Grand Rapids, Mich., Feb. 9, 2004—(RNS) The weekly messianic Jewish Sabbath service opened with prayer, lively music and the swirl of divine Davidic dancing.
Harking back to a tradition dating from King David, the dancers wore colorful outfits and moved together in choreographed movements of joy and praise. As they danced in the back of the sanctuary at a Christian Bible church near Grand Rapids, teaching elder Mike Lohrberg stood draped in a prayer shawl behind the pulpit in the front. He would soon recite Scripture verses, some in Hebrew.
Later, Rick Schantz -- another of the congregation's teaching elders -- would process through the worship space, allowing people to touch the Torah. "It's extremely important to realize that the Christian faith was initially a branch of Judaism," said Schantz in an interview before a recent Saturday service at the Tree of Life Congregation. "The goal of the messianic movement is to restore the oneness of believers."
Messianic believers say they have been--and remain--in a difficult bind. "We can be in the middle, where we're not really accepted by either side," said Terry Adamson, who along with her husband, T.L., coordinates a small messianic group in Kalamazoo. "Different denominations worship in different ways," Adamson said. She said her group happens to incorporate a messianic-Jewish approach.
The messianic movement, her husband said, openly hails Yeshua (Jesus) as the savior of the world. But should that mean forsaking the use of Old Testament rules and rituals? he asked. "We don't want to become Jewish. We're messianic Gentiles," Adamson said. "We're into friendship and not evangelization."
"We have a sprinkling of people in our congregation: Catholics, members of the Christian Reformed Church, Lutherans, Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostals and a few Jewish people," said Lohrberg, a salesman for a trucking company. "We see this as an end-time movement of God."
"We are very strong supporters of Israel and the Jews according to biblical mandates, but we also believe that God loves all peoples equally, and non-Jews are given other lands and blessings as well," said T.L. Adamson.