| Clergy Corner

CLERGY CORNER: Give me some passion

Posted on 19 May 2016 by LeslieM

Joshua 24:2 And Joshua said unto all the people: “Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel: Your fathers dwelt of old time beyond the River, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor; and they served other gods.”

Why does Joshua begin admonishing the people with the observation of how morally degraded our ancestors were? Besides, which of our ancestors worshiped idols? Abraham smashed the idols and embraced Monotheism! True, it took Abraham some time until he discovered that the idols were futile. But why would we make mention of that at this point?

The answer is powerful. Joshua is not simply describing our disgraceful past, “In the beginning our fathers served idols; but now the Omnipresent One has brought us close to His service.” Rather, Joshua is explaining why indeed G-d brought us close to His service. “In the beginning our fathers served idols”— and that is why “now the Omnipresent One has brought us close to His service.” Had our fathers not worshiped idols, G-d could have never brought us close to Him.

What indeed was the difference between our grandfather Terach and our father Abraham? If Abraham rationally realized that the statutes of his father were nothing but lifeless, stone images, and that the universe must have a transcendental designer and creator, why could his father not understand this?

The foundations of Judaism do not require blind faith. They are rational. To assume that a house was built by contractor, not by mistake as a result of an avalanche randomly combining the bricks, is not irrational. To accept that an infinite and brilliant world has a designer who is mindful is rational. To accept that quintillions of atoms, structured in a way to create all the matter around us, were organized by intent is not foolish. To observe billions of units of DNA embedded in a single cell of a tiny organism and assume someone organized them is as irrational as thinking that a computer program consisting of three billion organized codes was randomly compiled by error. And remember, DNA does not create a computer program; it is the source of life.

If so, why is it that some are like Abraham — they will reject the deities of the time and embrace truth, while others will be like Terach, continue to stick to old, comfortable irrational notions?

The answer is “In the beginning our fathers served idols”— and that is why “now the Omnipresent One has brought us close to His service.” Abraham worshipped idols! That is the key. He took faith seriously. He craved to know the truth. He was idealistically searching to find what is at the core of life. He served idols with passion, and deep commitment, believing that they constitute the answer to the question of life.

His father Terach was not searching for truth, only for comfort. The god statues provided a fine business and he would not be disturbed by philosophical questions.

Do you care for truth or not? That makes all the difference. Our forefathers worshipped idols. They passionately believed this was “it.” When they found the real G-d, they channeled their passion toward truth.

But if you are a person who does not worship anybody or anything — only your own needs and comforts at any moment, then even if you understand the truth about the universe, it makes little difference.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches. New location coming soon. For all upcoming events please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: The way a child should go

Posted on 12 May 2016 by LeslieM

I dare say that my role as a pastor for students and their families is considerably more challenging than my previous one as an airline captain. That’s not to downplay the demands of the airline profession — trust me, it’s intense. It’s just that when you find yourself embedded in the clouds, with no land in sight, the instrumentation, airport technology and air traffic control perform exactly as they’re designed to: guiding the plane safely, under zero visibility, to the runway. And, let me tell you, when you break out of the cloud deck at 50 ft. above the runway while hauling toward the Earth at roughly 150 miles per hour, it’s exhilarating … but, predictable … quite the opposite from children and teens.

There is the messy business of being called to “Train up a child in the way [they] should go” so that when they are older, “[they] will not depart from itProverbs 22:6. That begs the question: In which way should they go?

Dr. Seuss has a few suggestions, as do the authors of Nurture Shock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. They set out to identify a list of “supertraits” hoping children with a firm grasp of “gratitude, honesty, empathy [and] fairness” would become “good children” in which problems such as “stealing, feeling bored or distressed, excluding others, early sexual activity and succumbing to peer pressure” would essentially “bounce off them just as easily as bullets bounced off Superman.” What they discovered though, through copious amounts of research, is that these “supertraits” can’t be relied upon to act as “moral Kevlar.”

In this absence of a predictable outcome, control has become our new idol. In the documentary Trophy Kids, one parent of a 9-year-old shares his belief about the goal of parenting: “Get [your] kid to buy into your dream and to your ambition, that’s the key.” Another parent with twin 14-year-old boys informed them that their identity is in playing tennis, and that her will for them, for which she’s made a covenant with God on their behalf, is that they become tennis superstars.

