Month 7:12, Week 2:4 (Revee/Shavu'ot), Year:Day 5939:189 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 5 October 2014
Preparing for Sukkot
The White Funeral & the Echad Bride
With the teshuvah (repentance) season still fresh and lingering in our minds and hearts, and with Sukkot (Tabernacles) just three days away, and with the Ruach (Spirit) very clearly telling me not to let the Ruach haTeshuvah (Spirit of Repentance) simply slip away into forgetfulness but to maintain a healthy level at all times, I bring to you a message I received during the teshuvah (repentance) season about a month ago but which I was led to postpone until now. Consider this to be a last minute 'prep' before Sukkot (Tabernacles).
The Relationship Between Sukkot and Teshuvah
Though the traditional season of Teshuvah (Repentance) ended at Yom haKippurim (Day of Atonements) just a few days ago, repentance itself does not, and so it is my hope that the habit and rhythm of daily teshuvah (repentance) will continue with you throughout the year, and that it translates into the simcha (joy) that is the approaching festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles). It is my purpose to show to you that it is fully integral with all the moedim (appointments) until the Bridegroom finally comes to judge both the living and the dead. Indeed, until we have properly understood and exercised proper scriptural repentance there can be no actual fullness of the Sukkot Anointing at all for the Remnant! I hope by the time we have finished this morning that you will appreciate how the simcha or joy of Sukkot (Tabernacles) is intimately connected to what many erroneously regard as negative and inapproriate for what is also a Wedding Feast.
When the Struggle Ends
Making teshuvah (repentance) is not a religious ritual. And it's certainly not just an annual ritual. Nor is is something that is automatically supposed to occur year after year without end until death makes the ritual impossible to perform. It's something you're supposed to do inside so that finally, when all the protests of the flesh are at an end, you finally consent to Elohim (God) giving you a WHITE FUNERAL.
White and Black Funerals Contrasted
When you have a proper funeral, you inturn a body underground and it rots away. When you bury a loved one, that loved one can't suddenly decide, after he or she finds him- or herself in a casket six feet under, to change his or her mind. True, there are a number of thaumaturgies - people suddenly coming back to life after they died and were put in their coffins, a shocking experience for all concerned, not least the one who suddenly finds himself about to push up daisies. But that isn't what I am talking about. These are, in any case - for for want of a better word - Black Funerals. Those who attend this kind of funeral do not expect the dead to come back to life...at least not until some distant day in the final resurrection. In 'Black Funerals' the bodies decompose, or are incinerated, or are eaten by wild beasts, and Yahweh rebuilds them de novo (totally new) when His Son comes back.
Attending Your Own Funeral
'Black Funerals' we all know about, only too painfully. But I am talking about 'White Funerals', a totally different kind of funeral which most, alas, do not attend even though they are called to attend it. That's right, at a White Funeral you attend your own burial as a witness. Or you pretend you've been to it, or you run away altogether and refuse to attend it.
Not Buried Alone
In a 'White Funeral' you are not, moreover, buried alone. You're buried alongside someone else, the one who had the First White Funeral.
Not a Physical Funeral
As you have probably gathered by now, I am not talking about the death and burial of your physical body. And yet it is just as real as physical death, and arguably more real. It's certainly more important, and unlike physical death, it is, once you have a true vision of it (which you can't until you have allowed yourself to actually go through it), infinitely more desirable.
Both Funerals are Inevitable
The burial or funeral I am speaking of is a burial of the old life of sin. The 'White Funeral' is a spiritual funeral. Just as in a 'Black Funeral' when you physically die, one part of you renmains living albeit it in another dimension and invisible to those left behind in the physical dimension. Physical death is inevitable, and none can escape it, save the blessed few who are transformed in the twinking of an eye if they are alive when Messiah comes again. Spiritual death is also inevitable but in an entirely different way - we are already spiritually dead but remain dead until we attend our White Funeral. As funerals go, then, a 'White Funeral' is completely unlike the 'Black Funerals' that the whole world becomes acquainted with at one point in every soul's life.
Being Made Complete
The apostle Paul talks about 'White Funerals' a lot in an esoteric language that is sometimes hard to grasp. Black Funerals take place when your spirit finally leaves your physical body; White Funerals take place when you make a full and complete Teshuvah (Repentance) and enter into the experience of what could best be described as an entire sanctification - that is to say, the experience of being made complete qadosh or holy or set-apart. A person becomes fully qadosh when they relinquish self-will for the will of Yahweh in their lives.
