I attended a Messianic Jewish Shabbat service last night.
Messianic Jews believe Jesus (Yeshua) is truly the Messiah but practice Jewish liturgy, keep the Jewish lunar calendar, high holy days and incorporate Hebrew into their worship and blessings. This particular group, Yeshuat Yisrael, meets at the Oak Hill Assembly 5200 Franklin Road focuses on the millennial reign of Yeshua the Messiah when he returns to Jerusalem to restore Israel and begin the consummation of the end times.
On this night the congregational leader first led a highly symbolic lighting of the candles that symbolized God’s command to keep the Sabbath and make it holy. He broke bread, drank wine and asked two women to recite a Sabbath blessing. Only the congregational leader drank the wine and broke the bread and he pointed out this is not the same as the “communion,” which from his assumption everyone knew what he was talking about, I assumed they keep with some regularity. While I was disappointed the meal was so symbolic and not participatory, I was glad when after the two hour service, everyone was invited to a meal.
A woman and man led the worship, songs that included Hebrew words and Psalms that praised and honored God, which they often rendered G-d to mirror the way in Hebrew that the nameless one was referred to: YHWH. A few of the songs had a Jewish syncopated rhythm and we clapped, then five women elegantly danced in a circle throughout one song with arms lifted high and doing two step, hop footwork.
Those in attendance were a mix of black, white, and perhaps a few cultural Jews but a very eclectic bunch, including an autistic boy who came and sat by me in the pew. His mother asked me afterward, “Are you a pastor.” I knew what she meant–I’m not a paid minister, nor do I refer to myself as a pastor, but I just said, “yes.” “I knew it,” the autistic boy’s mother said. “He always spots pastors and warms to them and rubs their hands and loves them.”
The congregational leader, after the singing, spoke for about an hour on the parables of Jesus. His particular slant on the parables is that Jesus was revealing a mystery to the Apostles, who would judge the 12 tribes of Israel in the end times, and he was setting out a new mystery age and referring to this in his parables. It was all very interesting, but he found the parables to be a bit more allegorical than I would take them to be, which I don’t have any problem with as long as they are not used to infer out of whack doctrines not consistent with wide teaching of Christ.Several times the leader said, “We are saved by grace through faith…plus nothing.”
It seemed this community is emphatic that glory be to God in all things, that Yeshua be the center of their existence, that they always be prepared for the return of Yeshua and the restoration of Israel, and that they share community. The last thing they did was to share prayer requests about family, sons in Iraq, other needs such as jobs and healing of sick.The leader finished with the Priestly Blessing of Numbers 6, and I’ll finish with that as well for us today:
Y’varech’cha Adonai v’yishm’recha
The Lord bless you and keep you
Ya’eir Adonai panav eleicha vi’huneka
The Lord make his face shine upon you
Yisa Adonai panav elecha v’yaseim l’cha shalom
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace