27 February 2016

Thirty Million Minutes: Dawn French, Billy Crystal and memories

Last night I went to see Dawn French (Vicar of Dibley) in a one-woman stage show with the name 30 Million Minutes. It was the story of her 58 years, which amount to almost 50 million. Give or take a few thousands. After a few minutes I was reminded of another stage show I saw of the same ilk. Billy Crystal, starred on Broadway and we saw that one. 700 Sundays tells the stories of his youth, growing up in the jazz world of Manhattan, his teenage years, and finally adulthood. The Tony Award-winning show is a funny and poignant exploration of family and fate, loving and loss.

Billy's title comes from the 15 years worth of Sundays he and his father Jack Crystal shared before Jack died. Dawn's story was similar in length, in production, in video retrospective, and in pain of searing loss. Both of their dads died when the kids were teens. Both come from very loving families. But while Crystal's show would have been rated PG, Dawn's family history was rated MA-15, to be sure. I know way too much about sexuality from her, and her body parts. This, by the way, is NOTHING compared to the raunch of Brad Garrett (Everybody loves Raymond) which I witnessed in Melbourne two years ago. (For the photos from there, see my Flickr site here

Still, "I remember" was a major phrase in both stories. Certainly in Dawn's story telling. And her stories were great, of her grandmothers, of her dad, her mom, brother who still is at the ready to listen to her, and so many dots on her family notations. The Queen Mother's visit, Dawn's rocking horse fence, her marriage and its breakup...all are introduced with "I remember."

As Jewish people, we have many ways to remember things. Straps of leather wrapped around our arms in the morning, strings attached to major body garments, wedding rings, even lit plaques are all designed to call to mind former things.
Triggering memories is useful if you want to gain from the past.
Memories are useless if you want to live in the past.
The past is a great place from which to have come, but a poor substitute for the future.

When I say the word "memory" what is your first thought? Your childhood? Yesterday's lunch? The game you won? The pass you dropped? Learn from those moments, or those years. And let's become the people we should be, with learning accomplished and hope established.

Cults, Families and some personal reflections

I watched the NBC Today Show exposé they title #Uncovered on their Friday 19 February. The story featured a woman and her parents and the Korean church titled "World Mission Society Church of God." The founder, a woman, claims to be the incarnate God, born in 1948. The church claims on their 'welcome' page to be "the only true church which God has established on this earth. (Acts 20.28)"

On their introduction page, they say "In 1948 the Second Coming Christ Ahnsahnghong restored the truth of life. The Church of God started as Christ Ahnsahnghong came to Korea." What is the reader to understand? That The church which Paul references in Acts 20 actually existed then, but not again (where did it go?) until 1948 in Korea when a woman was born and became the 2nd coming of Jesus. Wow, what hyperbole, what a leap, what narishkeit!

But the story caught my attention for another and personal reason. You see, after I came to faith in Yeshua in 1971, my family was at a loss what to say, what to do, how to win me back to rabbinic Judaism. My father had already thrown me out of the family home because I had announced "Jesus is our messiah." But sometime that summer, two Jewish men showed up at my apartment in Kansas City. One was from my past, a 20-something rabbi who had some influence on me in my earlier teens. Their purpose was to stop my new faith, to call me back to their understanding of Judaism, and to restore our family. I wasn't really sure what to tell them. If I had that chance again, if I could rewrite history, I would have asked the two to tell my family that I love them, and wish we could all have good time again together. But I cannot play "Back to the Future" so I have to live with whatever weak responses I actually gave.

Over the decade of the 1970s we had our ups and downs in family relationship. My parents couldn't bear to attend my wedding in 1977, even though it was held only a few blocks from their home. But after our son was born in 1979, they welcomed us back into their fold. Until I told them we were joining the organisation "Jews for Jesus." The last decades before they passed some years ago, we were in very good relationship. Or at least better.