Using the graphic language and image of a regular, familiar 'Black Funeral', the apostle Paul taught:
Yom haBikkurim as the White Funeral
"Are we to remain in sin in order that Elohim's (God's) grace (undeserved loving kindness, unmerited favour, mercy) may multiply and overflow [in us]? How can we who died to sin (breaking Torah) live in it any longer? Are you ignorant of the fact that all of us who were baptised in Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus) were baptised into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by the baptism into death, so that just as Messiah was raised from the dead by the glorious [power] of the Father, so we too might habitually and behave in newness of life. For if we have become one with Him by sharing a death like His, we shall also be [one with Him sharing] His resurrection [by a new life lived for Elohim (God)]. We know that our old (unrenewed) self was nailed to the cross with Him in order that [our] body, [which is the instrument] of sin, might be made ineffective and inactive for evil, that we might no longer be the slaves of sin. For when a man dies he is freed - loosed, delivered - from [the power of] sin [among men]. Now if we have died with Messiah, we believe that we shall also live with Him. Because we know that Messiah, the Anointed One, being once raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has power over him. For by the death He died, He died to sin [ending His relation to it] once for all, and the life that He lives He is living to Elohim (God) - in unbroken fellowship with Him. Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but [that you are] alive to Elohim (God) - living in unbroken fellowship with Him - in Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus)" (Rom.6:1-11, Amp.V. adapted).
The "you" here consists of two persons - the 'old you' and the 'new you' - the 'old you' is the person who has died and the 'new you' is the person who has this new life in Messiah. The 'new you' arises out of being baptised fully into Yah'shua (Jesus) who died and was raised from the dead, as symbolised by water baptism or complete immersion (not sprinkling) and which is represented by the annual festival of Yom haBikkurim which might justifiably also be called man's White Funeral when he chooses to die to self and to his old life by choosing to die with Messiah. But the Besorah (Good News) is that this 'dying' is not the end of the road - the most excellent news is that New Life is the inheritance and reward of the one who enters into that watery grave in his soul and allows the old life to be washed away. This dying to self and arising in Messiah is best described analagously as the first of three steps that results in an allegorical marriage to Messiah, and such an analogy is extensively used by Paul. Moreover, the marriage is not mediocre - it is a fruit-bearing relationship with tangible results, which is why this event is tied to the Day of Firstfruits or Yom haBikkurim. However, to be married thus means to be divorced from the old self, and since divorce is forbidden by Torah (save in the case of adultery - and that is not an option for one who is righteous), then the only remaining way to be separated from the husband of sin or Satan is by dying. For only when the husband dies is the woman free to remarry according to Torah.
Three Features of Dying to the Flesh
The White Funeral is all about DEATH and the RENEWAL OF THE MARRIAGE COVENANT. Indeed, it is the 'renewed' part or aspect of the B'rit Chadashah or New Covenant. Three realities and processes are simultaneously in operation during the White Funeral which can best be described as:
- 1. Covenantal;
- 2. Participationist; and
- 3. Transformational.
Thus this is no religious 'ritual' - it's about essential realities within the very woof and warp of man's soul, the soul created in the Creator's image! When you die and are buried in the White Funeral, you are exchanging one covenant (a satanic covenant with death) for another better one (a messianic covenant with chayim or life), and are participating in the supernatural events that caused Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus) to die and become resurrected and glorified; and because of that participation, you are yourself supernaturally transformed into someone else!
That is what happens at your White Funeral.
The Effect of Two You's
The result is two you's, each with a contrary voice, a set of contrary emotions, impulses and passions, and each with a will or contrary disposition to renounce the Derech Chayim or Way of Life that is the result of the White Funeral successfully completed, or to cling onto Derech Chayim or Way of Life in spite of the carnal demands of that part which was once on the Way of Death.
Wake Up, Sleepee
Our choice is to remain dead to sin and alive in Messiah, or to awaken the old body buried in death thereby admitting darkness into the formely regenerated life. To those who slip back into that old deathly way, Paul quotes what many believe to be an early Christian hymn which says:
Benefits of the White Funeral
"Wake up, you sleeper!
Rise up from the dead!
The Messiah will shine upon you!" (Eph.5:14, N.T.Wright).
