As I watched I noticed most but not all of the leaves near the center of the tree and closely adjoined mature trunks did not flutter in the wind. It was as if they were supported by this strong core of trunks.
Sometimes, when the wind would change direction a small cluster of leaves on one side or other would shimmer in the sun and flutter in the breeze. Some leaf groupings in different sections of the tree, high and low, took turns shimmering and dancing, while at the same time to the contrary, other leaves and branches elsewhere on branches remained completely stationery, some motionless even far from the trunks seemingly where there was a breeze. It was a beautiful picture of thriving greenery responding as each area was moved by the wind, yet all areas ultimately remaining attached through branches to the core.
As alluded to by Rabbi Nathan in his sermon last Shabbat, the trunk of a tree is fed by the roots, the core, its strength coming from the source of its nourishment – the living waters of our Creator. The branches and leaves represent our connections, the fruit the tree bears. In this giant tree and trunk cluster I saw the many paths we take individually and in community, the Ruach leading us at various times and to various places, all to His glory if we stay connected to Him. Some of the leaves, wherever located, didn’t flutter despite the wind, all joined to the strong trunks through their branches, all thriving through the core from the water source. Some fluttered for awhile yet would return to stillness. The wind would come and go.
I saw the core as our ancestors and we as parents and community trying to stay true to Him as we pass on these truths to our children and grandchildren, the younger leaves on the tree sometimes quaking and shaking, finding their way, strengthened when rooted on the branches connected to the core, to the root, to Him, sometimes through our paths, sometimes through pathways on their own. The wind was as the Ruach, bringing in holy inspirations of Him.
Afterward Sid and I had a wonderful chat with the priest who was very interested in hearing about Messianic Judaism. He even agreed with the more accurate translation of the many Scripture passages that use the word “church” when the actual translation is closer to “community or assembly of believers”, for that’s what we all are who believe in Yeshua, despite our denomination or particular house of worship.
He shared with me some of his own challenges in seeking unity among the various groups even within his Christian fellowships. We agreed that our highest calling is to love one another, to respect each other’s differences, as we carry out Yeshua’s mission to us all, to share His Love and the reality of what it means to be loved by Him.
The next day’s Daily D’var focused on the passages describing King Solomon’s prayers to God as his temple was dedicated. Solomon pleas with God to keep His covenant of love for His people Israel through this temple dedicated to Him. He asks HaShem to hear our pleas and prayers here on earth, as well as judge His peoples’ actions and prayers from heaven facilitated through this temple built in His Name.
We are living in the days of the both/and. He is there, our Father in heaven, and He is here, Yeshua dwelling in our midst. Just as the living waters nurture the tree through the branches and leaves dancing in the Ruach, the holy wind, so, too, do our arms sometimes reach to the sky, while at other times we feel His intimate warm hug.
The pain of history and experiences that have separated us is dissipating as societies repent and personal and generational pain is healed, all through His Ministry of Divine Love that unites us all.
Be encouraged, and grateful, for you are living in these times. It is the time to share His Love with all.