At the Crossroads this week concluded with a communion service, which unexpectedly reached into my soul and touched me deeply. (I wrote this a few days ago, but didn’t have a decent Wi-Fi connection until now. It should say “last week” instead of “this week.”)
Communion is one of those Christian terms that Messianic Jews normally translate into a Jewish equivalent, like Zikkaron (remembrance) or Seudat Mashiach (Messiah’s supper). And it’s not only the ritual that needs translation, but often all the surroundings that go with it. The surroundings this time were at Christ Church, near Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was built in 1841 as the oldest Protestant Church in Israel, with walls of glowing Jerusalem stone, Hebrew lettering in the stained glass windows and the Hebrew words Asu zot l’zichroni, “Do this in remembrance of me,” on the table from which communion was served. The church isn’t indigenous, but a mission, a foreign outreach to the land and people of Israel, and yet not entirely foreign; there’s something about it that seems to belongs here.
Tonight it’s working well as a meeting place for this gathering of Middle Eastern followers of Yeshua—some of them born as Muslims, who’ve made the difficult transition to faith in Yeshua—Western Christians serving in Muslim lands, and Messianic Jews. We all meet here in Messiah Yeshua, even though we’ll return to very different homes.
The service L’zichroni (“In remembrance of me”) opens with the Shema and affirms Jesus the Messiah, son of God, born as a Jewish child, and brought up in the ways of Torah. It includes a confession of sin and cleansing through the death and resurrection of Messiah, and also the Hebrew blessing, Kiddush, over the bread and wine, which we’ll share in memory of Yeshua.
We stand to receive the bread and wine from the Anglican pastor, which is another new experience for me. I’m standing with Yeshua-followers from Lebanon, who are here in defiance of Lebanese law, which forbids travel to Israel. I’m standing with a couple from a small church in Cyprus who told their story this morning about adopting 56 Muslim refugees last year and supplying them with food, shelter, and daily assistance for seven months until they could make it to the European mainland. I’m standing with a man who serves in a refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan, where Muslim fathers stand in line for hours for the chance to bring his team back to their tents to pray for sick family members in the name of Jesus. And I’m standing with a few other Jews to receive the bread and wine from a Christian pastor who manages at the same time to both affirm our unique place as members of the house of Israel, and welcome us simply as members of the world-wide flock of Messiah Yeshua.
Ultimately the surroundings continue to feel a bit exotic, but the act of receiving, in unity with this whole gathering, is very close to home.