A Jew's Perspective on Christianity  
  The first talk to the Presbyterian Men's Breakfast group, 1995  

  1.I usually teach the adult Bible study at this hour even when we have monthly Men' s breakfast. It's good to combine them this month. I hope you won't have me for breakfast, though.
2. I want to give you a Jew's perspective on Christianity. In a way I am qualified, I'm a Jew. I'm a Christian.
3. I'm not really qualified. I have no Jewish Studies credentials. I have no Seminary studies. I am just a believer, in the God and Father of the Old and New Testaments and in Jesus The Christ, the Savior of the world.
4. Having no credentials, I speak with humility .
5. While I don't want to give what in less behaviorally conservative - more evangelical - circles might be called "TESTIMONY", I think a brief account of how I came to be a Jew and a Christian will help.
6. My family tree has deep roots. With a few century's gap, it is at the front of the Bible. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the boys. My family was Orthodox, that is "observant," for Millennia. In Judah, and in exile, and in Ashkenaz - that's the biblical name for Germany, Poland and western Russia.
7. About three hundred years ago it got very tough to be a Jew in Ashkenaz, and about 150 years ago started to be impossible. Czar Alexander passed laws in the 1880's forcing the Jews of Russia out of their shtetls - little villages - and out of the cities, into the Pale of Settlement. A narrow strip of land running from Lithuania to the Carpathians. Contemporary ethnic cleansing.
8. Ethnic cleansing is in the news. 2,500 years ago Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes used to deport and enslave the best and the brightest of the population. Later, Greeks and Romans, Arabs and Ottomans used to occupy and tax. But Europe in this millennium got more aggressive in expulsion, and starting with the crusades, through medieval Spain and France, then spreading to Germany, Poland and western Russia -
Ashkenaz - ethnic cleansing got quite ugly and increasingly, "FINAL. "
9. Back to my family. In the late 1800' s my grandparents took the hint. My grandfather had hit the road with his pack, a strong back - he later became a longshoreman on the Boston waterfront - and a willingness to do any kind of work. He got back to the shtetl after two weeks with one egg and two potatoes, and decided it was time to really hit the road. In 1900 he set out for the golden land of new promise. Just in time. Forty years later and I wouldn't be eating pancakes with you this morning.

10. So I grew up an Orthodox Jewish boy on a farm in Massachusetts. I tried to keep the Commandments set out in the Law, but there were too many, it was too hard, and American Life beckoned. I knew if you broke any of the laws you broke all the Law.
11. But I stopped trying. Like the Prodigal son I wandered off on my own, spiritually and in every other way. As it says in the book of Judges, I did what was right in my own eyes. And my eyes were not on the Lord. As Isaiah says regarding Israel; My eyes were closed so I could not see, and my ears were stopped up so I could not hear. Spiritually.
12. This made life tough.
13. In time, I met my wife, Elizabeth. She a lapsed Catholic, me a wandered-off Jew. Religion was not part of our life. And we paid a price.
14. When our oldest son was four, we felt he needed some religious instruction for all the superficial reasons; he needed an ethical, moral structure, he needed a sense of heritage and he should have the right to accept or reject this religion business on his own when he grew up.
15. So we tried to join a synagogue in Minnesota, where my work had led us. The Lord shut the door. A year later we were in White Plains and tried again. This time we thought to try something neutral. The Congregational Church seemed just right. No statues or crosses, Puritan New England style and a town meeting form of government. (A perfect place for my son to learn the Bible.)
16. Elizabeth and I didn't feel it right to be drop-off parents, so we went to the Sunday service during John's Sunday School.
17. Now I had grown up in a small New England town with few Jews in it. Most of them my family. I had experienced the taunts, exclusions, ostracisms and childhood fights that go along with being called, "Christ Killer." I didn't really know who this Christ was, but I was being held personally responsible for his death. It seemed unreasonable to me even as a child, and it resulted in my being wary of the name of Jesus and anyone flaunting it. This also chilled any interest in reading the New Testament.

So, the news of the mid-1940's, the history of Christians' treatment of Jews over the centuries, my grandparents' account of life under the Christian Czars, my own childhood experiences being tagged a nine-year old " Christ-Killer", and experiencing adult anti-Semitism in Minnesota, all came together there in my first attendance at a Congregational Service. When we heard the name "Jesus", Elizabeth genuflected and I cringed. And of course, the first hymn we sang was to the tune of Deutschland Uber Alles. We were off to a flying start at Christianity.
Then we heard the Gospel preached.

Our blessed old minister, Dr .Alden Mosshammer, preached Romans 12 :2, And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

"...excerpts from Romans 10 and Romans 11"

I didn't know it then, but Romans 12:2 is the conclusion of those wonderful chapters explaining everything about the mutual interdependence of Christians and Jews.

Now, when I heard this something happened. Not a bolt of lightening. But the power of these words passed right through my brain and hit me in the heart. Something cracked. The POSSIBILITY this could all be true dawned on me.
I went out and bought a New English translation of the New Testament. I read the gospel for the first time.

I started at the beginning, reading Matthew. Suddenly I saw this was a Jewish book. This was written by Jews. It was written about Jews. It was written for Jews. It was written for me.

So, the power of the gospel reached down through the millennia to this miserable human and told me now was the time.

There are 2 messages I would leave you with:

I. Judaism is the root of the tree of Christianity. A house divided against
itself cannot stand. Luke 11.
2. When all Christians show love for the Jews, it will be the fullness of the
Gentiles, the Jews will be moved to envy and Moshiach will appear for the
Jews - and thus all will be saved. Romans 9-11. Then Christ will return, in all
of us.

Now when I hear that hymn of Luther I first heard in the Congregational Church in White Plains, my ears are unstopped, and my eyes are open, and I hear and see and sing a new song, GLORIOUS THINGS OF THEE ARE SPOKEN, ZION CITY OF OUR GOD.

  back gort.net