So when I watched the Today Show episode, I was sad for the parents and sad for the adult daughter who seemed at odds, but when "I love them" came out of the daughter's mouth, something was different. The firm, staunch supporter and representative of the heretical group WMSCOG actually expressed a sadness, almost cry-like statement, and it touched my heart. I think that the main problem with so many of these religions is the dissolution of family. And although there is a verse or two about making right choices in this regard, most of the time, God's love is about the harmony of families.

I remember when I told my dad that I loved my mom as much as I loved the prostitute on 39th Street. He heard it the other way around. He heard me saying that I didn't love my mother in a special way at all, and that my love for her was as limited as it was for a hooker on the streets. What I was actually saying was that because of Jesus and His dying for us on the cross, that God demonstrated His own love for us (all!) and thus we should love everyone equally, the lowly and the high, the family and the non-family. I was actually elevating the love I had for my mother and saying that I could extend grace, kindness, and real compassionate love even to the seriously lost.

But it didn't go down well, to say the least.

Over the decades I've discovered that family love IS different and that I think about my own wife and kids much more than other people's wives and children. I pray for them more than others. I hope for their lives to be full of life and full of blessing. And no matter what else might happen between us, or in their choices of partners or religions or job or homeland, they are still family. And that's thicker than anything else. So I get what upset my dad. And I am sorry I caused him stress that day. And hopeful that my own family, sister, aunts, cousins, children...etc...all find eternity with God the most blessed estate. But even if they don't agree with me... we are still mishpochah. And #familymatters. (For some unpacking by opponents of the movement, see this Website )

19 February 2016

Risen, the Movie, the Review

Setting: Today a look at Capitol movie release "Risen" starring Joseph Fiennes as Clavius, a murderous and successful Roman tribune in 30 CE (AD). The setting is the Roman occupation of ancient Judea/ Israel. The title comes from the story told by the followers of Yeshua (that's the name he's called even in the movie) that their hero/ messiah is risen from the dead. Pontius Pilate charges the military tribune Clavius with the responsibility to quell the rumours which otherwise might end Pax Romana, especially before the imminent visit of the Emperor Tiberius.

The acting is real; the settings superb, recreated in Spain for the movie, which depicted the historical accounts of the messianic hopeful named in English Jesus of Nazareth. He is often titled in the movie "The Nazarene" highlighting his roots in nearby Galilee. Scenes include fishing, the healing of a leper, terrorised Jews running from Roman domination, even the end of the crucifixion scene well known in history of three criminals.

Tom Felton (Lucius) from the Harry Potter series plays a rookie tribune-to-be and has some serious conflicts with his hero, played so well by Fiennes. Peter Firth (Pilate) had many issues, most of which had to do with keeping the calm. I liked that most characters are not one-dimensional. I say 'most' because the Jewish leadership seems always aggravated and malicious. Everything that Mel Gibson did not allow about Jewish people in his "Passion of the Christ" Kevin Reynolds (director)and Paul Aiello (scriptwriter) did. I'm disappointed with that part of the film. However, the main storyline is so good that I can somewhat overlook that (with regrets).

The visual references to the Shroud of Turin, which doesn't come into history's play for over a millennium is unnecessary I thought. The sealing of the tomb of Yeshua, the love of the Nazarene and fair-go by Joseph of Arimathea are important highlights and have been well-included. The conversation with Bartholomew (Nathaniel) and Clavius highlight the issue of doubt/ faith and why anyone should ever believe in this story.

I like the character of Yeshua (Cliff Curtis, Kiwi actor) who during the first half of the movie is known only through a visual point-- his death. He doesn't move nor speak. The woman Mary Magdalene, along with the disciples Peter, John, even Thomas, come to their own as the movie continues and then the major risen character, Yeshua takes centre stage. And he's a likeable triumphant one. He appears and disappears. He instructs the fearful followers to meet him up north. He comes and goes at will. And during his post-resurrection visits he eats with them, helps them find a major fish cache, forgives and re-instructs Simon Peter, and the leper scene happens. (Which doesn't happen in the biblical record at that time). All the while Clavius, with Lucius and his colleagues, seek to finish this rumour's nonsense, find the body, and settle Jerusalem back to normal.

I won't unpack the ending, but since the Bible doesn't record any interactions between Yeshua and unbelievers after the Resurrection, the encounters "Risen" show are "Hollywood"ed for us. It does make for a good story, and what Clavius determines is useful for every believer and every unbeliever who watch to the end. I like that the Hollywood add-ons are not distractions at all, but rather make the story that much fuller. After all, when CSI, NCIS, and Ben Hur come together this is a likely screenplay.

The main question anyone will have when they make their way to the parking lot is "Is that true? Did Yeshua rise from the dead?" And that's a huge question for all of us to ask. If he had risen, from the reality of the crucifixion, then what evidence is required? Two things: 1) his body was not in the grave and 2) physical appearances to many. Without the empty tomb, the appearances are mere fancy, hallucinations of madmen. Without the appearances, the empty tomb is merely evidence of some clever grave robbers and re-buriers. But with both... the evidence is in. And Clavius and every honest skeptic has to deal with that reality.

And so do you. So, watch the movie. It's worth the money. And it may impact your life more than Harry Potter. More than Fiennes' Shakespeare in Love. You never know. Give it a try soon. Before it goes to video.

16 February 2016

Brooklyn the movie and finding home

On the movie's website we read, "BROOKLYN tells the profoundly moving story of Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Lured by the promise of America, Eilis departs Ireland and the comfort of her mother's home for the shores of New York City. The initial shackles of homesickness quickly diminish as a fresh romance sweeps Eilis into the intoxicating charm of love. But soon, her new vivacity is disrupted by her past, and Eilis must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within."

Yesterday in the BAFTAs in England, Brooklyn won outstanding British film of the year. It asks the question in Ireland and Brooklyn "Where do I belong? What can I make of my life?" CJ Johnson of ABC radio here in Australia writes, "[Brooklyn] lives or dies on Ronan's performance, and it definitely lives, with energy, beauty and grace. Hornby has done a brilliant job adapting Toibin's novel ... as have art departments [with] an Ireland and Brooklyn of the 1950s but also of the romantic mind."

I saw the flick last night and as the movie began with the typical introductory list of producers and film credits, I thought I was in the wrong theatre. Fox Searchlight, ok, I'm used to that. but the list included Wildgaze Films, Parallel Film Productions, the Irish Film Board, and Item 7. BBC Films was the first in the list. Wait, is this the right movie? Ireland? I thought it was going to be about Jewish people. Maybe I should have watched the trailer or read a review first. OK< I was wrong. Settle in and watch and see, Bob.

The contrast of homes is a continual theme in the movie. The Italian spaghetti-twirling home of Tony, the boarding house of Mrs Kehoe, the quiet village of Enniscorthy and the Lacey home itself, along with the contrast of churches and jobs in the two settings add such great color to the film. But I cannot get away from home vs home as a central theme.

Tony and Eilis encounter each other at an Irish dance at the parish church, and Tony admits to liking Irish girls better than Italian girls. They fall in love as would be predicted and I won't spoil the show for you about their relationship's continuity and ending. It's actually worth watching. Tony wants to marry Eilis especially before she goes back to Ireland for a quick visit. Here's the actual script:
You want to go home, I guess.
Yes. But I don’t know if I can.
If it’s money, then we can all help. I mean, the whole family. (Eilis blinks back more tears.)
And how would it be for you if I did go home?
(Tony shrugs, and then says, simply and sincerely)
I’d be afraid, every single day.
Afraid that I wouldn’t come back?
TONY Yeah. Home is home.
EILIS I’m not sure I have a home anymore.

That's the continual driving question in this brave young immigrant's mind. It's what makes me as an immigrant to Australia think. Where is home for me?

And what about you? I know friends who are selling house and shifting 200 km from the place they've lived for 35 years. I know people who have never left their neighbourhood and who now are moving to another state for whatever reasons. Tony said, "Yeah. Home is home." But for you, where is home?

Jim Farrell's home with his parents is contrasted with Mrs Kelly's home and the way they see what lies ahead is seriously in contrast.