Maybe the aforementioned parents teeter on the extreme, but a new generation of controlling parents has materialized called “Helicopter Parents.” Dr. Tim Elmore in his book Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future says this of Helicopter Parents: “These hovering ‘helicopters’ can be controlling and obsessive in their efforts to ensure that everything goes well for their children and that no negative incident affects their self-esteem or their prospects.” Little do these parents understand that, because of their actions, their child isn’t learning the ability to fail and persevere. The “hovering” parent is “[preparing] the path for the child instead of the child for the path.”

In Scripture, time and time again, God prepares the individual for the path, not the other way around. Take David for example. Battling Goliath wasn’t his first altercation. In 1 Samuel 17:33 we see that David “has been a warrior from his youth”— going all commando against lions and bears (“Oh my!” says every parent). Prior to the big match-up, Saul offered up his armor to David, which he declined, knowing it wasn’t needed. (How many times do we try to put our identity — that we rationalize as “armor” or “protection”— on the children under our care?) Later, we see that David “ran quickly toward the battle…1 Samuel 17:48, signifying his eagerness and trust in the Lord, slinging the stone, which had the same take-down force of a .45 caliber pistol, into the forehead of the towering infantryman armed with a spear — talk about your classic bringing a knife to a gun fight — “… thus David prevailed over the Philistine1 Samuel 17:50.

In David’s story, we see God’s design for the way a child should go — to prevail. They are to be equipped through undergoing challenging experiences, yes, struggles that reveal a true relationship with their Father, creating in them a secure understanding of their identity — who God has ordained them to become. From there, we can trust (in God) that they will eagerly take up their calling and accomplish — prevail in — His work, not ours.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments, he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: A Passover Seder narrative “This is the bread of affliction…”

Posted on 05 May 2016 by LeslieM

It is easy to miss the revolutionary idea behind the annual Passover Seder, in which we actively commemorate our slavery in Egypt and our subsequent redemption. In it, we attempt to turn hurt into a positive force.

We know that the parents most likely to abuse their children are those who were themselves abused when young. People who have been hurt tend to hurt others. The Seder came to reverse this instinctive response.

When the Jews had just been released from Egyptian slavery, the Torah commands, “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Because you were in Egypt and felt the pain caused by abuse, learn from it not to oppress the stranger, the orphan or the widow. You experienced injustice, therefore practice justice. You know what it is like to be a slave; therefore, do not enslave others. You have been hated; therefore, love your neighbor.

The Israelites could have well derived an entirely different lesson from their slave experience: “Do unto others as they did unto you.” Yet, the opening of the Seder is right in the beginning of the Haggadah; we declare, “This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat.” Wait a moment! If I was given bread of poverty, I might give the same to others. The Seder says otherwise: We know the taste of poverty. What’s the conclusion? We will ensure that others don’t go hungry.

All of us have been hurt. What do we do with that hurt? This is the question which distinguishes between the free man and the slave. The free man uses the hurt to know how not to treat others, to empathize with others; the victim continues to perpetrate what has been perpetrated on him.

The Wounded Puppy

A store owner was tacking a sign above his door that read “Puppies For Sale.” Signs like that have a way of attracting small children and, sure enough, a little boy appeared by the store owner’s sign.

How much are you going to sell the puppies for?” he asked.

The store owner replied, “Anywhere from $30-$50.”

The little boy reached in his pocket and pulled out some change.

I have $2.37,” he said. “May I please look at them?”

The store owner smiled and whistled; out of the kennel came Lady, who ran down the aisle of his store followed by five teeny, tiny balls of fur. One puppy was lagging considerably behind.

Immediately, the little boy singled out the lagging, limping puppy and said, “What’s wrong with that little dog?”

The store owner explained that the veterinarian had examined the little puppy and had discovered it didn’t have a hip socket. It would always limp. It would always be lame. The little boy became excited. “That is the little puppy that I want to buy,” he said.

The store owner said, “No, you don’t want to buy that little dog. If you really want him, I’ll just give him to you.”

The little boy got quite upset. He looked into the store owner’s eyes, pointing his finger, and said, “I don’t want you to give him to me. That dog is worth every bit as much as all the other dogs and I’ll pay full price. In fact, I’ll give you $2.37 now, and 50 cents a month until I have him paid for.”

