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"Getting God's People Together" — Pastah J

March 01, 2023 Mishkan Chicago
Contact Chai
"Getting God's People Together" — Pastah J
Show Notes Transcript

"God's plan all along is to get God's people together. When you get God's people together, there should be an expectation that something is going to change...Can you still be faithful even if the only thing changing is you? Your views, your perspectives, your thoughts. Hanging with people who have a different lived experience might change you. So let us get together, let us unify, and let us expect change."

At our February 24th Friday Night Shabbat service, we welcomed our friends from Lawndale Christian Community Church to services. Pastor Jonathan "Pastah J" Brooks co-led services with Rabbi Lizzi and then delivered a moving sermon about his community's perspective that the Bible is a story of God's people being called to change.


For upcoming Shabbat services and programs, check our event calendar, and see our Accessibility & Inclusion page for information about our venues. Follow us on Instagram and like us on Facebook for more updates.

Produced by Mishkan Chicago. Music composed, produced, and performed by Kalman Strauss.


Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann 
Hey there Contact Chai + Shabbat Replay friends, just a few words of context before you hear from Pastor Jonathan Brooks, anti semitism, which is the hatred, fear harassment of Jews, even violence against Jews and vandalizing of Jewish Spaces has been on the rise in this country has been more airborne, more noticeable in public spaces on the airwaves and social media feeds, more so than at any time in my life. And I will say it's really throwing me which you know, it shouldn't because hatred and fear and harassment of marginalized groups is nothing new. And the fact that I haven't noticed it for the first 42 years of my life as a Jew in America speaks to how the last half century or so has been more of an exception to the rule than the rule, historically speaking. And equally importantly, it puts our community in a place of natural ally ship with other groups who experienced the same thing, day in and day out, and always have the black community people of color, the indigenous community, LGBTQ people, Muslims. In any case, I find myself and I've heard many of you express confusion, fear and need a place to process and make sense of things. And fundamentally to know that as Jews, we're not alone. So I've been convening a class exploring modern anti semitism, maybe you're in it. And one of our speakers recently pointed out that the beginning of many anti semitic conspiracy theories and ideas, in many ways is the New Testament painting Jews as having outsized influence and greed, leading to the death of Jesus. And whether or not you read the New Testament as having those portrayals. They have certainly been used by the church over generations, to paint Jewish people in that light, perpetuating those stereotypes, and leading to violence against Jews. And let's be clear, this is the European Church, the Roman Empire. But nonetheless, this is sensitive territory and history when Christians and Jews get together. And Mishcon and Lawndale Christian Community Church are building a relationship. And wouldn't you know it? The next day after hearing that speaker, I had a conversation on the books with Pastor Jonathan Brooks, aka pastor J, to prepare for this past Friday night, and exasperated and also curious, because the truth is, I really don't know that much about the New Testament. I opened up our conversation, probably in a way that felt in delicate and insensitive by just saying, Jonathan, is the New Testament anti semitic? And, of course, he said, No, not the one that I read. And then I said, well, then can you come and talk to our people about that, and share with us because I really think with everything going on right now. And against the backdrop of this day of hate. We choose needs to hear how your people are with us. So as you will hear in a few moments, Pastor J does exactly that. He shares His Torah, his understanding of why Christians and Christianity at least the way he understands it values Jews and Judaism, not to replace Jews and Judaism, but as a way of expanding the reach of God's message of love and justice. As you'll hear him describe Christianity is a more externally facing tradition that is inherently more accessible in meeting people where they are locationally and spiritually. Now, sidebar, I of course, think Judaism also has the ability to meet people where they are locationally and spiritually, especially diaspora oriented Rabbinic Judaism, which was being born at the same time as Christianity. But it remains the case that Judaism is not just a tradition of love and justice, it is packaged inside of a quirky and idiosyncratic spiritual tradition. It requires certain adherence to specific and not particularly intuitive traditions around food, circumcision, holiday observance, familiarity with Hebrew relationship with the land of Israel. And fundamentally, we don't encourage proselytizing. We're okay with being small. Pastor j does not really get into these differences. rather talks about how his faith relies on our holy books and the foundation of Judaism. But there was a little chatter during the chat online on Friday night, folks wondering whether it's appropriate for a pastor to be talking about Christianity in a synagogue on Friday night? And I want to say to you, yes, a resounding yes. It's not what we do every week. But if we want to be in partnership and Ally ship across communities, and religion for the betterment of our city, that means we have to know each other, where each other coming from, we have to invite each other into our spaces of worship, are safe spaces, and open them up for each other's messages, what we believe what challenges us what inspires us is not going to be the same thing across communities. And that's okay. We can hold those differences while working together to build a healed city around us. That's really important. So Pastor Jay is speaking from a place of value and partnership and Ally ship with our community. He's speaking his truth, which is certainly different from a Jewish perspective. But that's why we asked him to speak and to address this thorny question and issue, something beautiful is already coming out of the relationship between Lawndale and Mishcon. And that's that members of our community have visited one another in church and synagogue, something really beautiful, is already coming out of the partnership between Lawndale and Mishkan. And that's that members of our communities have visited each other in church and synagogue, we're looking forward to seeing where this partnership can go. And if you want to be part of it, whether you're from the Lawndale community or the Mishcon community, reach out to your clergy person, and let them know. And we're going to get a little team together. And we're going to figure this out. Okay, enough, me, here's Pastah J.

