I just returned home from preaching at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Stuttgart, AR. The pastor there is Rev. Don White, and he and I have been friends for many years now. Stuttgart is a town about an hour east of Little Rock, and it is a small to medium size town that boasts of being the “Rice and Duck Capital of the World.” Apparently, they produce more rice there than any place in the world, and duck hunting is also a major sport there, where they produce duck calls that are purported to be far superior to those of the famous Duck Commander calls in Monroe, AR.
The closest I generally get to rice and duck is in a Chinese restaurant, but I enjoyed my time there at St. John’s, and we had a good bible study together, where, as often happens, I didn’t get to my bible study because there were too many good questions to discuss. Many of those questions surrounded the issue of how you can be Jewish and be a Christian. This is a recurring theme with me lately.
Some of you followed my Advent devotions this past season on my blog here. As I was writing those, I received an e-mail from a man with a prominent name in the LC–MS. He informed me that he would not read my “Jewish devotions” and would read his “Lutheran Portals of Prayer.” Thinking that he had misunderstood the source of the devotions, I told him that these in my blog were based on a devotional that I had written for Lutheran Hour Ministries, and they were very Lutheran. He responded with, “no they aren’t, you can’t be Jewish and be a Christian, much less a Lutheran.” Taken aback, I realized that he was inferring that I was not a Christian! Wow.
At St. John’s I was preaching on Romans 11. St. Paul, a Christian, if not a Lutheran, refers to himself still as a Jew. Together we looked at the history of the Church, noting that in the early Church (and I mean really early), the question was asked whether or not you could be a Gentile and be a Christian. Peter and Paul argued this out, and it was agreed that one did not have to be Jewish to be a Christian. Now we are told that you can’t be Jewish and be a Christian.
Paul, to the Church in Rome, warns of this perspective. He counsels the Gentile Christians to not be arrogant and proud about their faith, but to humbly understand the root that nourishes them, and to somehow make Paul’s “fellow Jews” jealous by their inclusion in this Jewish faith. Since then, the pride and arrogance of some have been a major stumbling block to sharing our faith with those who are Jewish, non-Jewish, non-Lutheran … you get the gist. I’m so pleased that St. John’s, in a town with perhaps only one Jewish family, no synagogue and very few Chinese restaurants has welcomed me there. And thank you for continuing to share the Gospel, that some might be saved!