The store owner countered, “You really don’t want to buy this little dog. He is never going to be able to run and jump, and play with you, like the other puppies.”

To this, the little boy reached down and rolled up his pant leg to reveal a badly twisted, crippled left leg supported by a big metal brace. He looked up at the store owner and softly replied, “Well, I don’t run so well myself, and the little puppy will need someone who understands!”

When we experience pain in our life, we can become more bitter, or more empathetic. We can either say: I had this pain let me make sure you have it, too. Or we can say: I had this pain, I know what it feels like, I will ensure you don’t.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches located in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming programs and events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: Life after Resurrection

Posted on 28 April 2016 by LeslieM

The film Miracles from Heaven recounts the real life story of Anna Beam. Suffering from an incurable condition, the 10-year-old girl has a near death experience (NDE) that dramatically changes her life. Made on a modest $13 million budget, the heartwarming story has delighted audiences worldwide and earned about $70 million at the box office. In recent years, there have been increased accounts of people who reportedly had a NDE. Studies focused on the after effects of such an experience have revealed common traits among those who supposedly died and came back to life. An amazing ability to live in the present, an abiding sense of deep confidence, decreased interest in material possessions, a strong sense of life’s purpose and a greater spiritual awareness are among those traits.

Though all survivors do not exhibit all of these traits, they possess enough of them to show how life-changing a NDE is. One’s outlook may change, his disposition may be significantly altered, and life is not lived in the same way as before. In some instances, one may even be completely different after having died and come back to life.

A similar change can be noted in the lives of true Christian believers. Spiritually, they have experienced death and now possess a changed outlook on life. Believing in Jesus Christ means that we have died to sin and have been raised to new life. Paul, the apostle, confirms this in Romans 6:4, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

There should be a distinct difference in our motivations, focus and prospects compared to what they were before we experienced new life. Many believers have attested to the change that following Christ has made in their lives, and to their lives. The late gospel singer/songwriter Walter Hawkins had a popular song on one of his albums that proclaimed, “a change, a change has come over me; He changed my life and now I’m free.” In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul puts it this way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

This change is revealed in the interactions of the risen Savior with His disciples in the gospels. In the 40 days between His resurrection and His ascension, the Lord confirmed for His followers back then, as well as for those who follow Him now, that salvation is more than just the restoration of fellowship with God, it is a call to service, an assignment in the kingdom, and life’s purpose is now to live in such a way as to bring glory to God.

Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to His disciples were deliberate and intentional. They confirmed that He was indeed alive, but also included specific instructions about the ministry His disciples had been preparing for. He commissioned them to take His message to their people and ultimately to the nations of the world. Their obedience to the Lord’s directives brought about the establishment of the Christian church and way of life, which has impacted the world for 21 centuries.

Having celebrated the annual observation of Jesus’ death and resurrection, believers must now engage in self-examination of their own lives. The truths of our faith must be lived out and validated in our witness to the world. Then, others will know that there is not just life after death, but there is life after resurrection as well.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. Call 954-427-0302.

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CLERGY CORNER: The First Commandment

Posted on 21 April 2016 by LeslieM

The Biblical account of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt has been one of the most inspiring stories for the oppressed, enslaved and downtrodden through out history. From the American Revolution to the slaves of the American South, to Martin Luther King’s “Let Freedom Ring,” the narrative of the Exodus provided countless peoples with the courage to hope for a better future and to act on the dream.

Moses’s first visit to Pharaoh demanding liberty for his people only brought more misery to the Hebrew slaves; the Egyptian monarch increased their torture. The Hebrews would not listen any longer to the promise of redemption. Now, let us pay heed to this strange verse in Exodus, in the Torah portion Vaeira:

So G-d spoke to Moses and to Aaron, and He commanded them to the children of Israel, and to Pharaoh the king of Egypt, to let the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.

G-d is charging Moses with two directives: Command the people of Israel and then command Pharaoh the king. However, the verse is ambiguous: What did G-d command Moses to instruct the people? The message for Pharaoh is clear: Let the children of Israel out of Egypt. But what is it that Moses is supposed to command the people themselves?

The Jerusalem Talmud says something profoundly enigmatic:

G-d instructed Moses to command to the Jewish people the laws of freeing slaves.