Pastah J 
So let me begin by saying it is an honor to be with each and every one of you this evening. One thing she did not mention was also during COVID, I had the grand opportunity to share at a Shabbat service on Zoom. Some of the the my understanding and I think, a hopefully a helpful understanding of some of the book of Jeremiah, and the ways that I see that in connection with some of the social ills we see in our city and in our world. And the ways that the Torah helps us to see that when we actually don't make routes in places where maybe we are a little afraid to that we can find ourselves seeking comfortability at all costs. And comfortability probably has become the greatest idol, that we all have to figure out what we're going to do with. And so I thought when Rabbi Lizzi asked me the question, well, why are we here? Let's just be honest, there have been a little bit of tension with some of the things that have been going on culturally, in our country. And especially with what's going on with certain people making really ridiculous in my mind, sentiments and remarks that call themselves speaking on behalf of a whole people. Oh, yeah, Kanye said some crazy stuff. Y'all thought I was gonna be politically correct. Welcome me, Pastor Jay. So, um, one of the questions that I often get when I'm when I'm talking to my Jewish brothers, sisters, Muslim brothers, sisters, anybody is they have questions about Christianity and our understandings of our connection to other faiths. Or don't like Rabbi Lizzi said, is the New Testament anti Jewish. And I say nothing New Testament I read. As a matter of fact, I thought maybe we spend a little time talking about how we as Christians, and as Rabbi Lizzi says, the ones who follow our favorite Jew Jesus that was hers. I just love it. That maybe we can we can make a strand that kind of connects what we see in the New Testament as not an eradication or a removal or even any kind of correct didn't have the Hebrew faith but an expansion. When we think of the New Testament as Jesus followers, we say to ourselves, the same ancestors, you were just bowing different directions in honor of are the same ones that we go thank God for, for without Abraham, without Isaac, without Jacob, without all of the 42 generations that lead up to the beginning of our low New Testament without those generations we don't even have a story to begin we're not even included in the story. So what we see our faith ass is built on the foundation of what we find in the Torah and our favorite Jew Jesus says hey, we want to welcome you guys to the party. You may not know when to bow you may not understand all the Hebrew words thank you for the English on the right hand side you may not understand exactly what's going on when the speed up when to slow down. But one thing we know is when you sing about I don't know if you heard that Michigan people take notes. Listen, okay. When you sing about Adonai we know that we are singing about the same God and for us that's all we need to join the party that's all we need to be able to come and we don't have to know all the words every time you say i don't know i was like hallelujah looked up and I saw words and certain words were like redeem and, and free and live. I was like yes. All of that. What we recognize even the way I like to look at it is beginning with that little piece of Torah and Jeremiah that I love and Jeremiah in our Bible is Jeremiah chapter 29. And in there is there's a backstory to and I talked a little bit about it when I was here last time is that you know, this is when Israel is getting kicked out of Jerusalem because they fell in love with idols right that Babylon ended up being the place that they were taken in captive to in captivity sent in exile to because they fell in love with idols and God was like, Oh, you like idols? So you really, idols, I tell you what, I'll send you to Babylon translated land of idols. And you can have idol palooza. Every idol you could think of as they're waiting on you. And God seals them into exile. It literally says at the beginning of this to the exiles whom I have sent. That's a hard word that when we're disobedient, when we fall in love with idols, and y'all remember the idol I talked about before I got started.