On Christmas day in the movie, many Irish immigrants who had built the bridges and tunnels around NYC gathered as homeless and sad-faced men in the church to have a festive meal together. One lad sang a Gaelic song which brought tears to everyone from Enniscorthy, Dublin, Cork, and even this Kansas man. Where homeless people find home, that's home, no matter where we were born. No matter with whom we share it.

I love these verses from the Scripture: Isaiah 32:18 Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places;

2 Kings 13:5 The LORD gave Israel a deliverer, so that they escaped from under the hand of the Arameans; and the sons of Israel lived in their tents as formerly.

Psalm 127:1-2 Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.

Proverbs 3:33 The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked, But He blesses the dwelling of the righteous.

Find rest in Yeshua. Find life with God your father. Find eternity and the things of earth will grow strangely dim. Yeshua said, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14.2) Heaven then, and heavenly people today... that's home for me.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24.15)

05 February 2016

Choices we make

Maybe this happens to you. I remember this experience when I was a boy in the US. The World Book Encyclopaedia set was in the lounge room, and for whatever reason, I would go to look up some entry, like Mercury Space Program or Toronto, Canada. I would start flipping through the pages of the "M" or "T" book, get distracted by a colourful photograph of Mars or marigolds, and the book had me. Thirty minutes later I was still in the letter "M" book, and couldn't remember at all why I had left my room to investigate something. Ah, childhood research and wonder.

This morning I read a Facebook post by a friend about a violin and a master, and thought of the Myra Brooks Welch poem, and Wayne Watson's rendition in song, "Touch of the Master's Hand." I let the found YouTube video play me to a tear or two again, and then let the YouTube keep playing. Soon, I was listening to many other great songs of faith and hope from about 10-20 years ago. Wonderful what the internet allows me to do like the old days.

One of the songs "I pledge allegiance to the Lamb" was an anthem of praise to God and Jesus, and was written by Ray Boltz. "Hey," I wondered, "Whatever happened to him?" Then I read of Mr Boltz, the Christian musician and singer, who came out as gay in 2004 or so, and now is an advocate for gay rights and such. I guess he's ever an activist. OK, homosexuality is not the topic of this blog, but choices...that's the topic. Boltz's song really nailed it for me.

The father in the video is recounting for his young son how in the old days people would be brought before kings and given a choice: Deny Yeshua or die. And real heroes would choose to die rather than deny their faith and the One who never denied them. Powerful, although the visuals are fairly cheesy. Then the scene switches to 'modern' wars and invading armies who burst into a family home while the family is praying. The same choice is offered. The family chooses well. Or so we imagine.

The video father tells the son, "My dad could even pray in school. Of course they took that away from him. Then it became incorrect for us to believe in the Bible. After that they stripped our right to worship away from us." And eventually the police lead the father off out of the cell, as we are given cause to believe, to his death. It's full of tears and drama and emotion. The father's words of challenge and courage ring in the boy's ears as his eyes see the father taken away.

The title is taken from the USA, where the day in many schools still begins with children and teachers alike standing at attention and putting hand to chest, facing the raised US flag, and reciting the pledge. "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands..." Boltz uses that image of pledging allegiance to help us live courageous lives, determined, choice-filled lives for which we and our progeny will be proud. And it's a good image.

What choices will I make today to reflect my faith? What choices will I make today which undermine all my previous choices? What choices will you make today which testify of the realities of heaven or love or life or kindness? This is my Friday thought. This is something which is helping me Thank God it's Friday.

Maybe you found this blog by wandering accident like I used to find Mars or marigolds. I'm glad you did. Do some 'searching' on this blog and see what else I've written about... you might find my voice saying some things you've been thinking also. You never know.

Make good choices.
The choices you make today determine which choices are available to you tomorrow.

_________________________________________ BTW, as a bonus, this is a great song by Boltz about the lamb: Watch the Lamb Awesome to remember as Good Friday hits next month.

