It’s Not Sunday’s a-Comin’

Today is the first day of the omer. Actually, it began last night.

Beginning with the second day of Passover, Jews begin counting the days. For 7 weeks they count, 49 days. This is called “Counting the Omer,” laid out in Leviticus 23:15-17. The omer was a measure of grain, an offering of thanksgiving for the freedom of Pesach. On the second day of Pesach, an omer of barley was brought to the Temple as an offering. The counting culminates with day 50, which is the holiday of Shavuot, the Festival of Weeks, the holiday of Pentecost. Shavuot is a like a Hebrew Thanksgiving, and on this day, two loaves made of wheat were offered in the Temple. Jews don’t go to the Temple today, because there is no Temple right now; but they still offer prayers and thanksgiving to God for all that he’s given us. Many decorate their homes and synagogues with greens and flowers, to remember the harvest. Some stay up all night studying Torah. And they read the Ten Commandments in the morning service.

In Jewish tradition, Shavuot is when God gave the Torah to Israel at Mount Sinai, and Israel became a nation, rather than just a bunch of refugee slaves escaped from Egypt. If Pesach is the holiday of chaos and questions and upheaval and dramatic miracles (and it is), then Shavuot is a holiday of fulfillment. And so Jews count the days between Pesach and Shavuot, and they pray each day, and wait for the fulfillment of the promise.  Click to continue »

The Last Passover

“I have earnestly desired to eat this Pesach meal with you before I suffer.”

Tonight begins the first night of Passover, of Pesach, the Jewish holiday of remembrance and living-out the Israelite escape from Egypt. It is a holiday of questions, of upheaval, of chaos, of suffering and deliverance. And for Christians, also the beginning of a significant spiritual change.

Yeshua pours the wine. Then he lifts up the cup and says the brachah: “Blessed are you, Adonai, our God, king of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.” He drinks, then looks up at his disciples. “I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine,” he says, “until God’s kingdom comes.”

His disciples had the sense that he was going to miraculously overthrow the Romans and usher in a new age of Israeli peace, all in good time. Now they know, “good time” means “real soon now.” A great political upheaval is afoot.

This is Pesach.

He lifts up the bread and says the blessings: “Blessed are you, Adonai, our God, king of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth. Blessed are you, Adonai, our God, king of the universe, who sanctified us with his commandments, and commanded us concerning the eating of matzah.”  Click to continue »

The Very First Wife Swap

(This is part 3 in my series on 1 Corinthians 5. Click here to read from the beginning.)

Most of us probably imagine the first swingers as 1960′s hippies in a free-love commune. But in fact, it started earlier than that, in World War II. Christopher Ryan explains:

It seems that the original modern American swingers were crew-cut World War II air force pilots and their wives. Like elite warriors everywhere, these “top guns” often developed strong bonds with one another, perhaps because they suffered the highest casualty rate of any branch of the military. According to journalist Terry Gould, “key parties,” like those later dramatized in the 1997 film The Ice Storm, originated on these military bases in the 1940s, where elite pilots and their wives intermingled sexually with one another before the men flew off toward Japanese antiaircraft fire…

Joan and Dwight Dixon explained to Gould that these warriors and their wives “shared each other as a kind of tribal bonding ritual, with a tacit understanding that the two thirds of husbands who survived would look after the widows.”  Click to continue »

A Little Truth Would Go a Long Way

(This is part 2 in my series on 1 Corinthians 5. Click here to read from the beginning.)

One marvels at the repetition of intentionally tragic stories, like Evergreene’s: After her Christian marriage ended in divorce, and after she slogged through the concomitant depression, she decided she’d be happier living a bisexual, polyamorous lifestyle. She hid her new lifestyle from her Southern Baptist friends and family, but not well enough.

“My mother wonders what went so monumentally wrong with how she raised me.” Answer: probably nothing. Believe it or not, despite what the book of Proverbs says, there’s precious little we parents can do to change the direction of our children’s lives. I plan to return to this in a later post, but basically the best a parent can do is to provide her children with a safe environment in which to discover themselves and the world they live in. If she failed, she only failed in that.  Click to continue »

Removing the Leaven from Passover

The Passover stuff is already out at the grocery store. At the other end of the store, an even greater selection of pastel-colored candy and related items.

But Pesach is still several weeks away, and first I have another bat mitzvah to think of. My Beloved will finally herself be called to the Torah in an adult bat mitzvah. Better late than never, as they say.

We’re all helping out. Our younger daughter is laining the day’s maftir portion. Our elder daughter is canting as chazzanit. And I am laining the New Testament reading for the day, which is from First Corinthians chapter 5:

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little khametz leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old khametz, so that you might be a fresh batch of dough, in the same way as you are unleavened. For our Passover lamb, the Messiah, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old khametz, nor with the leaven of ill-will and malice, but with the matzah of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)

Okay, so I took a little liberty with the translation. But those of you who have read Walking in the Moment between Tick and Tock will be used to it by now.  Click to continue »

The Curious Story of Tamar

Matthew begins his gospel by breaking the rules.

