Derek’s comment on the final day summed up for me the overall impact of the consultation: “I never really ‘got it’ from hearing the theory. Having come here, now I’ve got it!”
Participating in the Messianic congregation’s worship, sharing in their exuberant joy, I caught something of the Lord’s pleasure in seeing in action that unity He prayed for before laying down His life.
I was experiencing what Tim Butlin spoke of, “Behold! How good and pleasant it is where brethren dwell together in unity!” I was encountering the one new man. The booklet “Practical Experience of Effective Jewish Ministry” confirmed this impression. What better or more urgent goal than to seek to heal the rift that has caused us in the church to miss this “commanded blessing” for so long, the blessing of the unity of “Father … I in them and You in Me.” You have to see it to feel the lack of it. As Johannes said “We have to feel the lack of the Jewish part of the Church.” In my own experience of working for Protestant/Catholic reconciliation in N. Ireland, this was, and is, one of the greatest obstacles – we don’t feel any real need for each other. We think we’re self sufficient and don’t realize how poor we are without each other.
If Christians could witness the results of actually being in the one new man, as demonstrated there in Kiev, it could not but enkindle the longing for reconciliation. As our Moldovan brother pointed out, “It is very important to show the real results of this ministry [of reconciliation] right now.” I found myself thinking, “If only I could bottle what I am seeing here and take it back home!” Tim spoke about the united body of Messiah being God’s appointed agent to bring healing, reconciliation and restoration, but we were like the leaning tower of Pisa – we had a problem with our foundations, with the first split in the church. He went on to say, “The whole Middle East is desperate for a church that can model reconciliation and hope.” This is a worldwide problem. We deeply and urgently need the multiplication of “one new man” congregations. Benjamin Berger spoke of “the spirit of Elijah coming over the congregations of the Lord”, of the Lord’s house being restored according to the original plan. “It must be an incarnate reality, not just a theological understanding.”
Hans Scholz said: “The Lord is longing for the oil [from the crushing of the wild olives and the cultivated olives together] – unity of confessing, teaching, praying, evangelizing – a unity in ministry. This will prove Jesus is Lord over us in all our diversities. The theological issue is not a theoretical one but one of seeing – Hiney! Behold! Oneness.” He spoke about the need to cultivate what God is doing, “Not just have a moment of enthusiasm and then get involved in other things.” This thought, that the vision of TJCII involved something that was central to the intention of God concerning the Church, was strengthened as the consultation proceeded, raising the question as to the kind of response that was required. Tim’s quote from Stephen Covey: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” left little room for manoeuvre.
Peter highlighted how the distancing of the Church from her Jewish roots had weakened her eschatological hopes, leading her to consider that the promises to Israel were transferred to the Church, and were to be interpreted in a spiritual sense. The promised and became heaven and the reign of the glorified Christ on earth became His rule from heaven. In spite of Paul’s warnings re Gentile arrogance, Jews were presented as carnal and spiritually blind, whereas Christians were spiritually enlightened. The Messianic promises, seen as totally fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus, would be finally outworked in His returning to take us out of this creation to heaven. For Jews, the promises were to be fulfilled within creation, as the climax of human history. Only through our coming together can the hope of Israel and the hope of the Church be brought together, and be adequately formulated. The false antithesis between the Day of Resurrection (Sunday) and the Shabbat was another example of the mutual impoverishment that resulted from the split between the Jewish and Gentile parts of the Church. “We have to hold Israel and the Church together and see that their hopes belong together… We need a profound listening to each other, … a freedom from all arrogance … a profound purification . We need to guard against making statements that are really a denial of the witness of others and do not help reconciliation.”
The simple fact is that we cannot be the one new man without each other. The raising again of the dividing wall has been a crippling master stroke of the enemy, but we have the joy of seeing before our eyes the beginning of its final destruction. What a great privilege to hear the call of God to take part with Him in the final outworking of what He accomplished on Calvary! The challenge I came away with is, could anything less than a full-hearted commitment be worthy of such a call?
“The main thing is …”