-from an old nursery rhyme
I keep forgetting it's Good Friday, the day the Christian church commemorates as the day Jesus died. For the past several days, I've been trying to work up some sort of feeling for this coming Easter Sunday. I've been reading a few Christian and Messianic blogs and it seems as if folks are just "on fire" for the coming of Easter and the celebration of the resurrection.
I'm not "feeling" it.
Actually, I've never had a strong emotional response to Easter. My parents took me to church when I was a young teen, but no one ever got around to asking me if I believed in Jesus or what it all meant to me. Being a "good kid", I did what my parents told me to do (for the most part) which included going to church. But I didn't believe. Christmas was a time when there was loot under a tree. I don't like hard boiled eggs or milk chocolate, so Easter didn't even have that much appeal.
When I was old enough, I told my parents I wasn't going to church anymore. My father wasn't a believer at the time (he has since found faith) so he didn't say much. I could tell my mother was hurt, but she accepted my decision.
I didn't come to faith in Jesus (Yeshua) until my early 40s. That was about 15 years ago or so. Even with that, I only worshiped in a traditional church setting for a few years before shifting into a "Messianic" context. I never developed an emotional attachment to the Christian holidays as Christian holidays. I never learned to love Christmas because of the birth of Jesus and I never acquired an adoration of Easter because of the resurrection.
Apparently, my perspective is something of an oddity in Messianic circles (it's a foregone conclusion that it's outright strange from a Christian point of view) if the Messiah Connection blog is any indication. If you've been reading my blog this week, you'll know that of late, I've also been questioning a Gentile Christian's (me) role in participating in the Passover, at least as a Christian rite, as opposed to the traditional Jewish festival.
But if I don't feel connected to Easter and Passover is becoming a question mark, where does that leave me?
I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them...If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. -Romans 11:13-14,17-21We Gentiles are "grafted in" to the natural root. Jesus said that he was the vine (natural root) and we (Gentiles, in my case) are the (grafted in) branches (John 15:5), co-existing, so to speak, on the same vine as the natural branches. But we're not the same...I'm not the same.
Kids who are adopted into families at an older age almost always struggle with issues of identity and belonging. Even well into adulthood, when these "adoptees" have married and are raising their own families, many of them still question if they really have a family, if they really belong, and if they were ever really loved by anyone.
I was "adopted" into the "family of God" at an older age. I wonder if I failed to bond? Could that be the reason that, as Easter approaches and even the old city of Jerusalem is alive with Good Friday observances, I feel as emotionally flat as a piece of matzah?
My friend Gene Shlomovich wrote a blog today that said something very telling about this point, quoting his Muslim friend "Ahmed":
I was thinking Israel is really taking our lands, killing Palestinians, [they are] war criminals, etc… When I grew up I wanted to see what is the “Jew”, what kind of religion. They (Arab propaganda) make it like hell. Oh no, I want see. I read some books. I found out it is so close to our way of worshiping, it is so close, very very very close, and too far away from Christians! And then I wanted to know about land issues. I say now: oh yeah, we got 50 Arab countries, they (Jews) got none, just that one. So let them live in peace and give them more!In his missive, Gene referred to Ahmed and himself as cousins because of their common ancestor Abraham and the large number of similarities between Muslim and Jewish religious practice and perception...much closer than the resemblance between Judaism and Christianity. Jewish Israeli author Yossi Halevi made the exact observation in his book At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden when he undertook a spiritual journey to find "connectedness" with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land.
I’m telling you - a Jew is way too far from Christianity! And makes me feel sad of how much Jews and Muslims are far from each other nowadays and how close Christians are to Jews. Makes me enjoy this relationship.
This probably wasn't Gene's intent, but the wonderful story he told about his conversation with Ahmed continued to cement my impression that the gulf between God's natural root and those of us who have been grafted in is much wider than we'd like to admit. During the week of Unleavened Bread, during Holy Week, on Good Friday, with both Erev Shabbat and Easter Sunday waiting in the wings, while the world of Christians and Jews celebrate an unquestioned sense of belonging, I'm still not sure where in all this I fit in. Is it possible to be a square peg in a universe where God created only round holes?
A few days ago, my 2 year old grandson Landon had a fever that spiked at 104 degrees F. He's still sick and has both an upper respiratory infection and a virus. He's doing better, but his Mom's come down with it now. My wife and I took Landon in last night to give his parents a break. He's still himself, but the poor little guy isn't feeling well.
As I was getting ready for work this morning, my wife asked me to hold him for a bit. He reached out to me and as I took him in my arms, he folded quite comfortably onto my shoulder and started to doze. In that moment, I knew I belonged to someone, at least for that tiny march of minutes. A two-year old little boy is wonderfully accepting and once he loves you, he loves you unconditionally.
While driving to work this morning, I wondered if perhaps those few, sweet minutes of holding my grandson would be the only worthwhile thing I'd end up doing today?
Today is Good Friday and I don't feel anything about it. What bothers me is that I think I should feel something. But I don't.
The road is long and seen from the "rest stop" of Good Friday, I have far to go.