Sunday, June 10, 2012
Apparently Jewish believers in Jesus still attended synagogue even after their profession of allegiance to King Jesus as Messiah. Did they attend as believers in Jesus looking for fellowship with other like-minded people or is it more likely they attended as a matter of tribal identity? In other words, they didn't depend on synagogue attendance as the means of growing as a community in Christ. It was simply what they did as part of their heritage and Mosaic tradition. Not only was that not a bad thing, it provided a setting for cultivating their shared identity as Jews. But to be clear, the believers in Jesus would no doubt gather in different settings (homes?) and practiced a different "liturgy" to cultivate their identity in the Kingdom of the God of Jesus. Attendance in one religious setting (synagogue) neither precluded nor replaced attendance in another setting in which a more transcendent identity was being forged. American church attendance likewise has become a reflection of "tribal" identity and our Westernized christian culture. Like the early followers of the same King, today's believers cannot limit the definition of our identity to that which is thrust upon members of a particular local religious institution (read: church). The identity of a true believer transcends what most churches can and do provide and must therefore find its definition encouraged in different settings and in different ways. So going to church should be accepted for what it is: participation in an American tradition. But let the community of Jesus seek out each other in ways that encourage us to love and good works (HEB. 9:25). Because its safe to say that the modern "synagogue" will not embrace true belief in Jesus as it will threaten its organizational fabric. New wine will need new wine skins.
Acts 22:9- Everyone was exposed to Jesus but only one person understood what was being said and allowed it to change the trajectory of his existence. Paul's companions were no doubt lovers of God like Paul and undoubtedly shared both his passion and vision to protect God's interests. Yet, only Paul "got it". Only Paul's trajectory appeared to change. It's as if people of faith can sense something life-altering is happening around them but for reasons we don't know, they are unable to understand Jesus' message in that moment. Perhaps they would get it later- we don't know. In spite of being what appears to be the ONLY one that understood Jesus that day among the many that apparently heard him, Paul could not deny the reality of the experience. He could not soften or politicize it to make it more palatable for his God-fearing compatriots. He was compelled not just to allow his life's passion and pursuit to be eternally altered by the message which only he had ears to hear, but also to pledge his undying allegiance to the new and fuller expression of the God he loved now directly introduced to him as Jesus. The personal price he would pay for "getting it" would be the highest that could be paid but the daily satisfaction he claimed to experience from being "in Christ" was beyond his best efforts to describe.