The Talmud is referring to a law recorded later in Exodus: If a Jew sells himself as a slave, the owner must let him go after six years. He is forbidden to hold on to the slave for longer. This was the law Moses was to share with the Israelites while they were in Egyptian bondage.

Who is free?

The answer to this question is profoundly simple and moving, and is vital to the understanding of liberty in the Biblical imagination.

Before Pharaoh can liberate the Jewish slaves, they must be ready to become free. You can take a man out of slavery, but it may prove more challenging to take slavery out of a man. Externally, you may be free; internally you may still be enslaved.

What is the first and foremost symptom of bring free? That you learn to confer freedom on others.

The dictator, the control freak, or the abusive spouse or parent, does not know how give others freedom. He (or she) feels compelled to force others into the mold that he has created for them. Uncomfortable in his own skin, he is afraid that someone will overshadow him, expose his weaknesses, usurp his position or make him feel extra in this world. Outwardly, he attempts to appear powerful, but, inwardly, his power is a symptom of inner misery and confinement.

Only when one learns to embrace others, not for whom he would like them to be, but for whom they are, then can he begin to embrace himself, not for whom he wishes he was, but for whom he is. When we free those around us, we are freeing ourselves. By accepting them, we learn to accept ourselves.

Who is powerful? He who empowers. Who is free? He who can free others. Who is a leader? He who creates other leaders.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power,” Abraham Lincoln said. Ask yourself, do you know how to celebrate the soaring success of your loved ones and constituents? Do you encourage them to spread their wings and maximize their potential? Can you allow others to shine?

Pharaoh may set you free physically. But former slaves can become present tyrants. People who were abused often become abusers themselves. It is what they know about life; it is the paradigm they were raised with. They grew up in abuse and slavery, so they continue the cycle with others. The first Mitzvah the Jews had to hear from Moses, before even he can go the Pharaoh to let them go free was: One day you will be free. Remember that freedom is a gift; use it to free others.

Celebrate Passover – The Holiday of Freedom – with Chabad. We have a place for you at our Seder. To reserve, call Rabbi Tzvi at 347-410-1106

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches. New location soon. For all upcoming events please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: First-hand relationship

Posted on 14 April 2016 by LeslieM

Let me share with you a few of my favorite places to eat here in South Florida. (Trust me; I have a point.) When I want a great burger and fries, there’s no place I love more than Flanigan’s Seafood Bar & Grill. Pizza, now that’s a toss-up because, with so many New England transplants in SoFlo, there’s a plethora of great pizza stops. I’ll give my shout out to Big Louie’s and Mizner Pizzeria. Last, but certainly not least, a true staple of the southeastern states, the “Pub Sub” from the Publix Deli. Can you find a better sandwich?

It’s easy to want to share with you my favorite food stops, but there is one thing I cannot do and that’s tell you how great the food is at the Olympia Flame Diner. Why? Because I’ve never stopped in to have a bite. I’ve heard excellent reviews. I’ve seen pictures of the place when I Googled it for this article, but, the fact remains: I have no first-hand experience.

I imagine the above logic makes sense. Few people — if any — review movies they haven’t seen. So allow me to insert what author and speaker Jon Acuff calls a “Jesus Juke” — radically altering the course of conversation toward Jesus.

Are you consuming your Word daily? Do you spend intentional time in the presence of our Lord hearing from Him through meditation on His Word? Are you experiencing Him personally—without ceasing?

Matthew 28:19 commands us to “… go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

I have to ask, how can we fulfill this great commission with any authenticity and authority if we have yet to truly experience the life-changing message of the Gospel first-hand?

Joshua 1:8 says, “Study [the Word] continually. Meditate on it day and night so that you will be sure to obey everything written in it.” When we do so, He promises to “draw near to you,” James 4:8.

Think about that; the Creator of all the galaxies and beyond wants to draw close to you.

To put that in perspective, I’d like to draw from the science presented by Reverend Francis Chan. The speed of light travels at 186,000 miles per second … yes second! A light year then is a measure of the distance that light travels at that 186,000 mile per second for a whole year. That’s far! So how many light years would it take to travel from one end of our galaxy – the Milky Way Galaxy, the one in which our solar system resides – to the other? 100,000 light years. Let that sink in. Still not impressed? Scientist estimate there are 350 billion galaxies like our Milky Way in space. And somewhere, tucked deep within our universe, is Earth, where the Creator of those galaxies and beyond desires to draw close to you in a personal — first-hand — relationship.

