by Jonathan Settel
Easter Sunday morning, the sun was anticipating its rise. The streets of Sydney were darkened and my excitement vivid. The Sydney Opera House was only a short drive from my friend’s home, but it seemed to take forever to get there. Forty-eight hours before I had begun my journey to the other side of the Earth. I had received a new song which I was to sing for a television audience of eight million and a studio audience of three hundred. The words were a jumble and the melody as a finger painting by a five year old. Would I be able to carry the message of the song to the hungry hearts who had gotten up all over Australia for the sunrise service on the day of the resurrection of our Lord. We got to the Sydney Opera House, rushed up to seventy-two and a third steps. Sydney was just entering the winter season and the air was crisp with Autumn coolness. We got to the outdoor stage and the crew was waiting. I handed them my CD track. The orchestra and the choir were in position. I closed my eyes. I prayed and the music flowed.
So began my three and a half week tour "Down Under." From Sydney to Brisbane to Queensland to Townsville to Perth, music from Israel, music from Jerusalem came forth. Most were moved to fall in love with the nation of the Lord, with the City of Peace, Jerusalem. But, there are always those little spots and blemishes to break up the sameness of an experience. In Sydney, there was a wonderful Messianic congregation run by a South African Jewish believer and his wife bringing many Russian Jews to the knowledge of Messiah. Hungry as they were, their Yiddishkeit was evident. They loved the Jewish music, especially dealing with the Mishiach. Some had numbers on their arms indicating that they had survived the Holocaust, yet the joy that they found in Messiah Yeshua inspired me deeply. I got to minister in an Assemblies of God church to a Spanish congregation who were Baptist. Many of the things I talked about and songs I sang were new to them. There were many tears shed there that morning in that Spanish church. Romans 11 became alive and repentance was in evidence. Later on that week, I went on to the Gold Coast (Australia’s answer to Miami Beach). Two congregations caught my attention. One was "Torah observant" Gentile Messianic congregation. This was quite interesting in that I found myself recognizing bits and pieces of their religious expression, but a stranger to the rest. The Spirit of the Lord was obscured in isms and the freedom of Davidic worship was in want. In the midst of our service, children were hollering, there was a mother nursing her child in the front row; my concentration was at its lowest. After a while, the Holy Spirit did visit us but was quickly repelled by the female Rabbi who came up with her Tallit and Kippa and proceeded to do a midrash on the last eight bars of my last song. The following morning, I went to a Charismatic Assemblies of God church with no idea as to Torah or Talmud, but had a real strong handle on the Holy Spirit. Few isms were seen or felt, but the fellowship of the Ruach ha Kodesh was powerful. For both services, morning and evening, I felt my heart break and my tears flowed freely. I felt God honoring the childlike love of these people (Mark 10:15). Sometimes the burdens of life make me remember how uncomplicated life can really be when our faith is uncomplicated and total.
On to Perth, western Australia, where I went to a Jewish home for the elderly. They knew of me and knew I was Messianic but enjoyed the Jewish Expression of Worship which the music represents to them. They asked me to please keep the music "Kosher" and I would be permitted to do an evening of music for many people in their seventies, eighties, and nineties. I always feel humbled when I have an opportunity to minister to such people who have lived so much longer than I and have experienced so much more than I. Many of them have been to hell and back in Europe during World War II and here I was bringing them their Messiah in song. Now, that’s what I call awesome.
We had many wonderful experiences, but one that brought me back to earth where a man came to me and asked his face ashen and eyes bulging, "Do you know what tribe you’re from?" I thought he was kidding so I said, "Yes. I’m a Mohecan." Not being from America, he had no idea what I was talking about. He said, "Well, what Israelite tribe are you from?" As soon as he said the world "Israelite," I knew I was in trouble. Smiling, I said, "What tribe are you from, brother?" And, he said "I’m from the tribe that went to England. We’re called British Israelites." I told him that I was a little busy right then and perhaps we could talk about this in some other century. He said, "You don’t want to talk to me because you are a JEW (pronounced jEW)." I turned away and began to pack up my mini disk player and he went off muttering to himself. I saw him later telling all who would listen that the jEW didn’t know how to be an Israelite and that he was the real Israelite.
All in all, I learned some valuable lessons on this trip. To be Torah-aware is a good thing; to be denominationally aware is a good thing; to be intellectually and emotionally and spiritually aware are good things, but they are not THE THING. THE THING is to be Messiah centered and aware of the residual blessings that brings. If I were to draw a picture, I would draw a calm lake with a stone dropped in its center, the stone being the "cornerstone" Yeshua. The ripples coming from that action of the center are the result of being Messiah centered.