Sunday, August 06, 2006

Kiwanis Talk

Here is my draft of the talk I gave last Wednesday, at the local Kiwanis club. The actual talk was slightly different, of course. Notably, the last bulleted lists was something for which I explained each part of each item in more detail.

While wondering what I should talk about, I realized that if any of you were already interested in my faith you would have already visited the congregation I lead, and for those who are not interested it is not appropriate to use this forum to try to get you interested. I should talk not about my faith, but about some insight is provides about things you value as Kiwanis.

Two of the six objectives of Kiwanis are:
  • To give primacy to the human and spiritual rather than to the material values of life.
  • To promote the adoption and the application of higher social, business, and professional standards.
I would like to discuss a spiritual, high standard: be perfect!
  • Genesis 17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, Adonai appeared to Abram, and said to him, "I am El Shaddai. Walk before me and be perfect..."
  • Matthew 5:48 "Therefore be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect."
What should we do about this apparently impossible standard?

Fortunately, when you examine the Hebrew and Greek vocabulary, the words translated "perfect" always more accurately mean to be complete and whole (tameem, shalom, teleiōs, katartizō, artios).

What is being a complete person like and how is it done? This is too much to discuss in half an hour. So I will limit the topic to the most important, core issue.

Scripture repeatedly teaches us that the journey towards being complete as a person begins with more completely loving God. Loving God with everything we are is called the greatest commandment. If we can do this we will have trust and hope, and we will also have inexhaustible love for our neighbors. All the other religions I know about agree in their own way that loving the divine is the beginning of personal completeness.

So a religion, especially one that is familiar with Deuteronomy 6:5 and Luke 10:27, must ask a question: "In loving God, what parts of heart, soul, and 'much-ness' (resources, everything else) do we not use often enough?" Or equivalently, "What practices can we use to ensure we are loving God as completely as possible?"

Messianic Judaism has developed a few answers, which I will discuss in a moment as the core of this talk. I ask you to consider two issues as I proceed. First, can any of these practices I share inspire you to express love for God (or people) more fully and deeply? Second, which insights do your faith and culture have to share?

So, here are Messianic Judaism's answers. Again, we are considering how to love God (or people) not only for its own merit but because it is a step towards becoming a complete person.
  • in expressing love combine prayer, liturgy, music, dance, study, Torah obedience, service, celebration, and sacrifice
  • scripture makes sense in its Jewish context, with Hellenistic thinking
  • attend appointments God made as well as asking God to attend our appointments
  • see its communal mission as bringing victory and transformation and context to communities
  • very efficient charitable works