It is then, and only then, when we will be able to understand our identity in Him, able to venture into a lost world in desperate need of a Savior. With authority, fervency and joy, we will share what we know about our faith, not from having only read a Yelp review, but from our personal experience: a changed life. In this depth of knowing Him, others will come to know Him, too. He is a relational God who has given us the ultimate text message: His Word. Read and respond; for you have been set apart for His purposes. And because of your obedience, His will will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments, he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: The division

Posted on 07 April 2016 by LeslieM

Passover matzah has always been divided. One part of our people, let’s compare it to the smaller part of our matzah, still stubbornly sitting at the “seder table”. They sit around the table of their ancestors, following the traditions, continuing the rituals, studying the laws and telling the story. This is the smaller part of the matzah, the minority of our people, which refuses to get up from the Passover table and find other alternatives for life and for happiness. Yes, they sometimes sit there with closed eyes, half asleep, but they are present. These are the Jews who wake up each morning remembering that we are part of a long narrative — beginning with Abraham, culminating with Messiah — and we ought to live our lives inspired by this narrative. They don a tallis, wrap tefilin, go to the synagogue, pray to G-d and send their children to Jewish schools to receive an intense Torah education. These are the Jews who celebrate Shabbos, eat kosher, would not eat a meal outside of a Sukkah or wear a garment made of wool and linen.

The larger part of the matzah — the majority of our people — have wandered from the seder table, into foreign pastures. They have found alternatives to Torah. Indeed, most of our nation remains ignorant and, in many ways, apathetic to our heritage and its wisdom; millions of our brethren feel alienated from our people and its story.

And the split of the matzah continues. We continue to be a divided people. The small part of the matzah often looks with disdain at the larger piece of the matzah: “I am at the seder table; you are lost and estranged;” while the big part of the matzah often looks at the small piece of matzah with bewilderment and pity, wondering how it manages to remain so isolated and detached from modernity and the new world.

Here we will discover the secret of the Matzah. Open your hearts…

The Rebbe’s Calling

April 19 marks the 114th birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (1902-1994), who was born in Ukraine, just days before Passover. Growing up at the height of the revolutions which swept the world and captured the hearts and souls of millions of Jews, the Lubavitcher Rebbe observed firsthand the “matzah” being split, fragmented, broken and then almost completely consumed by the flames of Stalinism and Nazism.

The larger part of the matzah may be absent from our seder table, but it is still matzah; our matzah may be divided, but we are still one matzah. Millions of Jews may be absent from the seder table, but they may never be forgotten. Most importantly: we cannot conclude our seder if we do not bring back the larger piece of matzah which has been gone from the seder table.

The small piece of matzah will never be capable of reaching the culmination of its seder if it will not reach out to its brother-matzah and bring it back to the seder table, recognizing the truth that we are one people and each of us has a place of dignity at the eternal table of Jewish history and consciousness.

This, the Lubavitcher Rebbe believed, was the mission of our time. The seder is almost complete, the story is almost finished. Messiah is at our doorstep. The meal has been eaten, and we have had our share of maror, of bitter herbs and suffering.

And now we must remember the Afikoman. We must search for the Afikoman (matzah), and, with much love and sensitivity, bring it back to the table, and let it reunite with its own essence, with its own story, with its own soul.

Only then will we be able to conclude our journey and truly be “Next year in Jerusalem.”

Please encourage unity in your family in your community, in your country and in our world!

If you need a place for the Seder please contact the Rabbi at chabadoflighthousepoint@gmail.com or RSVP for our Community Passover Seder at www.JewishLHP.com.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches. New location soon. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: “April is the cruelest month”?

Posted on 31 March 2016 by LeslieM

T. S. Eliot famously wrote that “April is the cruelest month.” I beg to differ. For me, April is a month overflowing with hope and with promises fulfilled. In the northern hemisphere, it’s the beginning of springtime, and if you’ve ever lived on the cold side of 40 degrees north latitude, then, with the coming of April, you’ve paid your winter dues and are ready to enjoy the first blooming of the cherry blossoms.