It’s not so much that he includes a boring genealogy that breaks the rules—although from a storytelling perspective, starting with a boring genealogy certainly breaks the storytelling rules. To the ancient Jews, genealogies were very important, and they pop up throughout the Bible.

Rather, it’s the way that Matthew tells his genealogy that’s likely to raise eyebrows.

For one thing, he names several women, which is definitely against the rules. The last was Bath-Sheba; King David murdered Uriah in order to steal her for himself. And in David’s ancestry, he mentions Ruth, who was a Moabite. And before that, Rahab, the whore from Jericho. And before that, Tamar, the mother of Peretz and Zerach, of whom you may never have even heard.

She is not to be confused with King David’s daughter Tamar, raped by her half-brother Amnon, who was then murdered by her other brother Absalom. (Sheesh! Being in a royal family sure does result in a lot of drama, doesn’t it?) That Tamar has a different story.  Click to continue »

Listening to the Siddur Project CD

Julie Lavender, “Modim” (The Siddur Project)

Recently, my friend and fellow creator Julie Lavender released her music CD The Siddur Project.

Julie hosts the syndicated Dreamfarm Café radio show, which features area musicians: an “experience of eclectic jazz,” says the show’s website, “an intimate window into the very heart of an artist’s creative process.”

But Julie also writes and performs her own original music, and paints original art as well. Hence, The Siddur Project.

The Siddur Project is actually not just a CD, but also a set of artwork, all inspired by the Jewish prayerbook (called a siddur). Stylistically, the music is what I would call “PBS jazz” fused with world folk. Content-wise, the lyrics artfully embrace the Messianic Jewish liturgy.

Above, Julie poses with the cover art piece, called “Modim,” in her home studio. This piece is inspired by a Jewish blessing often known as Hoda’ah, literally “thanksgiving,” the next-to-last blessing of the Amidah, which is the centerpiece of the Jewish liturgy.  Click to continue »

The Love of Money

Friends at downtown Plush Tuesday nights, 6th Street, Austin, Texas. Photo © 2011 4ELEVEN Images CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Friends at downtown Plush Tuesday nights, 6th Street, Austin, Texas.
Photo © 2011 4ELEVEN Images CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Contentment makes poor men rich.
Discontent makes rich men poor.

Supposedly, Benjamin Franklin said that. I was unable, in my brief research, to confirm that these are actually the words of Benjamin Franklin. But it’s a good thought nonetheless.

I’ve written about this idea before, from a slightly different perspective, that our happiness is not primarily determined by our circumstances. Rather, to paraphrase the Apostle Paul: I can live in any circumstance, in any situation, whatever God calls me to.

Paul also addressed it from this side of the equation, in one of the most frequently misquoted lines from the New Testament: That money is the root of all evil… Except, of course, Paul never said that.

What he said was:

Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can’t carry anything out. But having food and clothing, we will be content with that. (1 Timothy 6:6-8)  Click to continue »

Teaser Tuesdays: Walking in the Moment between Tick and Tock

Walking in the Moment between Tick and Tock: From Passover to Pentecost

Walking in the Moment between Tick and Tock: From Passover to Pentecost

One reason I’ve been absent is because I’ve been working on a new book, a book that I’m now on the verge of releasing. (Exciting!)

Walking in the Moment between Tick and Tock a short, inspirational book (about ¼ the length of a full-size novel), looking at the period between Passover and Pentecost, between Pesach and Shavuot, integrating insights from both Christian and Jewish thinkers. It tells the story of these holidays as linked parts of the same narrative, two ends of a single span, and not as two independent holidays— I didn’t invent the idea, of course. But I found a number of profound insights connected with this idea.

Today’s double teaser from Walking in the Moment between Tick and Tock: From Passover to Pentecost:

Many Jews see this as a time of change, of personal development.

And we Christians should, too.

We are living this story, the story between Pesach and Shavuot. Between Egypt and Sinai. Between chaos and fulfillment.  Click to continue »

The Bridge over the Chasm

Bridge at Ausable Chasm
Photo © 2007 mopar05ram CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Click here for the original Image.

The metaphors we use affects how we think of things. And how we think of things betrays the metaphors hidden in the reaches of our minds.

Being part of a Messianic Jewish synagogue, I continually encounter the power of how we think, power to bring people together, or to push them apart. Because there is a 1700-year-old chasm between Judaism and Christianity, a chasm that Messianic Judaism now straddles precariously, and promises to make both friends and enemies on both sides.

If you see Yeshua as the guardian of the chasm between the old and new covenants, then it’s easy to ask—for example—whether to follow G-d (Judaism) or whether to follow the way, the truth, and the life (Christianity). But if you see Yeshua as the builder of the bridge that brings Torah to the rest of the world, then that question itself becomes nonsensical. Instead, you begin to ask where in the Torah is Yeshua and his teaching reflected and how he fits into Judaism.  Click to continue »

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