Wednesday, October 2, 2013

From the Pastor's Bookshelf: A Jew Named Jesus by Rebekah Simon-Peter

I first have to make a confession, I started rereading The Apostolic Fathers an Essential Guide by Clayton N Jefford and like before I got about half way through and had to put the book down.  It is important information, Jefford writes about several of the early Christian writers who lived right after Paul and the first apostles.   But, without the original source material included (Jefford writes about the writers and their writing) its really hard to follow him.  I cry uncle on that book (until I get ahold of the original writings perhaps).

Anyways, so I moved onto a book that I got at the last conference I went to (School for Congregational Development in Denver, awesome experience!).   The book, A Jew Named Jesus, by Rebekah Simon-Peter.  The author is a United Methodist pastor who was raised Jewish and was deeply practicing in her early 20's but had a vision of Jesus calling her to investigate the New Testament and in that pursuit she fell in love with Jesus and went to seminary.   Another pastor does a more in depth review of Simon-Peter's work here.   I primarily want to talk about how her book affected me.  I thought it was an awesome book that directly addressed some of my own dis-ease with preaching about Jesus and committing our lives to Jesus.  The Holy Spirit was truly in my picking up this book and in my reading it at this time just as I was struggling with this issue in my preaching.  Simon-Peter talks about the challenges Christianity has had in putting ourselves first above other faiths, and takes another look at scripture to reveal that this attitude is not one in either Jesus or Paul.  Jesus was a practicing Jew, in life and in resurrection.  Paul, even after "conversion", remains a faithful Pharisee throughout his life and advocates for Jews being Jews and Gentiles being Gentiles as long as we are all one in Christ.   Simon-Peter addresses the roots of Anti-Semitism in early Christianity beginning with early Bishops and continuing through Martin Luther - a history that I have to admit I knew very little about.  This history set the stage for Hitler's focus on the Jews as "other", deserving of murder for they "murdered God".  Simon-Peter helped me to know how to preach and teach with a greater awareness and with a clearer theology of God's salvation history including Jews and Gentiles.

Simon-Peter not only helped me to face my own prejudices and discomforts, but made me long to know more about the religion Jesus practiced.   She fell in love with Jesus and you feel that excitement come through her writing -- love for the man who was the Jewish Messiah, and the Messiah for all humanity as well.   Her book is super short (100 pages) so its a great quick read for anyone.  And it left me wanting more.

Update 10/10/2013 --  Brian Slater, a Chosen People Ministries missionary from Israel will lead us in "Messiah in the Passover" on Ash Wednesday 2014!  I think it will be great!

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