And though this can also refer to the physical resurrection, it is principally about returning to the benefits of the 'White Funeral' which involves dying to darkness which arises out of the Adamic nature belonging to self-rule and to once again embrace the messianic life which is eternal life in relationship with Elohim (God). That dying to the old man - whether the first time or again because of carelessness, or more completely than before - is called MAKING TESHUVAH - it is what repentance consists of. And when you have done that - genuinely made teshuvah (repentance) - Torah- and therefore mitzvah- (commandment-) obedience becomes supernaturally a shere delight!
Re-Emacting the Exodus
Baptism into Yah'shua's (Jesus') death is to re-enact the Exodus within your soul because of the divine spiritual tavnith or pattern which that march was enacting so that we in our turn might understand just what making teshuvah (repentance) consists of. The White Funeral therefore becomes nothing less than liberty from slavery - the slavery to sinful passions and desires, wrong thinking and bad behaviour. The White Funeral is the spiritual passage out of the House of Bondage and into the House of the Redeemed, and is accomplished by means of this spiritual baptism, which N.T.Wright puts this way:
The Basis of Divine Community
"Baptism, like justification, brings people from every background into the single family whose corporate name is Christos (Mashiach, Messiah), providing the basis for the common life" .
This spiritual passage or journey out of one reality of sin and death into another one of righteouss and chayim (life) demands, in the language of Tanakh (Old Testament), that in order to attend our own White Funeral we present our bodies - that is, the whole self of body, mind, heart and spirit - to the one and only Elohim (God), Yahweh. It is only by presenting oneself in this manner that man and Elohim (God) can live together in harmony, in solidarity and in community. Indeed, this is the basis of divine community, just as it is of true marriage in divine tavnith (pattern):
"Do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to Elohim (God) as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to Elohim (God)" (Rom.6:13, NKJV).
This word to "present" or "offer" is the same word used in the Tanakh (Old Testament) for the presentation of a sacrifice to Elohim (God), an idea that Paul elaborates further a little later in Romans:
The Three Aspects of the Heavenly Marriage Covenant
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of Elohim (God), that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, qadosh (holy), acceptable to Elohim (God), which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of Elohim (God). For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as Elohim (God) has dealt to each one a measure of emunah (faith). For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Messiah, and individually members of one another" (Rom.12:1-5, NKJV).
This is our religion, is it not, that consists of sacrifice, worship and the knitting together of the Messianic Community (Church) in Yah'shua (Jesus) our Redeemer. This is what it means to be the Temple of the Living Elohim (God). As sacrifices occurred every day in the Old Covenant, so too must they daily occur in the B'rit Chadashah (New Covenant), not of animals this time, but by the presentation of ourselves, especially and more so in times of persecution. By means of this maintained White Funeral of sacrifice, worship and communal echadness or bonding, we present our daily sacrifices and daily work out our salvation, choosing to remain in the new self and not to return to the old one, by dailing considering ourselves to be dead to the old life. It's a daily choice, a daily renewal of the b'rit (covenant), like the annual ones we renew at Yom haBikkurim or the Day of Firstfruits when we re-covenant to keep following Yah'shua (Jesus), and at Shavu'ot when we re-covenant to keep obeying Torah, and at Sukkot when we re-covenant to perpetually dwell in the Tent or House of Yahweh - the three aspects of the marriage covenant and of loving faithfulness.
Constant Renewal in Messiah
A life in Messiah is one of constant renewal - daily in our closets and as we continually pray (1 Thes.5:17), weekly at Shabbat (Sabbath) in our assemblies, monthly at Rosh Chodesh in our assemblies, and annually at the Three Pilgrim Festivals (Pesach, Shavu'ot, Sukkot) at our general assemblies. This is a deep, continuous flow in repeating cycles rather than a complete and sudden 'once saved, always saved' arrival all at once that requires no maintenance through sacrificial presentations other than a 'happy, clappy' worship response whenever our fickle moods give us permission to. Indeed, by participating in this daily sacrifice to ensure we remain on the right side of the line dividing the Black from the White Funerals, we not only are fruitful but have the privilege of participating in the very renewal of the existing creation. For as we serve as channels for the living Messiah, we reverse the entropy, decay and death of the surrounding world by breathing chayim (life) locally into it, thus extending the Kingdom from within us to around us in which others can bathe.