01 February 2016

Yeshua: Chosen and Rejected

A sermon given at St Johns Anglican, Dee Why
31 January 2016

The new teacher asked one toddler “How old are you, Brian?” Brian answered, “I am four.” Then the teacher asked, “When will you turn five years old?” The boy answered, “When I’m done being four.”

I guess we all like clever children, and today’s readings from Psalm 71 (.6, 17), Jeremiah 1 (.5-6), 1 Corinthians 13 (.11) and the Gospel of Luke 4 (.22) all remind us of youth who represent God. But the Gospel also shows us the problem of a person trying to represent the Lord in his hometown. I understand that, and maybe you do also. I grew up as an Orthodox Jew in Kansas City, in the middle of the US, and when I came to believe in Jesus, most who knew me ‘back then’ wouldn’t have anything to do with me nor listen to what I had to say about God. Sometimes the people closest to us, who knew us when, are the ones with whom we have the most difficulty in sharing what we believe about God and Jesus.

That said, let me thank Father Steven for welcoming me back here to the parish and thanks to each of you who is listening to me, both here live, and those who will hear this online or read the sermon there later. Thanks because you are listening to someone whom you might otherwise disregard. Also I hope you will fill out that white card which is inside the newsletter, which allows us to continue to communicate with you down the proverbial road through our email or print newsletter, your choice.

The scene at Nazareth
Let’s turn in our Bibles to the Gospel reading, Luke 4, and see what it has to say to us, as 21st Century people, both about our Messiah, who was chosen and rejected, and about our mission in the world, where we will probably receive similar response. And as I represent Jews for Jesus here in Australia, I hope you will consider sponsoring our mission as well, today and in the months to come. Back to Luke 4.

Verse 16: Yeshua came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, his hometown, and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and read: THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.”

He closed the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. Everyone was watching. Then Yeshua said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

This reading is almost an entire quote from Isaiah chapter 61. Either Luke or Yeshua leaves out the phrase about ‘the healing of the brokenhearted’ which Isaiah prophesies. The reading of a portion of the Bible from the prophets or other writings is a custom in the synagogue even to this day. Yeshua has been teaching in the area, and has been performing miracles in the Galilee, which is his diocese, if you will. He was busy in Capernaum, which is 32 kilometres away which obviously was well known to the people of his Nazareth synagogue and home.

Yeshua says the hope of the Jewish people, for someone who will bring the jubilee to the people, who will free us from Rome, that hope…it is Himself! Even the word ‘anointed’ in verse 17 is the verb form of Messiah. The Messiah would heal us, bring good news to us. He would not only proclaim God’s favor, He would actually set people free.

And Yeshua says the wait is over. He is the Chosen One, whom God anointed to fulfill the prophecy. The fulfillment is literally “in your hearing” because it consists in the words from Isaiah being spoken by the One for whom they were prophetically destined.

Now look at the people’s response. “Everyone spoke well of Him, and wondered at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

Keith Green was a musician who died in 1982. He was a rock and roller who came to believe in Jesus in the early 1970s. One of his songs that became a favorite for me was the “Song to my parents.” (Click to hear the Keith Green song)
The song ends with “It’s only that I care, I really only just want to see you there” about going to heaven. He urges them to consider eternity even though they often got into an argument about religion. The ending of the song however, is well worth our noting. After the appeal to his parents yet one more time, he says, “Isn’t that Jesus? Isn’t that Joseph and Mary’s son? Didn’t he grow up right here? He played with our children. What? He must be kidding. Thinks he’s a prophet. Prophets don’t grow up from little boys, do they? Do they?”

The question of course is begged in verse 22. Didn’t this man who just read to us the Bible passage and point it to himself… isn’t that the guy who used to fix our furniture in his carpenter shop? He’s just like us, so he cannot be the fulfillment of the Scriptures. And Yeshua knows that. Like we read in other passages of Yeshua’s awareness of what people are thinking. Verse 23 says, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself!” Yeshua knew what people were thinking. And it wasn’t good what the locals were thinking. No wonder Yeshua says, in verse 24. “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.”

