Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A cross-cultural moment: what to do with Matzoh?

Now here's a musical solution to a problem we Goys don't think about:

(WARNING: if the sight of a beer can and suggestion as to possible, ah, binding properties of matzoh would bother you... sorry)

Getting serious: but, with all those funny, clever, creative, tunesome suggestions, do you notice what's missing? What's one thing they don't suggest doing with Matzoh?
Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. 8 You shall tell your son on that day, 'It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.' 9 And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt. (Exo 13:6-9 ESV)
Now of course I can't say anything about the two young folks in the vid. They're talking about what to do with it after; who knows what they do before?

However, it does makes me reflect how much of a formality "religion" is to many folks. Read about these rituals in the OT, and the purpose is trumpeted again and again: it is to keep alive the memory of what Yahweh did for Israel, so that the past reality may remain a present, living reality to believers of every generation. Contrary to Blackaby-type and charismatic thinking, Biblical history is not a solid piece of lead with no parts or facets. God's characteristic way of working is to act miraculously, provide an inerrant prophetic interpretation, then bid believers to keep the truth of the event alive — not to expect performances daily at 9, 12, 3, 6, and 9.

But formalism comes in and retains the form without the life, the shell without the egg.

So I have met and known countless members of more formal religions who have just enough of that religion to keep them damned.

When I pastored a church in a little desert town, we went door to door with the Gospel, using an early form of this. Everyone of all sorts of backgrounds would talk to us and read the tract. With one exception: Roman Catholics.

The Roman Catholics might not go to church beyond the minimal box-checks. Their "faith" might make no difference as to how they thought or lived. But they were by-golly Roman Catholics. Just Roman Catholic enough to be unwilling even to hear the Gospel.

How many Jews are just Jewish enough to know that they "don't believe in Jesus"? Like the woman I know, who exploded at my mere mention of a "Jewish-Christian friend." She used profanity to reject the very thought. You can't be Jewish and Christian, she said. I asked, what were Jesus, Paul, and the first Christians, then? Mexican? No matter. She was just Jewish enough to bring the condemnation of Deuteronomy 18:15-19 on herself.

Matzoh, unleavened bread. Pointing back to the memorial of the deliverance Yahweh worked, by blood and miracle, for Israel, and the night when they had no time to leaven their bread. Bread, the sustenance of life. Pointing forward to the vastly greater deliverance, by blood and miracle; pointing forward to the Bread of Life; the Resurrection and the Life; the Way, the Truth, and the Life — the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. John 6:35; 11:25; 14:6).

Don't miss the reality for the form.


Stefan Ewing said...

Oh, Dan, you know there's so much I want to say on this one, but I've got to keep it short.

I see this self-innoculation against the Gospel first-hand in cultural Judaism. I suspect it could even be easier to witness to a devoutly religious Jew (who is Torah observant and expects the Messiah) than to a secular or cultural one—though I can't say for sure.

To be fair, though, even in the secular Jewish Sunday school (get your head around that) I attended as a kid, during our Passover meals, we read from a Haggadah (as do all Jews), and while ours basically portrayed Moses as a national liberator with God nowhere to be seen, the historical dimension was there, since it's so interwoven into the symbolism of the elements of the Passover meal. And we left the door open and a chair empty for Elijah, should he come to join us during the meal.

I have also heard that in addition to Roman Catholics, countries that have native Eastern Orthodox churches are among the most resistant (and sometimes downright hostile) to evangelism—for the same reason: an unarticulated sense of inherited entitlement to God's promises, without rebirth in Christ.

And let's face it: within Protestantism, too, there are many strains (or individual adherents) who are not born again, and who are living under the law, and not under grace. Since regeneration is the kind of event that you have to undergo to understand, they may not even realize that they haven't been born again, and are outside the fellowship of God's adopted children.

As for Matzoh, there's one part of it during the Passover meal that's blessed, broken, set aside, and eaten at the end of the meal—called the afikomen—and the general opinion is that that is the bread that Jesus Christ broke and offered as a symbol of His body, broken for us.

Stefan Ewing said...

Well, not that short.

Rileysowner said...

Good observations. I too have noticed that often it is the completely unreligious who have not knowledge at all of Christianity or religion (including the religion of atheism) who are more willing to actually listen to what Christianity is all about and seek to understand the gospel. I guess with that in mind the decline of religion and complete Biblical ignorance among many 20 somethings and younger could be seen as a great opportunity for evangelism in the sense that they will actually give one a hearing.

Rileysowner said...

Oh, I enjoyed the video as well. Very catchy. :)

Aaron said...


I love your page, "How Can I know God." This seems much longer than most tracts I've seen. Do you have tracts like this or know where to get them? (My church has lots of tracts available, but I confess I've only read a handful of them and passed out only a couple).