Comfortability, nice houses, safe blocks, best schools. The idol of comfortability is the one we have to deal with. And when God sees that, what God tends to do is send you to a place that makes you uncomfortable.

And we don't have to talk about it geographically, we can talk about how it feels to be uncomfortable on the day before somebody's holiday of eight. God puts us in uncomfortable positions to remind us that even in those uncomfortable positions, God is with us, I'm going somewhere, I'm gonna go somewhere, or you'll get used to that in a second he'll join in. Alright, so the passage goes on. After several months into exile, he tells them in Babylon in the place that I want to be in exile. Anybody know what he says to them first. build houses and live in them in your uncomfortability get comfortable in the fear of what tomorrow might bring, become comfortable build a house and live in a city in uncomfortability, when bullets fly by when when when when you see trash on about living it. Make a house there and then after that he says plant gardens and eat what they produce. In other words, don't just be consumers there but produce some things there. Fall in love with it make it worse. The next thing he says is marry. have sons and daughters in crease there do not decrease. What kind of nonsense is Jeremiah writing? We're in Babylon. We want to be back in Jerusalem. This is not where we want to be. And he says, Well, here's the verse that the good Jesus followers like to say, seek the peace and welfare of the city when I have sent you into exile, pray to the Lord on His behalf or in its welfare, you will find your welfare. In other words, root yourself there, stay there, get stuck there. What does this mean? How does this connect us together? This is the part I want you to recognize. When he says seek the peace and welfare when he says stay there, there is a connection of what we believe our faith is saying, that is rooted and what we believe happened from the very beginning with Hebrew faith. Yeah, I love that guy named Abram who was sent out and you know where he was going. There are some promises made to Abram, that that that we need in order for ourselves to make sense. So want to read something that I'm gonna get out of the way so I can get questions. I'm a preacher, I'm telling me no, no, I'd be happy all day. Abraham received a divine call that Haoran this is actually in our New Testament. Hebrews chapter 11, verse eight, go from your land, your family, and your father's home to the land I will show you. I want to say that one more time Abram received His divine call at Heron go from your land, your family and your father's home to the land, I will show you leave everything comfortable. And go and I'm not even tell you where you go. And that's, that's literally what he said to him, drop everything and just walk. You'll know you're there, when you get there.

