Schofar, Scho Good
It's Memorial Day, and I want to say thanks to the troops who've given up so much for many. I don't just mean soldiers, but all who went into any battle and lost their bodily lives with the God-given conviction they were fighting for something good. There's no Martyr's Day, so I guess this is the closest I can get to that. Regular soldiers are cool, too, as long as they don't murder, rape, and pillage in the process.
Among the odder things I've been doing lately is visiting a Messianic church here in Knoxville. For those folks who have no idea what that is, it's a church of Jews who acknowledge Jesus as being the Jewish Messiah. Except they don't call him Jesus. They call him "Mashiah Yeshua", which I guess is the correct Hebrew form of the name "Jesus Christ". They both mean the same thing: Jesus/Joshua/Yeshua The Anointed One. My friend Natasha was the one who invited me to visit (she's a Russian Jew who moved to Knoxville when she was still a kid), and I attended the service for the second time this past Saturday. Natasha is also leaving for Russia today, to be with her dad, and then plans to move on to Israel in a couple of years, so I wanted to visit the Messianic church with her there one more time while she was still in town.
I'm not too familiar with what a regular Jewish service is like, but my understanding (from speaking with one of the members of the church) is that there is a lot of traditional Jewish liturgy, but all of it is given meaning that they didn't neccesarily have in their original context (or given their true meaning, depnding on how you look at it, I suppose). Of course they sang a lot of songs and did things specific to a Messianic congregation.
The worship is a decidedly different flavor from any I've ever seen... there are a lot of traditonal Jewish melodies and rhythms, and a lot of songs have an upbeat tempo but are in a minor key. The more I think about it, though, that odd tension between a joyous rhythm and a mellow key makes sense... we have joy, but we also hope for things we haven't seen. We have the hope of a new Jerusalem, but we still see the brokeness that remains in the world and within us. The Jewish songs capture that tension for me in a way no contemporary Christian song does. The same dynamic, one might argue, can be found in the old Reformed hymns, with their solemn melodies but joy-filled words. You can't dance to those hymns, though. There is a lot of dancing at a Messianic service.
I was so taken up with the worship that I asked Natasha for a CD, and she gave me one yesterday just before the Cedar Springs service. I've been listening to it non-stop since... it's really good stuff. I don't understand 99% of it, since a lot of it is in Hebrew, but I've already learned one phrase:
"Sh'ma Yisrael, Adonai Elohaynu, Adonai Echad (Hear Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One)"