Monday, June 10, 2013

Christian Pastor, Jewish Children

This weekend, my youngest son led worship.

As a pastor dad, it was an interesting service for a variety of reasons, the most significant of which was that he'd been preparing for it for years.  Though the kids in my little church did a rockin' job of leading worship for Sunday School Sunday this weekend, my son was not part of that event.  

The worship he guided was, finally, his bar mitzvah.  

Both my wife and my kids are Jewish, making me the sole gentile in my household, and both of my boys part of a rare breed: The Jewish Preacher's -Kids.  I'm not sure how many PKs are bar mitzvahed every year, but I suspect the numbers aren't high.

The little guy did fine, rolling unphased through even some unplanned hiccups in the service, ones that might have shaken more anxious souls.

He chanted Torah, chanted his haftarah portion, and delivered a challenging d'var torah in a tag team with his cousin, who was being bat mitzvahed at the same service.

I watched it all with pride in how much he's done, and with a deep awareness of where he is relative to faith.  He's a thoughtful, complex kid, and his views on faith reflect that complexity.  He's Jewish, but struggles with issues of suffering and justice and textual authority, and is honestly engaged with exploring his identity.  It's an identity I respect.

That I'm a Christian pastor with Jewish kids tends to spark questions with some folks.  How can I be such a thing?

It's not particularly difficult, honestly.

Judaism itself is so utterly compatible with my faith that I have no difficulty embracing it.  When worshipping in the lively, musical services at my wife's synagogue, there's not a single thing said or prayed that I find myself troubled by.  At least, not more so than I'd find worshipping with a similarly-oriented Christian community.  The emphasis on justice, forgiveness, faith, and repentance are completely in line with the teachings of my Teacher.   This is hardly surprising, given that he was kinda Jewish himself.   I am fully backwards-compatible, as they say.

I've talked about faith with both of my boys, and told them about Jesus and why he is so important to me.  They get it, I think, in a way that inspires some respect for both what he taught and who he was.

But I've not forced my faith upon them.  I don't do that, not with them, not with anyone.  I've argued for it, defended it as they've encountered those angry and bitter souls who use Jesus as an excuse for their hatreds, and presented it in a way that shows it is gracious and self-evidently good.  But evangelism is about manifesting and articulating grace, not about blunt force suasion.

Some might argue that I should be terrified for the disposition of their mortal souls, but I just can't get there.  Relative to their Jewish identity, Paul argues at length in Romans, the covenant with Israel hasn't been revoked.  Just expanded and deepened.  

And as Jesus himself articulates in Matthew, what matters isn't our ability to articulate complex theological positions or to defend the propositions of orthodoxy.

What matters is that the manner and nature of our lives express the fundamentally just and gracious nature of our Creator.   Living in the Kingdom isn't a cognitive construct.  It's existential, woven into our doing and being.

So far as my kids do that, they're fine.

And no matter what, I'll love 'em.