The Root and the Shoot
I have had an amazing year.
Like Dorothy to the Scarecrow, my heart is telling me I will miss one thing the most now that I have returned to my St. Louis home and left my Chicago apartment.
Her name means Pearl in Hebrew. And a pearl she is.
It was worth purchasing the entire field, that season of life that lasted from November 2015 to last week–just to possess this great pearl.
Do you know what it is like to talk with a Jewish woman who knows her faith about Chanukuh or Shavuot or Pesach?
When you both realize that Shabbat features Challah bread, with leavening, but Pesach (Passover) only has the unleavened bread, like the Eucharist…you realize something.
When you both realize that there is an exquisite Hebrew poem that talks about the Queen of the Sabbath and you realize that Saturday is known as Mary’s day…you realize something.
When you both begin to wipe away tears because you realize that holiness means something very much the same to each of you, and that the Ten Commandments are the bedrock for both of you, and that you have far more in common than what you do not have in common…
When you realize that you love the same land.
When you discover that Ruth and Naomi are favorites to you both.
When you realize that she prays for the deceased Jewish man or woman and invokes Sarah when the name of the deceased person’s mother is not known, and you realize that you ask for the intercession of Mary, the New Eve. When you realize that she asks for the intercessions of Eva for all others.
When you find out that you are both praying for the Messiah to come–and it is a daily prayer.
When you see the similarity in the Mezuzah and the Holy Water Font, the Mikvah and the Baptismal Font, the days of feasting and fasting.
When she asks if Christians think that Jews are irrelevant now that their Messiah has come and you realize that she just needs to know that nothing could be further from the truth, that the Old Covenant with the LORD remains because God does not revoke His promises, that the New Covenant with Christ means that the Light of the Nations really has gone out into the nations and that you are a beneficiary of that holy nation.
When you choke on your deeply-felt emotions as you say in a husky voice, it is as though you are my matriarch and I am your offspring, even though you are old enough to be her mother.
When you realize that Judaism doesn’t see itself as going out to convert the world even though it is promised to be a Light to the Nations–and you see that paradox clearly yet fully fulfilled in Christ, because we are called out to share the Gospel. It is a mandate. A calling. A supreme duty.
When you talk about the minutiae of both religions and realize that it really is the Root and the Shoot, that she is part of the root, and you are a branch of the Shoot…
That is when you realize that ECUMENISM is the most exciting thing you have encountered in a very long time. It is not dry. It is not dead. It is not hopeless or wrought with angst.
It. Is. Beautiful.
When she pauses one day in Advent to ask how you can believe in the Ten Commandments and yet not believe in One God, and you say that you definitely believe only in One God, and her face is full of questions and doubts. When you say that you believe in God the Father, and she nods in agreement. When you say that you believe in His Spirit, and she nods in agreement. You pause and think, I am 2/3 the way through the difficult teaching on the Trinity. When you say that you believe God became a Man because the whole world needed to be redeemed, and she says, but God did not become a man, and you say:
Until He did.”
And in that moment you realize that you have never been asked to defend the Incarnation, but what just came out of your mouth is true.
That the Incarnation was unthinkable.
It was impossible.
It was not even in the realm of the imagineable.
And then, God did the unthinkable, impossible, and unimaginable.
So that the holy nation that was once a tribe and before that a family and before that a married, childless couple might become a Light to the Nations–
So that you, too, might be grafted in.
I am Ruth.
She is Naomi.
And I highly doubt that we will ever be the same…though I am old enough to be her mother.