Being chosen does not necessarily produce natural cheerleading from the locals. In fact, Yeshua seems to be saying the exact opposite is in view. In fact, we are unwelcome. We will be rejected. That’s a guarantee from the One who copped this rejection Himself. And it’s historically accurate in the biblical record, too. Each of the prophets was dismissed as wacky and irrelevant, or too close to the bone to hear. Each prophet was rejected. That’s the lot for Yeshua, too. And for each of us who chooses to follow Him. You will need more than luck to accomplish this-- you need God's grace, amen?

Two Older Testament examples
Back to our story. Yeshua tells two stories which changes their reactions from acceptance to rage. What two stories? One about Elijah going to the woman, the widow of Zarephath, and second, about Naaman the leper.

From verse 25: “But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel ain the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

You might remember those two Bible stories. The first from 1st Kings chapter 17, and the second from 2nd Kings chapter 5. I encourage you to read these later, even today. The stories are great and demonstrate many things then, and to the people today, and certainly to the people of Jesus’ day. When He references each, the widow and the leper, he’s highlighting several things. 1) Neither took place in the land of Israel, or distinctly that is, among Jewish people in our land and territory. 2) Both involved healings, and a picture of life from the dead and 3) Both involved the provision of God’s promises of substance and health. And finally 4) each was unique in the area. And that’s the clearest takeaway from the Lucan account. Yeshua says, “none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman”

In other words, God didn’t go to the leper colony, He didn’t attend the hospital gala and later walk through and heal everyone. He only healed Naaman. Similarly, in the famine in the Land, He didn’t specifically provide for everyone, nor visit each person, but went only to one place, and to one person. God not only selects; He deselects.

No wonder the people were enraged. It appears that they might be sidelined also. Even though the benefits should be theirs, naturally.

And one more thing about these two episodes. Zarephath is in Sidon which is in Phoenecia, that is, in modern Lebanon. The widow of Zarephath is not living in Jewish quarters. The prophet goes outside Israel to provide for anyone. The blessings of God are not limited to Jews.

Wait, you mean Yeshua wants people to go to foreigners and share this message? Yes. Yeshua wants us to go to those who are not yet believers to make His name known? Yes, sirree.

Naaman the Syrian is an outsider, too. And he even originally rejects the prophecy to wash in the river seven times, because the rivers in Syria are much cleaner than the Jordan. But his associates help him understand that he should obey the prophet and voila he is healed. Awesome.

But wait a minute, going outside your comfort zone, going to Gentiles, going to enemies, going away from the ‘insider’s place’…who does that?

What! You must be kidding. Prophets don’t grow up from little boys, do they? Do they? And then prophets are not really welcomed back home, are they? So what’s going to happen to me when I join your evangelism team? Rejection? Ha! Who wants that?

"and they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way."

So what do the people of Nazareth do to Yeshua? In verse 29 we read that they formed a mob. They evicted him from town, and seemed to chain deliver him to the brow of the hill overlooking town. Yeshua is in trouble. He will definitely be tossed over to his death. Have you seen a place like that in Tamworth or Townsville, where the big crosses adorn the highest hill? Over in Auckland there is one-tree hill to which they might have gone. In our days, they would have taken him to the top of the Sydney tower in the middle of the CBD or the top of the Eureka Tower in Melbourne. Wherever they took him there in Nazareth, the end was near for our hero. But since He had not yet taken on the sins of the world (which He took at Gethsemane), death could not have impacted Him. In other words no one could take His life from Him just yet. So what does the Bible say? We read in verse 30, that Yeshua “passed through their midst and went His way.“

Wow. Mobs don’t let the enemy out of their sight. But this one did. Mobs don’t let the convicted one escape. But this mob did. Because no matter what, Yeshua is Lord of the situation. And He will choose when and where He will die. And He did.

