July 13, 2009

Church Experiment #28: Beth Messiah Synagogue

Going into the Saturday morning service, I believed one of two things to be true of Messianic Jews:

1) They were Jews who believed in Jesus.
2) They were Christians who still practiced Jewish traditions.

After the service, I’m more confused than I was going in. In two hours and fifteen minutes (which is a long time to be in a synagogue), Jesus was never mentioned. Not once. They talked about God a lot, but no Jesus. Or, if he was mentioned, I missed it, which means he wasn’t a centerpiece of the service. (I know they use Yeshua, but I didn’t hear that either.)

So … moving on.

For the first time in a long time, no one really spoke to me during my visit. The greeter barely said hello, and that was the only time someone addressed me. The main room sat about three hundred people, and it was probably about half full at its peak. People dressed business-casual, and many (but not all) of the men wore prayer shawls and kippahs. The congregation was mostly white, and there was a fairly wide range of ages. The service started a few minutes late, and as I mentioned, lasted over two hours. In all fairness, Beth Messiah (www.bethmessiah.net) did host a guest musician, Jimmie Black, who played for over an hour, so maybe this was a long service for them.

The service officially began with a prayer, specifically asking us to, “Bathe in the presence of Hashem.” I hope Hashem is God, because I knew a guy named Hashem, and I don’t want to take a bath in front of him.

To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.


Anonymous said...

Thank-you so much for sharing your stories with us! I race into work every Monday, just to make sure I have time to read your latest story before the work day begins. You have made me laugh (alot), cry, and think about what going to church should really mean. I have gotten alot out of reading your comments as well as comments from others!

Jon said...

Cosby...classic. You've got a thing for the Cosbys, don't you? You rank your burgers that was, you hear it in ancient scripture...

Liz said...

The Mennonites will love your potato salad. It is delicious.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to reading your posts each Monday as well. I used to work for this very nice Jewish couple. When they married, she converted from Catholicism (sp?) and he is the president of their synogogue. His brother is a Messianic Jew and I would wonder what their conversations were like at their get-togethers.

Have you considered visiting a Kaballah service?

Jen - Mom of 4 said...

Steve....I do think you have something about connecting with people. My friend and I attend separate churches, but they are very similar. While we each love our churches she has become disenchanted with hers. I think the main difference is that I joined our tech team almost immediately with my two oldest children. The church I attend is huge with over 12,000 families (I attend Eagle Brook in MN). There is no way that I could have connected with so many people and joining the tech team has allowed my family the chance to become closer to families that believe in Jesus as we do. It has allowed us a to Connect and I believe that is one of the most important things to make a persons church experience as meaningful as possible. I heard a pastor in a sermon once explain it beautifully: "A person who worships God alone is much like a lone log on fire. Eventually, the fire will die out. Now, if that lone log is thrown into a huge wood pile it will ignite the wood and the fire will spread. Coming to Church is lighting the fire of faith, without others your fire can and will slowly fade away."

On a side note, since I started reading your blog (I started on week 2) I have made extra efforts to welcome people around me at Church. I realize that sometimes a person who just smiles and says hello can make all the difference to someone who is searching.

Thanks for your wonderful insights and clever humor! Have a wonderful day.

Christine said...

Are Messianic Jews "Jews for Jesus" or are they the Jews who are still waiting for the Messiah?

DanThoms said...

ah ha, so your going to the most awesome baptizing party in Cincinnati huh? I may have to find you there. Bring a chair.

I've thought about visiting a Messianic Jewish church in the past but have never made it to one. I may have to do that some day.

Jamie said...

love your last twitter.. I actually scored a few good dates just because I knew that code.. too bad most of them turned out to be video game geeks... hehehe

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve - The trip to the Messianic synagogue sounds a lot like a regular jewish service (absent the dancing and musician). I am interested to hear how you like temple. It will all seem pretty familiar to you after your experience with the Messianic jews. And, yes, Hashem is G-d. What kind of temple will you visit - orthodox, conservative, reform? The reform has a lot of English, so that might be helpful. Joe and I were married in a conservative temple, if you remember what that was like. I hope you have fun on your adventure! - Ellie P.

Deano said...

Seems kind of strange that a Messianic Jewish group would not mention the Messiah during the entire service!

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Etz said...

To Christine:
Yes, Messianic Jews believe that Jesus (Yeshua) is the Jewish Messiah.
To Deano:
Steve must have missed hearing Yeshua's name mentioned, because he is used to hearing "Jesus" instead of "Yeshua", His Hebrew name. We mention Him quite frequently. Yeshua literally means "Salvation" so every time you see the word SALVATION or hear it in a song it will be Yeshua in Hebrew.
HaShem means "The Name"
The Torah covering is not what we are venerating, rather it is the Word of G-d that it contains.
The service you visited was the first time in a long time that there was a guest musician, so yes, this was not like a regular service.
I hope this helps

rhymeswithplague said...

It's me again. Now it's 10:30 p.m., still Jan. 2nd (2010) and I'm all the way up to your #28, Beth Messiah.

The person who commented ahead of me on Aug. 9th said something I was going to tell you: Hashem means Name as in The Name (of God) as in Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord. There is a song by Lamb (Messianic Jews from the 70's) called "Baruch Ha-shem ha-Moschiach Yeshua; Baruch Ha-shem Adonai" which means basically "Blessed be the name of Messiah Jesus; Blessed be the name of the Lord.

So there.

I also want to say that you seem to have the words "worship" and "music set" confused in your mind. The entire service is worship, don't you think? Not just the music? I include the sermon, the offering, the prayers. Worship, all of it.

I don't mean this as a criticism, really I don't, but you seem to get shallower as the weeks go along.

Again, I repent in sackcloth and ashes. And I will keep reading.

God bless you, Steve Fuller.