VOLUME 3, NUMBER 4, DECEMBER 18, 2011
Rabbi Orenstein has taught, and led congregations in Los Angeles and regularly speaks at synagogues, universities and conventions. She is the author or editor of five books, and essays for a number of newspapers and journals. As one who loves movies, I was excited when we met to learn that she "worked her way through rabbinical school" as an actress and has appeared in a handful of films and numerous stage productions. As her bio on Congregation B'Nai Israel's website explains, Rabbi Orenstein is "a seventh generation rabbi," and "an alumna of the first entering class at The Jewish Theological Seminary to include women." It has become fashionable for Christians to remind each other that Jesus was Jewish. I usually hasten to add that he still is. And so is his Blessed Mother. And so are Saint Paul and the rest. And their Jewishness matters. In Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander Thomas Merton wrote, "One has either got to be a Jew or stop reading the Bible. The Bible cannot make sense to anyone who is not 'spiritually a Semite.'" (p.6)
In the Adult Forum we've been talking about Messianic Hopes in Jesus' time (and to be sure, there was no simple checklist of Messianic expectations and hopes, nor is there now—there was great variety in those days and in ours), but what has become clear is that we have no idea what Jesus and John the Baptist were up to if we don't have some sense of what those in Jesus' time meant by Kingdom of God, Son of Man, Son of David, Son of God, Passover, Temple, Messiah (Christ), etc. These were not generic spiritual terms—they were and are specifically Jewish terms. And they have not been emptied of their Jewish content even for Christians.
The Jewishness of Christianity is essential to Christianity. Christianity is always distorted when it is cut off from Judaism. Christian life is always distorted when the Church is cut off from the people God called as his own and named Israel. As Saint Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, "It is not you (Christians) who support the root (Israel), but the root that supports you." (Romans 11:18b). I don't know what might be of value in such friendships for Jews, but for Christians it is essential to cultivate good, trusting, and open friendships with Jews in order to be good Christians.
Advent is a season of hopeful expectation. A season of waiting. In the end, Jews and Christians are both waiting. We are waiting for God to reveal God's Kingdom, God's reign, the Messianic Age, to all of the peoples of the earth. I am grateful that God called a people for his own and that through this people he is reconciling the world to himself. I am grateful for my new friendship with Rabbi Orenstein and for her invitation to speak at Congregation B'Nai Israel and also for her willingness to preach to Grace Church. I am grateful for this chance for our two faith communities to come together in this season of waiting. I pray that these few days together may be a taste of that time we all wait for when the Kingdom of God is finally revealed.
CHRISTMAS FLOWER MEMORIALS... Envelopes are in the Narthex for Christmas flower memorials and thanksgivings. Please make checks payable to Grace Church Altar Guild. The deadline for inclusion in the Christmas bulletins is TODAY.
GREENING OF THE CHURCH... will take place after the 10 am Mass today. All parishioners are invited to meet in the church, after grabbing a cup of coffee, to decorate for the Christmas celebrations. PLEDGE CARDS... If you haven't already returned your pledge card, please do so today. The vestry has developed a preliminary budget for 2012, but would like to finalize it as soon as possible. Pledge cards can be found in the narthex. PLEASE REMEMBER FOOD FOR FRIENDS DURING ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS... A gift to Food for Friends made any time during Advent and Christmas has special significance. At this time of unemployment and underemployment, we all know that the need is great. St. Paul's Community Development Corporation Food Pantry especially welcomes high protein items, such as beans and canned meats. Otherwise, their wish list asks specifically for tuna, cereal, peanut butter, rice, coffee, and pasta. Alternatively checks may be drawn in favor of St. Paul's Community Development Corporation and marked Food Pantry. Please send checks directly to St. Paul's at 451 Van Houten Street, Paterson, NJ 07501. Thank you.
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