I’ve long held a completely unsubstantiated belief, that when our Lord rested on the seventh day of Creation, it just happened to be on a beautiful day in April, and, when He saw what He had made, He declared: “it was very good.”

Yes, our Lord’s Creation is spectacular in April, but we may miss the whole divine show if our thoughts turn to other Aprils – those past, present and future – and the memories of losses and fears that may come to mind. Any Biblical-optimism generated by the wonders of Creation can be a challenge to defend, in the face of our own doubts, and to the skeptics of our world. Remember Saul on the road to Damascus, who could only see a god of anger and was blind to the God of Love.

Our God knows this about our thought process and that’s why He never leaves our side even if we think we’re meant to go it alone and all talk of hope and promises aren’t in the cards for us.

When such thoughts make their appearance, we need to be reminded that, if God permits “a time to weep and a time to mourn,” he also provides “a time to laugh and a time to dance.” Holy Scripture is teeming with stories of the self-inflicted tribulations of flawed humankind, and how our God redeems us with His love when we turn to Him. The story of our redemption is a golden thread that runs through the Bible from beginning to end.

We find an early stitch in this golden thread in the Book of Genesis; there, we learn what happened to Adam and Eve, our first parents, when they made their ill-fated choice to disobey God. They were driven from an earthly paradise in the Garden of Eden, but not before God gently clothed them against the elements of a cruel world. Yes, there are also cruel times in each of our lives, often engendered by the poor choices we make; but our pathway through these cruel times may be successfully navigated when we follow the directions our Lord lovingly lays out for us.

We find another stitch in this golden thread in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. He wrote of the Hebrew’s disobedience leading to the Babylonian Exile and to their losing all hope of ever returning to their homeland. Their longing to return is offered as a prayer in Verdi’s stunningly beautiful “Va, pensiero” which is sung by Hebrew slaves on the banks of the River Euphrates in the opera Nabucco. God did lead the Hebrews home to their beloved Jerusalem and enabled them to rebuild their city.

There may be times in each of our lives when we feel an estrangement from friends, family and home and can’t see any way for a re-connection. During these times, we need to remember the power of prayers and that they are like the ever-returning spring. They never leave our lips without the promise of our God’s providential reply.

And, finally, with each spring, God’s golden thread leads to the remembrance of the singular event in the story of our redemption that overflows with hope and with promises fulfilled – the glorious Resurrection of our Lord on Easter morning after he was savagely crucified on Good Friday. Yes, although we also experience times of suffering in this life, the promise of Easter is that we will also rise again to life eternal with our Lord. Is April the “cruelest month”? I don’t think so, especially when we kneel at the foot of the Cross and look up at our risen Lord and all the hopes and fulfilled promises that entails.

Rev. M. Tracy Smith, SSA, Rector is from the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, 1416 SE 2 Terr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-695-0336. Wednesday: Morning Prayer at 10 a.m., Sunday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m.

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CLERGY CORNER: Jesus, the Hero

Posted on 24 March 2016 by LeslieM

Bonnie Tyler had a top 40 hit in the 1980s with the song “Holding Out for a Hero.” The lyrics ask:

Where have all the good men gone, and where are all the gods?

Where’s the street-wise Hercules to fight the rising odds?

Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed?

Late at night, I toss and I turn and I dream of what I need.

The chorus adds:

I need a hero … I’m holding out for a hero ‘til the end of the night.

He’s gotta be strong and he’s gotta be fast and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight.

I need a hero … I’m holding out ‘til the morning light.

He’s gotta be sure, and it’s gotta be soon, and he’s gotta be larger than life…

Heroes are those who are characterized by strength, daring and courageous exploits. Marvel and D.C. comics have created superheroes that may seem weak momentarily in the contest against evildoers, but they always gain the upper hand and come out on top. Real life heroes are those people who can do for us what we often cannot do for ourselves. They may even make the ultimate sacrifice, and give their lives to defend or aid their fellow man.

As we prepare to remember and celebrate the passion of our Savior, we consider Him to be our hero. But Jesus is a hero of a different sort because His victory did not occur through His physical dominance over His enemies. In fact, even though the Biblical Hebrews of His day were anxiously awaiting the arrival of their promised Messiah, they ultimately rejected Jesus because He did not fit the pattern of an expected hero. They were looking for a military general, similar to King David, who would defeat their foes and restore them to prominence as a people.

