Our Table on the 4th Night of Chanukah, Second Week of Advent
I wrapped my hands around the cup of hot tea and closed my eyes. Just briefly. And in those few seconds with my eyes closed, I smiled. Guitars and voices filled the room with music. This has always been where I feel peaceful: surrounded by people I love and the sound of music. We had already lit the Shabbat candles, stood under the tallit to be blessed, heard the sound of the shofar, and enjoyed our meal and Torah discussion together. Now the children screamed happily in the basement, the baby passed from one family member to another, we chatted and sipped hot tea.
These are the other pilgrims on our journey. They believe Jesus, and they believe in the importance of honoring the Jewish history of Jesus. They believe in the importance of traditions, rituals, within our families and among fellow pilgrims - not in following traditions in a legalistic way, but in enjoying tradition, honoring it, and letting it point us to Jesus.
We first met with them six weeks ago. Six weeks ago I realized that we found the place where we belong. It isn't the Western church. It isn't church in any traditional sense at all. It is church in its truest incarnation - people who are bound together by the love of Jesus and who serve God and serve each other in a way that draws others to God. No judgment regarding various traditions, just fellowship and study in the presence of other believers.
The Messianic tradition is something that has interested me for a long time. Mango & I attended a few different Messianic congregations while we were looking for a church in our early marriage. My favorite Mama message board (Gentle Christian Mothers) has a large contingent of people who participate in Jewish/Biblical holidays and traditions (whether they are Jewish by birth or not). Then, a few years back, I met a wonderful woman who became one of my dearest friends, and her husband began a ministry organization called Hebrew For Christians. A few months ago they invited us to join them for their Shabbat meal and Torah study. I cannot begin to tell you how rightly this fits our family and our faith. When most people think of the roots of Christianity, they think of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Later, we think of Martin Luther and Charles Wesley. The Messianic movement takes church history all the way back to its roots - the Hebrew people, the promise of God to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the rituals and traditions instituted by God for the benefit of the people of God, the Jewish people.
In saying these things, I want to be careful to acknowledge that there are many, many ways to follow God. You don't have to follow a set of rituals and instructions to be a Christian person. You don't have to believe me or your neighbor or your pastor or your best friend. You just have to believe God. We've been on this journey for a very, very long time, and this is our landing place for now.
I didn't actually think we were ever going to come to a landing place. When I began writing about church this summer (see the Highway blog), I had no idea where it would lead. In a strange way, this has been a much more public journey than I would have chosen. Had I known we were going to land here, I would have begun writing here, and then you wouldn't have heard the groaning and frustrations of my previous posts. Perhaps, I had to make the plea aloud, speak the desire to land somewhere, before we could be cleared for landing.