Thanksgiving — for Spiritual Veterans
Midrash time again. Two prominent American holidays this month are Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. Put them together and we can give thanks for the sacrifices our soldiers have made over the years. Separate them out and we can think of other kinds of veterans and other things we can give thanks for.
According to my online thesaurus, synonyms for veteran include old hand, past master, seasoned, old, hardened, adept, expert, well trained, practiced, experienced. Long experience is the key.
Spiritually speaking, veterans are those who’ve gone before us in faith, who’ve weathered spiritual ups and downs, who have experiences of sin and redemption and community that we can learn from, and give thanks for.
Some might think that Jews who believe in Jesus are newcomers to the spiritual scene, a glitch in the Jewish matrix. Yet not only were the first followers of Yeshua Jewish, but there have been numerous Jews down through history who have followed him, too. Spiritual veterans of a sort.
Since Veterans Day, in contrast to Memorial Day, celebrates those veterans still alive and with us (see http://www.military.com/veteransday/History.htm), this month might be a good time to reflect with thanksgiving on those Jewish believers in Jesus who are still alive but have been spiritual halutzim (pioneers) before us. What do their lives say to us, or for that matter to those Jews who don’t believe in Jesus? A few things, I think:
- they show us that it’s possible to be Jewish and for Jesus in the 20th and 21st centuries
- they show us that it’s possible to live Jewishly and be for Jesus
- they show us that it’s not only possible, but the way to be the best Jewish person we can be (Ann Coulter alert: before emailing me about being a “perfected Jew” or the like, consider: the Jewish concept of tikkun olam tells us that no one and nothing is perfect yet).
- they show us that God’s intention can be realized for Jews and Gentiles to be together as part of one body of people, worshipping the God of Israel together
A few thousand years ago, we might have offered a todah, a thanksgiving sacrifice, to express our appreciation for God’s presence in their lives. This year, when we sit down to those tryptophan-laced Thanksgiving dinners, before we nod off to sleep we can offer appreciation for those who’ve come before us in faith, and for the examples their lives have been. They stand as a reminder of the reality that Jews and Jesus go together like — choose your metaphor — turkey and stuffing, or Thanksgiving and football.
Scholar in Residence, Missionary
Rich Robinson is a veteran missionary and senior researcher at the San Francisco headquarters of Jews for Jesus. Rich has written several books on Jewishness and Jesus, and he received his Ph.D. in biblical studies and hermeneutics from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1993.