Friday, February 06, 2009
First on our list was a Messianic Jewish congregation. We had wanted to visit for quite some time, so we cleared a Saturday (Shabbat, or Sabbath) to attend the worship service. The building is modern with some tell-tale signs of Jewish influence, like the giant menorah sculpture on the front lawn and the beautiful Ark of the Covenant replica in the sanctuary.
The service began with singing and blessings. The elders, wearing yamakas and prayer shawls, blessed the large scroll with the Torah and it came out of the Ark. Then the rabbi paraded the Torah through the aisles, while celebratory music played. People brought their own copies of Scripture, touched it to the scroll, and kissed it. Torah readings commenced, one a somber reading, one sung in Hebrew (incredibly beautiful), and a New Testament reading by the mother of a baby receiving dedication that day. The elders extended prayer shawls over the children as they were blessed and dismissed to "Shabbat school." The rest of the singing was half in Hebrew and half in English, and interspersed with prayer and responsive readings. During the songs, a group of women led dancing. A dancer myself, I was deeply moved. And at one point, nearly half the congregation was dancing together, arms around each other, celebrating! The prayer books are in Hebrew on the right page, and English and phonetic Hebrew on the left page (we got a little confused at first until we remembered to start flipping the book from the right, not the left!).
A guest rabbi spoke on the importance of welcoming Yeshua (Jesus) home. He related his personal story of conversion from Judaism and the hope he had found in Yeshua the Messiah. He spoke of healing and reconciliation in very meaningful ways. We found his message particularly poignant for our lives.
We felt God moving here in a spirit of joy and healing. We loved the celebratory atmosphere of the whole service and the family-oriented feeling of the congregation. There was something almost mystical about the experience... perhaps because so much was new or unfamiliar to us... but I think it was more than that. I felt a homesickness for Israel that brought me to tears. Having visited Jerusalem at age 17, I often think back to being there. But this was a homesickness for the Israel, and world, that will be whole again when Christ returns... When we welcome Yeshua home.