God gives very few details about this journey. Very few details along the way. But what it shows is Abraham, Abraham, at this time, life of faith. In Hebrews 11, eight, it says this By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. That's in the book that that people are asking is this thing and no, we need that story. Because what we believe is this place that was given that he displays he was given as an inheritance actually becomes the key to everything we do. So I'm gonna ask the people to stand if you are a member of Lawndale, and you went with us on the trip to the Holy Land in November, please stand. I want you to stay on and people thought it was an important trip. All right, but a few of us here. And as we were on that trip, there were things that made sense to us. That never made sense before. places people landmarks even something as simple as that place was not flat was it will be here's we read something on our little New Testament. Like, he went down to the Mount of Olives. Oh. You gotta see this place become so central to us that what we started to realize is that the reason why this little area this little land between the strip the Fertile Crescent, this little space is so important is because God placed his people right in the center of the world. Babylon, Egypt, Syria, all the powers, who does God put right in the center? Israel because God wants everybody to have to pass by his people on their way, as they think, to take over some other people. That's really the story. Egyptians you want to go invade the Babylonians, you got to go through Israel. Assyrians, you want to fight with the Babylonian ghosts. And why? Because there is something special about these people that God has placed in this little land. And what we recognize is that God is saying I wanted to flip the entire world upside down. Because when anyone came in contact with God's people, something should have changed. That's what that's that's what we believe about the Old Testament, we believe that when we come in contact with God's people, something should change. So then a little New Testament and this favorite, Jesus does the same thing. He pulls the disciples together. And when I key passages and they're on this mountain, we believe that our mount our bill, which overlooks the Sea of Galilee, and we know the Sea of Galilee, not because we sailed on the Sea of Galilee and did all types of Jewish dance, it was great. As we sailed, we noticed around us that this land, when you think about it, in biblical times, especially Second Temple period, when Jesus would have been walking around, this was a pretty diverse space. You have the kind of the capital of, of the Roman Empire up there, dollar night is where all the input you know, kind of like folks from Rome were staying, then they come down to Jerusalem, cause havoc and go back to the goodies. They don't want side you had Galilee, scruffy little town, full of fishermen, just trying to make it. And then you have this other area above it that was very diverse, full of Jews and Gentiles together, just trying to live us around the Sea of Galilee, Jesus takes his disciples up on this mountain to oversee in the Sea of Galilee, and he gives this commandment and then I'm gonna be known for real. This is the commandment against us in Matthew 2819, and 20. Anybody who ever follow Jesus for a while, I don't know where I'm going. He says, Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations. Now this is important about the connected together as to why Christianity and Judaism need to be hand in hand. They're standing on my Nobel looking over the Sea of Galilee, and all the nations of the world there you got the Emperor empire of Rome, you've got all these Gentiles, you got Jews around, you got everybody, as he just says, make disciples of all nations. Now, I just talked this last Sunday, the Lawndale. Most people think the commander in His Verses Go, Go, therefore. But the actual, better translation of the word is as you go, wherever you going already, when you go to the store, when you go to school, when you go to work, you know, when you go fishing, you go play golf. Wherever you go, the command is make disciples of all nations. What Jesus is helping them to realize and what the disciples those cannot Can I say that those Jewish guys that we're following I've ever dude, like, this is all Jewish conversation. We're not even. He says to them, make disciples of all nations as you go and do what you do every day. There was a time when he was explaining to Abram what he wanted for him, that he had to send them to a specific place. So everybody could come through the land. Don't forget that. I'm gonna put you in the center, and Babylonians, Egyptians, they got to come through you. But now Jesus says, You don't have to go anywhere. They're all here. But the change is nil. There's nothing different about what God has commanded you to do. I want people to come in contact with the people of God. I used to put you in a place and they came to you. Now, they're all here. You got to them.

Essentially, Judaism, Christianity, two sides of the same coin. God's chosen people with a customs and laws in ways and then people are supposed to come through us. Jesus says, let's open it up. Let's add some people who thought they could never be a part of that chosen people. But the difference is, it's not I've opened it up. Yeah. What we believe is that without a foundation that explains to us that this has been God's plan all along. We don't believe God's gonna change the world. We believe God's going to use us to change the world. Thus, we need to be together. We need to be worshiping, we need to be encouraging. We need to be rebuking we do whatever we need to do in order for us to be together so that when the people of God get together something changes that's that's what we believe. So we're trying to get as close to y'all this weekend because we don't believe that God is telling us to be anti anything. Jesus has opened it up says welcome now get together sing your songs have your children meet one another get in deeper relationship build how this living plant God is able to produce marry how sons and daughters don't decrease do all of these things and then seek to peace and welfare wherever I've put you. Praise the Lord on His behalf or in its welfare you'll find your welfare. We need each other this is not a good thing. This is desperation so let's not get weary let's keep trying. People will you want to know what's going on right now? People are trying my best to keep this stuff from happening. Because when this happens this is dangerous woman Dr. King shirt today because anybody know why he really got killed? The marches that we're cool with that's fine. Marshawn know, you want to get a few laws shifted. That's cool. That's all but when he started the Poor People's Campaign it started bringing everybody together no matter of race creed religion, because everybody was part of that. Oh now it's one thing to march it's another thing to unify people and help them to realize that there's power in unity so you want to know what's dangerous about this? Is that this is where the power is. This is unity God's plan all along get God's people together. And when you do God's people together there should be an expectation that something's gonna change. So I'm asked you a question for us sit down. We know that I don't lie. God always brings change no matter what. The question becomes this can you still be faithful? Even if the only thing changing is you your views, your perspectives, your thoughts? Hang with people to have a different lived experience might change you. So let us get together. Let us unify and let us expect change. Amen.