Monday, March 28, 2011

Baking Fresh Bread

    “Usually the orthodox rabbis of Europe boasted distinguished rabbinical genealogies, but Rabbi Yechiel of Ostrowce was an exception. He was the son of a simple baker and he inherited some of the forthright qualities of a man of the people.
Photo: Donostia-San Sebastion 2016
     Once, when a number of rabbis had gathered at some festivity, each began to boast of his eminent rabbinical ancestors. When Rabbi Yechiel's turn came, he replied gravely, "In my family, I'm the first eminent ancestor."
     His colleagues were shocked by this piece of impudence, but said nothing. Immediately after, the rabbis began to expound Torah. Each one was asked to hold forth on a text culled from the sayings of one of his distinguished rabbinical ancestors.
     One after another the rabbis delivered their learned dissertations. At last it came time for Rabbi Yechiel to say something. He arose and said, "My masters, my father was a baker. He taught me that only fresh bread was appetizing and that I must avoid the stale. This can also apply to learning."
     And with that Rabbi Yechiel sat down.” (A Treasury of Jewish Folklore: Stories, Traditions, Legends, Humor, Wisdom and Folk Songs of the Jewish People Edited by Nathan Ausubel Copyright, 1948, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, p51).

     Jesus was like Rabbi Yechiel. He had no immediate distinguished ancestors. True, you could trace his ancestry back to King David, but that was true of a lot of Israelites. When people who knew him looked at him, they saw him as the son of a carpenter. But when Jesus talked he spoke with such wisdom that he became respected as a Rabbi or teacher. Much of what he said was in the form of parables. Parables were short stories that used common everyday imagery and contained a deeper, hidden message. As Christians, we grew up hearing these parables, from church, Sunday School, or reading the bible. We are used to them, but when the first people heard Jesus tell his parables they were struck by them. Because of our different culture, we often do not know just how shocking the images are in the parables. Jesus was fresh bread to those who met him and heard him teach.

      Christians need to be fresh bread today. Our world has changed greatly in the past 2,000 years, but the gospel is still as relevant as ever.  One of the reasons why Christianity has been so successful around the world is because of its ability to adapt to new people and new places. Christianity isn’t limited to one language for worship or scripture, one type of music, one style of church architecture, one curriculum for teaching, one method of leadership, and so on.  Christianity adapts nonessentials so that the essential gospel is shared with as many people as possible.

     How can Christians be “fresh bread,” – interesting and relevant to the world today without compromising the gospel message of Christ? I’d like to hear your thoughts.