The Jews Are God’s Chosen People
A reflection by the Rev. Doyt L. Conn, Jr.
I don’t suppose you ever wonder about the Midianites, the Amorites, the Moabites, the Samaritans, the Amalekites, the Hittites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, the Huns, the Visagoths, the Assyrians, or the Druids. But how about the Jews? Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes this regarding the Jews: “A minority everywhere, Jews kept their identity intact, becoming the only significant minority in history to survive without assimilating to the dominant culture or converting to the majority faith” (Not in God’s Name, 223). They achieved this, he claims, because unlike all the other tribes named above, the Jews were religious first and tribal second. Sacks continues, “Religion can survive without power” (222). The Jewish people were able “to reach the spiritual heights without any of the conventional accouterments of nationhood and political self-determination” (223). This tells us that religion and power are two different things.
What I find most amazing about the Jewish community is not that they have been set aside as scapegoats and persecuted people throughout the centuries, but that unlike all of the other groups that have become minority groups, then persecuted groups, then scattered and integrated groups, the Jews have kept their identity. From the beginning of time, Conquering Community A always killed, dispersed, and integrated Vanquished Community B. Just read the Bible if you need some evidence of this or any history book for that matter. What makes the Jews unique—a chosen people, if you will—is that they are still around. And they are still around because they figured out 2,500 years ago that tribalism wasn’t enough. It wasn’t the point. There was something bigger to follow, and this bigger thing was a uniting power. It was the Jews’ job to be a light that shines this reality to all people. And the people who saw this light became the children of Abraham. “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them,” God said to Abraham, “So shall your descendants be” (Genesis 15:5). This has proven true, although the tribe of the Jews is not huge. There are around 15 million Jews in the world, but regarding “children of Abraham”—children that were enlightened to see that there is a God and that God is the force that unites beyond the limits and littleness of tribe—well, that group numbers in the billions, ”like the dust of the earth” (Genesis 13:16).
The Jews were chosen by God to invite, include, and share. Judaism in ancient days was a way of life open to people who sought a way to live in unity and peace with God. Judaism was not about power and property. As Sachs says, “The entire ethical-legal principle on which the Hebrew Bible is based is that we own nothing. Everything—the land, its produce, power, sovereignty, children, life itself—belongs to God. We are mere trustees, guardians on behalf of God” (NIGN 254). “Abrahamic monotheism was the first moral system to be based not just on justice and reciprocity, but on love (239). Love gives life. Loves looks forward, not backward. Love sees the vision of God and runs toward it. That is the gift of Judaism to the world and that is why, unlike all of the other tribes that have disappeared along the way, the Jews have not. The thing that I most marvel at regarding Judaism is not that they have been or are a persecuted people. There are many minority groups the world over, even today, that are deeply persecuted and the victims of ethnic cleansing and genocide. No, what amazes me about the Jews is that they are still around after 2,500 years. To my mind they are the chosen people, chosen so we could know that we are chosen as well.
Sermon Reflection Questions
Sermon questions? I imagine you might be curious about the sermon reflection questions you will begin seeing every Sunday in the bulletin. This is an idea I got from the book Sticky Church by Larry Osborne.
As of this Easter, we have twelve small groups: six men’s groups and six women’s groups, with about 85 people participating. Most of these groups meet weekly or bi-weekly with the primary purpose of deepening relationships with community and with God.
Several conveners of current small groups have approached me wanting content to fuel their conversations, but not with another book to read or video to watch. They simply want to show up. That’s the beauty of sermon-based questions. You attend church on Sunday, then attend your small group and have a discussion using these sermon reflection questions.
You may be thinking, “Hey, I’m not in a small group.” That’s okay. You can still participate in one of two ways:
- Let me know and I will put you on a list for when new groups form in the fall.
- Join a drop-in group on Mondays at 1–2 pm in the Christie House Library. To participate in a drop-in group, you don’t need to do anything other than listen to the sermon and show up. If you can’t be there on Sunday, you can find sermon recordings on our website.
Below are samples of the kind of sermon questions we will be posting:
- What did you hear? What stood out? What surprised you?
- Was there anything in the sermon that made you think differently or invited you to act differently?
- What would you ask the preacher?
I hope you enjoy this new way of engaging scripture and preaching.
Did You Borrow Not in God’s Name from the Library?
The Epiphany staff noticed that there are no copies of Not in God’s Name in the library currently, and there are still people interested in reading it. If you are finished, could you bring your library copy back to the Parish Office this week? We would greatly appreciate it! Thank you!
House an Organ Student from St. Olaf College
A group of music students specializing in organ performance from St. Olaf College in Minnesota are coming to the West Coast on an organ tour. They will be performing at St. Mark’s Cathedral after Compline on Sunday night and will visit some of the other instruments in the region. They may even do an informal recital on Epiphany’s two organs as well.
The group is looking for homestay housing in Seattle for two or three nights from May 29 to June 1. They would like to stay in groups of two or more. If you are willing and able to host a couple organ students, contact Mike Evans.
Parish Prayer List
Sunday Lectionary Corner
April 17, 2016
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Upcoming Events in the Life of Epiphany
This Week at Epiphany
April 17: Adult Forum – Planning a Memorial
Diane Carlisle, our illustrious verger and liturgical coordinator, will offer a forum at 10 am in the Great Hall on the decisions that need to be made when planning a funeral or memorial service at Epiphany, either for a loved one or for yourself. She will also cover the columbarium.
April 17: Newcomer Tour and Fireside Chat
If you are a newcomer to Epiphany Parish, Doyt will be leading a tour and chat of the campus just for you! After the 5 pm service on April 17, meet in the Great Hall, and we’ll begin around 6:30 pm. We still want to limit the group to 15 people, so RSVP to Emily if you would like to attend.
April 19: Funeral for Harold Darling
Celebrate the life of Harold Darling, husband to Sandra, with a service of resurrection on Tuesday, April 19, at 11 am in the Church.
April 23: Safeguarding God’s Children
Safeguarding God’s Children is a training program for the Episcopal Church designed to make our churches as safe as possible for our children and youth and those who work with them. Read more here. If you would like to participate, contact Laura Sargent.
April 24: Adult Forum – An Introduction to the Music Guild
Doyt has commissioned a group called the Music Guild that will promote Epiphany Parish as a prime musical venue in Seattle. At 10 am in the Great Hall, you will hear all about what they have planned for concerts and recitals in the church and the chapel.
April 24 & 28: Fireside Chats and Tours with Doyt
There are two tour dates coming up on April 24 and April 28. If you haven’t had a chance to attend a tour so far, feel free to email Emily Linderman if you would like to sign up. More dates can be added into May depending on interest.
April 29–May 1: Annual Women’s Weekend Retreat
With stories of Biblical women as a starting point, we will incorporate aspects of Brené Brown’s Daring Way and Rising Strong into Bible study with the Rev. Cathy Boyd of Marble Falls, Texas, facilitating. This retreat is almost full, so register today! Read more about it here.
May 4: Taizé
Led by Epiphany Choir, this service of quiet meditative songs, repeated over and over, becomes a new way to listen to God. Join us at 7:30 pm in the Church.
April 23: Cathedral Day at St. Mark’s
We have been invited to St. Mark’s Cathedral on Saturday, April 23, from 10 am to 3:30 pm for a fun day of games and activities for all ages, including the ever-popular Dunk the Bishop contest, tours of the new Urban Garden, and a paper airplane contest from the organ loft! Register at www.ecww.org/cathedral-day-2016.