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20th August 2017 – Tenth Sunday after Trinity – Jack Noonan

Sermon 20.8.2017
Focus Scripture: Rom.11: 1-2a, 13-29.

Each Lord’s Day since the 18th of June we have visited Paul’s letter to the Romans. Readings commenced with extracts from chapters 5 right through to today’s extract from chapter 11.

Chapter11 is the final chaper of a section that started with Ch 9. The central consideration is the status of the non Christian Jews in relation to God and His promises.
The key issue is ….
Had God chosen and supported the Jews down the millennia only to now totally reject them and cast them off forever?
What prompted Paul to raise and addess this question?
I suspect that Paul had intuited some undercurrents among gentile Christians that needed calling out .

Some pastors comment that these chapters in Romans are full of ‘skipology’.
Meaning if you can, avoid preaching on them..do……and if you cannot avoid addressing this section, then go through it with a skip and a hop. For the scant treatment of these chapters by the historic christian church fathers and subsequent church leaders,laid the groundwork for the immoral christian rejection, persecution and deaths, down the generations, of millions of God’s own people.

In chap 9-11, Paul addresses the the status of the non Christian Jews in relation of God’s covenantal promises and prophetically shoots warning shot across the bows of Gentile Christians, with regard to the spiritual debt they owe to the guardians and beneficiaries of the Covenants God made with the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and then on Sinai with Moses where ‘…the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.’

In ch 9 we hear Paul’s anguish over the spiritual position of those Jews who do not acknowledged Jesus as the expected Messiah.
”I am speaking the truth in Christ…I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people…. They are Israelites, and to them belong (PrTense) the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong(PrT) the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah…

In Ch10 Paul tells the Roman church, that his;

‘…heart’s desire and prayer to God for them/the Israelites/ is that they may be saved. I can testify that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened and not according to (correct and vital) knowledge.
For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish a means of salvation of their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness.
For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
In short the purpose + function of the Mosaic law was fulfilled in Christ Jesus.

*So what was is the status of the Jews who did not believe the gospel?
*Had God rejected and turned His back on His ancient people as some of the early church fathers taught?
*In Jews rejecting the Messiahship of Jesus was God now starting afresh, establishing a totally new people ,a gentile church and discarding synagogue?

Hear Paul

 I ask, then, has God rejected his people?
His answer:
By no means!
Paul says: I am proof of it…
I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham… God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.
The current rejection of the gospel by the people of Israel, Paul explains is ‘a God send…’a blessing in disguise’ for us Gentiles/Goyim.
Their temporary loss is our eternal gain. We are the beneficiaries of their current stubbornness. The offer of salvation moves on to us…we got salvation on the rebound.
Oh how inscrutable mysteries of God are !
For if their ( the Jews) rejection is the reconciliation of the world (to God)…. what will their acceptance be but life from the dead!
We Christians must take good note of God’s intentions and give no further quarter to the spiritual pride, dehumanising arrogance that has historically marked Western and Orthodox Christianity in its demonic pursuit and degregation of Hebrew soul.
Paul alerts us;
So that you(gentile Christians) may not claim to be wiser than you are (so that you may not boast)… I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.
And so all Israel will be saved…’
This statement blasts out of the water the ‘immoral reasonings’ of historic church leadership who declared the Jews beyond the pale of redemption.
Paul saw great blessing, in relation to us, coming from the antipathy of the majority of Jewish society had towards the gospel. And he is adamant that this antipathy does not place them outside God’s love a mercy and covenants.
”As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their forefathers
Why ?
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable…”
God does not go back on His commitments.
Remember Jesus’ politically incorrect statement…..let the world like it or not: ‘Salvation comes from the Jew’.

By way of graphic illustration, Paul introduces an image from horticulture to illustrate the symbiotic relationship between Christians and Jews:
Behind and underneath all this there is a holy, God-planted, God-tended root. If the primary root of the tree is holy, there’s bound to be some holy fruit. Some of the tree’s branches were pruned and you( outsiders), wild olive shoots were grafted in.
Yet the fact that you are now fed by that rich and holy root gives you no cause to crow over the pruned branches. Remember, you aren’t feeding the root; the root is feeding you.
It’s certainly possible to say, “Other branches were pruned so that I could be grafted in!” Well and good. But they were pruned because they were deadwood, no longer connected by belief and commitment to the root. The only reason you’re on the tree is because your graft “took” when you believed, and because you’re connected to that belief-nurturing root. So don’t get cocky and strut your branch. Be humbly mindful of the root that keeps you lithe, green (and alive)…
If God didn’t think twice about taking pruning shears to the natural branches, why would he hesitate over you/outsiders /blow-ins? ….
And don’t get to feeling superior to those pruned branches down on the ground….
He certainly isn’t going to have any trouble grafting branches back into the tree they grew from in the first place. Just be glad you’re in the tree, and hope for the best for the others.

By way of conclusion I would like to testify to my own ‘Jewish’experience.
Some years ago I sought among the Jewish community someone who would teach me Biblical Hebrew so as to inform my understanding of the Old Covenant.
A 74 yr old rabbi agreed to ‘take me on’. Time and energy has come between me and my uneven studies ,but over the years a deep friendship with him has rooted itself and grown in the crucible of argument, respect, suffering and love.
Over time met and was befriended all his adult children ,their spouses and his grandchildren. I travelled with him to Eretz Yisrael and am now invited to family bar/bat mitzvah celebrations. One of the family has invited me to address their Midrash meeting in his local synagogue near Tel Aviv.
In Prague I was invited to attend Midrash classes and privileged, as one of the few gentiles to receive seurity clearance and an ID card granting me access to the Jewish Community Centre.
Paul said: ”I can testify that they have a zeal for God,” This is so true. I asked and it was OK, to attend the synagogue occasionally on shabbot. That was an eye opener for me. Between sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday folk attend the synagogue some 4/5 times………..totalling some 5-6 hours of DivineWorship. During the week there are at least 3 daily Services. This stands in marked contrast to us Christians. An hour and a half on Sunday and maybe attend the midweek Bible study.
Prayers in the synagogue are according to the Siddur, the prayer book. I heed the prayers; for in prayer the heart, mind and soulof a people is revealed.
I have experienced great grace, great blessing, deep humility and the love of God during these services.
It is an honour to be in this place with the praying people whose dna the Father chose to beget our own most observant of Jews and rabbi, Jesus the Messiah.
The great British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, a Jew who became a Christian and member of the Anglican Church said:
”In all church discussions we are apt to forget the second Testament/Covenant is avowedly only a supplement.
Jesus came to complete ”the Law and the Prophets”.
Christianity is completed biblical Judaism, or it is nothing.
Christianity is incomprehensible without Judaism, as Judaism is incomplete without Christianity.”

Being rooted into the Judaic roots of our faith…………..upgrades us from 2D to 3D Christianity .
Fullness of depth lending High Definition to our insight, understanding and multi-dimensional faith in the One God our Almighty Father.

Let us pray…