DJP said...

Sorry, Aaron, I'm totally not up on tracts. I know a lot of people like "Two Ways to Live" (see also here).

Any recommendations from the regulars?

Mike Westfall said...

The Perfect Matzoh has stripes.

Stefan Ewing said...

That "Two Ways to Live" presentation is so much better and more thorough than the usual "packaged" presentations I've seen (present company's excellent "How Can I Know God" notwithstanding). It puts the kingship of Jesus Christ front and centre.

NoLongerBlind said...

Aaron, Grace to You (John MacArthur's multi-media ministry) has a good tract available; you can read it here.

The "Stop" tract is available for purchase, 100 at a time, for $15.00. You can order it here.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

I've always liked The Bridge, but am looking (just now) at Two Ways to Live. The Bridge is 'tighter' but Two Ways has a focus on Lordship.

Mike Westfall said...

The Bridge tract looks like a warmed-over version of the four spiritual laws.

Chris H said...

Is it odd that I saw an insightful pun in the title?

DJP said...

No, it just means you're cleverer than I am. I wish that were more of a compliment than it is.

Good one.

Stefan Ewing said...

What's the pun? "cross" as in "Cross"?

NoLongerBlind said...

Talk about odd!

Nice pun in the, uhhh, binding properties of Matzoh warning.... i.e., the whole tradional system of Judaism (or Catholicism, or whatever-ism) can be spiritually binding as well as.....

/sorry! =%^)

Carol Jean said...

Just don't use this tract. Explanation here.

Verification word: feritame


Carol Jean said...

I meant to also add that Living Waters has a plethora of great tracts. They're reasonably priced and they don't charge a fortune for shipping. I keep a stack of million dollar bills in my wallet.

Kristine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristine said...

"So I have met and known countless members of more formal religions who have just enough of that religion to keep them damned."

*sigh*...as someone who finds herself in positions very often, sharing the gospel of Christ with others (believers/unbelievers - we ALL need it), this line in particular popped out and promptly induced one of those heavy-hearted sighs.

P.D. Nelson said...

Two things First shouldn't that be Goyim (plural of goy) instead of Goys? I know I nit pick its a failing.

Second I always preferred the "Roman Road" rather than tracts mainly because of previous mentioned fault.

Barbara said...

RE: tracts - I like The Great Answer to the Great Question.

Though usually I find myself giving out copies of "All of Grace" or, to my church-going friends who seem to be "not under grace but under the law" or even to my patients, since I'm a nurse caring for chronically ill/disabled patients, add in Joni Eareckson-Tada's "Hope: The Best of Things".

Susan said...

(Isn't the plural goyim?)

(Sorry, Dan, I'll go back and read the rest now....)

Susan said...

1. Just finished reading the comments (although not all the embedded links). I see that I suffer from the same "nitpick" condition as PD Nelson--but then again we do say "cherubim" more than we say "cherubs", maybe?

2. Loved the video! That girl can sing! Creative, too!

3. I certainly had my dose of Jewishness tonight. First I was watching a program on PBS called Swimming in Auschwitz and now I am winding down my day post comments on a matzoh post. Very interesting.

And I can't remember whether I've shared this before, but years ago I read in a Jews for Jesus newsletter the story about a Holocaust survivor who came to know the Lord because he (or she?) heard that Hitler hated Jesus. He (or she) thought that if Hitler hated Jesus, then Jesus must be a good man! I don't know how orthodox of a Jew he or she was before the conversion took place, though.

4. Dan, your How Can I Know God?tract was really good reading. This past weekend I was carpooling with a friend, and en route to our destination we were talking about one of her kin who had stopped attending church and who thinks that because he had received Christ he has the ticket to heaven. I'm glad your tract addresses that! I am going to send the link to your tract to her. Thanks!

As for recommendation for tracts, I don't know--how about this tract from Evangelism Explosion? (The organization was founded by Dr. D. James Kennedy.) The first few pages of the tract may sound too much like "How can I go to heaven?", but on the later pages there are simple yet clear explanations about what faith is and isn't, and stress on repentance can also be found.

Susan said...

On second thought, perhaps the over-all emphasis on the EE tract IS more on heaven than it is on Christ. Don't know if I can wholeheartedly recommend it without reserve--will think about this some more and read the links y'all put here for the other tracts (briefly looked at Barbara's link and can say that I like the first few pages already).

Aaron said...

Ok, ok, I get the picture.

Just so you know I just used Dan's page as a tract (I e-mailed it to somebody I have been evangelizing). I'll have to spend more time looking through the tracts we have at church to see what they say.