What do we learn?
We learn from this episode at his hometown a few things.
1) Yeshua declared Himself to be the Messiah
2) That declaration was not welcomed by all Jewish people
3) His intention to set people free was not limited to Jewish people, but also included Syrians, Lebanese, and probably a few folks from the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Even as Jeremiah was told to be “a prophet to the nations.”
4) When He demonstrated His power in the past, in the Older Testament, He did not choose to make a major production out of it, but chose a single example so that women and men would understand that He can perform wonders.
5) No one can take His life from him. He will eventually lay it down of his own initiative and die on the Roman cross for our sins and take our sins on Himself so as to truly liberate us from bondage, and give us eternal life.
6) Finally, as He was chosen and rejected, so we are to be as well. God chose us in the beginning to walk with Him, (2 Thes. 2.13, Col 3.12) and as such we will suffer the same fates as our Messiah. (Rev. 17.14, John 17.18). If we want to rise with him, we must go to the cross with him. I know it’s early but next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, and the way of Lent begins in about 10 days. So it’s right to ponder this deep truth a moment longer.

If we suffer the rejection from others, don’t be surprised. That’s how they treated everyone sent from God to them. Romans chapter 8 says, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” If you can’t bear the cross, then you can’t wear the crown.

We learned today that a prophet is not without honor, except in his own home turf. And maybe you find it most difficult to witness to those closest to you. May I recommend that you each one of you, understand that, and try to be involved in each others’ families? Ask the parents or children of parishioners who visit, “Are you a follower of Jesus?” When you meet someone’s family here or at the church picnic, ask the hard questions. Invite response. Some cannot possibly ask those of their own families any longer. But you can.

Just now into Sydney is arriving my old university roommate. We’ve been friends since 1969, a mere 47 years ago. And we will spend some time together later today and tomorrow for sure. He’s only here for a few days. And you know, he will find it easier to hear the Gospel again from someone not-so-close, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself just now. You never really know, do you? But at least we can be more sensitive to each other’s concerns. Please pray for Mike.

Chosen doesn’t always mean ‘received’, and more realistically those who are chosen by God receive more knockbacks than praises. Is that what you signed up for? If you are a believer, then that IS what you signed up for.

Thanks be to God for His strength, and His power to keep us, and to keep using us, for His purposes. Amen?

A bit about JFJ
Now let me say a few words about Jews for Jesus for whom also I’m here. Two days before Christmas our office received an initial email from a confused Jewish man out in Perth. He didn’t string his sentences together the way I’m used to and I wondered if he were having a go at us. But he said he was Jewish and curious about God, so I wrote him back straightaway. He replied. I replied. It kept going and a phone call ensued. And on Christmas Eve, Allen prayed with me to accept Jesus as his Messiah and Lord. And his darkness is going away. God is saving him daily by His priestly ministry. I hope you will join many in praying for him, his wife and children, and his finding rest in Messiah.

And we have loads more stories I want to tell you, from Budapest and Tel Aviv, from London and New York, to here in Sydney. I love our story. I have many others I want to tell you, but I’ll let the newsletter do that. Would you please fill out the white card you received on entry, tear the stub off, and begin to fill out the larger card. I won’t think it rude for you to write while I finish speaking. Please fill out the card completely, especially your email, so we can tell you stories quickly and you can pass them on via forward to many like this one. (For those online, just send an email will you please?) admin@jewsforjesus.org.au will be happy to receive your contact information and anything you want to let us know about yourself.

If you are giving financially to Jews for Jesus today, please put the amount on the front of the card when you fill it out so we can receipt and thank you. I really appreciate that. (to donate, using PayPal, click on this link Link to donate Thanks.

Our book shop and ministry centre in Bondi Junction welcomes people all week, and every week for a decade unsaved Jewish people come in, like this week when Sebastian from Chile and Nick from Russia and Ariel from Israel all came in, to talk, to learn, to discuss.

I have a resource table up the back, and really want you to get some books on messianic prophecy like this one, or messianic music and many other items on the table.

By the way I also have a credit card machine, so you can use your card, a cheque, or cash to pay for things. Father Steven, thanks for letting me come today. Thanks to each of you here at St John’s who make this such a good place in a dark world. Remember, be His spokesmen to the world that so needs to know Him. Keep doing what makes Yeshua happy, no matter if others reject you, and have a blessed February, Lent, and a joyful Easter season.