Instead, Jesus seemingly ignored the cruelty of Rome, but focused on the spirit and behavior of His people. He won the crowds with His preaching and miracles, but angered the Pharisees and priests with His disregard for their traditions. In the end, He was brutalized, mocked and humiliated through crucifixion. He was made to suffer unjustly, and then put to death. Yet, He was victorious, despite His suffering and through His suffering. His death resulted in salvation. He is the ultimate hero, one who willingly gave His life for the good of mankind.

His suffering and death were predicted centuries before His arrival. Genesis 3:15 is believed to be a Messianic pronouncement pointing to the crucifixion of Jesus. The serpent is cursed for deceiving Adam and Eve, and God informs him “I will put enmity between you and the woman. And between your seed and her Seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

Psalm 22:16-18 foreshadows scenes at the cross. “For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.”

Isaiah 53:3 graphically describes the anticipated Messiah as a suffering servant. “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”

Heroes are usually celebrated for their actions. Though the majority of His day rejected Him, countless believers today faithfully acknowledge and serve Jesus for His sacrifice. He is our Savior and Hero.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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CLERGY CORNER: Purim vs. Yom Kippur

Posted on 17 March 2016 by LeslieM

It would seem that one could hardly find two more dissimilar days in the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur is the most solemn day of the year. It is a day of soul-searching and repentance; the day on which we connect with the inviolable core of purity within us — with the self that remains forever unsullied by our failings and transgressions — to draw from it atonement for the past and resolve for the future. So it is only natural that Yom Kippur should be a day of unfettered spirituality, a day on which we transcend our very physicality in order to commune with our spiritual essence.

The Torah commands us to “afflict ourselves” on Yom Kippur — to deprive the body of food and drink and all physical pleasures. Yom Kippur is the day on which terrestrial man most resembles the celestial angel.

Purim, on the other hand, is the most physical day of the year. It is a day of feasting and drinking — the Talmud goes so far as to state that “a person is obligated to drink on Purim until he does not know the difference between ‘cursed be Haman’ and ‘blessed be Mordechai.’”

As our sages explain, Purim celebrates the salvation of the Jewish body. There are festivals (such as Chanukah) that remember a time when the Jewish soul was threatened, when our enemies strove to uproot our faith and profane the sanctity of our lives; these are accordingly marked with “spiritual” observances (e.g. lighting the menorah, reciting the Hallel).

On Purim, however, it was the Jewish body that was saved. Haman did not plot to assimilate or paganize the Jews, but to physically destroy every Jewish man, woman and child on the face of the Earth. Purim is thus celebrated by reading the megillah, lavishing money on the poor, sending gifts of food to friends, eating a sumptuous meal and drinking oneself to “oblivion”.

On Yom Kippur, we fast and pray, on Purim we party. Yet the Zohar sees the two days as intrinsically similar, going so far as to interpret the name Yom haKippurim (as the Torah calls Yom Kippur) to mean that it is “a day like Purim” (yom k’purim)!

Yom Kippur is indeed “a day like Purim”: both are points in physical time that transcend the very laws of physical existence. Points at which we rise above the rational structure of reality and affirm our supra-rational bond with G-d — a bond not touched by the vicissitudes of mortal life, a bond as free of cause and motive as the free-falling lot.

But there is also a significant difference between these two days. On Yom Kippur, our transcendence is expressed by our disavowal of all trappings of physical life. But the very fact that these would “interfere” with the supra-existential nature of the day indicates that we are not utterly free of them. Thus, Yom Kippur is only “a day like Purim” (k’purim), for it achieves only a semblance of the essence of Purim.

The ultimate transcendence of materiality is achieved not by depriving the body and suppressing the physical self, but by transforming the physical into an instrument of the divine will.

So “Purim” is the day on which we are our most physical, and, at the same time, exhibit a self-abnegation to G-d that transcends all dictates and parameters of the physical-rational state — transcending even the axioms “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordechai.”

Yom Kippur is the day that empowers the Jew to rise above the constraints of physicality and rationality. Purim is the day that empowers the Jew to live a physical life that is the vehicle for a supra-physical, supra-rational commitment to G-d.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches. New location soon! For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

[Purim is coming up March 23-24!]

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