A Renewed Covenant With Death
By choosing to remain in the world and its death, we allow ourselves to be covenantally bound to the death which is in everyone. The White Funeral makes a complete and total separation from this death by linking us to ONE and ONLY ONE Person, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). This is, believe me, a complete and total severance which the flesh loathes and ferociously rebels against, accusing us of being unloving and selfish, demanding that we sacrifice, in a perverse way, the life which is in Messiah so as not to be 'separate' from the world's system of lawless and perverse relationships. But that is to miss the point altogether. We do not separate ourselves from the world in order to remain separate, but in order to dwell in Chayaim (Life) and to then invite others to join us, in the proper, orderly and covenantal way, by entering the allegorical marriage to Messiah. The way of the world is anarchistic and deadly, but the way of Messiah is orderly and life-bearing.
The Death Crisis
Going through the mandatory White Funeral, if you would be saved, must involve a crisis of death otherwise sanctification remains nothing more than a vision, an idea, without form or incarnation. This death is, moreover, one of a kind, the kind that leads to but one resurrection - the resurrection into the chayim (life) of Messiah. Once you have entered into it, nothing can be allowed upset this life, for its purpose is complete Echadness or Oneness with Elohim (God), with a view to being a witness to others of it.
True Teshuvah or Just a Mental-Emotional Exercise?
Have we really made teshuvah (repented) or have we only indulged in a sentiment? One thing I can promise you, nay guarantee you, is this: that you cannot go to your Funeral in excitement, let alone die in excitement. Death means nothing less than cessation of everything. It means stopping to be. That is not a joyous experience, brethren and sisters, and if it is, you haven't really died. For sure, simcha or joy follows death but that is the follow-up resurrection phase. There is no pleasure in death, and certainly not of the White Funeral kind. To attend this funeral of yourself means to agree with Yahweh that you stop being the striving, earnest kind of believer that you have hitherto been. So long as we are striving, we are skirting round the outside of the cemetry wall and refusing to go to death. You cannot in any case strive to die - you simply 'die' by being "baptised into His (Messiah's) death". We either have a White Funeral or we play religiously with out soul. Agreeing to thus die is no different from agreeing with Yah'shua (Jesus) as though He were to make this your last day on earth. Then there is no more religious play-acting left.
Conversion Doesn't Make You the Bride
How flippantly we talk about being the Echad (in-union) Bride of Messiah as though it were some right we had to saying 'yes' at the Bridegroom's proposal of marriage. The Bride wears white only because she has first been through the White Funeral. We dangerously deceive ourselves if we think otherwise. Like it or not, this dying with Messiah is an existentialist experience, which means that it isn't just a doctrine, or a theory, or an abstract idea. We can all imagine what something is like but until it happens, it isn't real. It's just neurons firing off and not the spirit in full engagement. And it bares scant resemblance to what many Christians and Messianics call 'conversion'. And yet the emphasis is not on our 'experience' of dying because in the final analysis is isn't about 'us'.
The Two White Funerals Cannot Be Separated
For Paul in particular, and most especially for Paul the evangelist, it was not that he had had such an experience, or that we should have one too, but rather what lay above these experiences, and around them, was that Israel's Messiah had been crucified and been raised from the dead, because ultimately our own experience of 'death' and 'rising' means nothing without Yah'shua's (Jesus) 'death' and 'rising'. Though we too must die and arise in new chayim (life) in Him, it is the "in Him" part of the Scriptural injunction that ultimately counts. Paul did not insist that everyone should experience what he did but rather that everyone should work out - that is, to think through, and then to live out - what has in actual fact happened to the Messiah and therefore had in actual fact happened to them through baptism into Messiah viâ their own White Funeral. "Reckon or calculate yourselves", as happened when they were baptised into the death of Messiah, as had happened to them when they atttended their own White Funeral - "calculate or reckon yourselves as being dead to sin, and alive to Elohim (God) in the Messiah, Yah'shua (Jesus)" (Rom.6:11, paraphrased), Paul said. This is a conscious action, a conscious decision, a conscious choice, day by day, moment by moment, by means of this non-negociable transformation process which consists of the Cross itself, not merely as a private spiritual experience but as the public messianic event to which we are all joined in baptism.
As should be clearly apparent, dying to self - and therefore actively and continually making teshuvah (repentance) - is integral with obtaining chayim (life) from Yah'shua (Jesus). This dying need not be something miserable - it only becomes painful if we keep postponing it and diving deeper into sin. Continual teshuvah (repentance) is rather like making small daily adjustments in our course and need not be painful at all. It's really common sense. When you're driving your car and slowly start moving toward the middle of the road or toward the curb or ditch, you reflexly adjust the wheel and get back into the middle of your lane. That is what making daily teshuvah (repentance) is like for the talmid (disciple) who is taking his discipleship seriously. If you find yourself heading toward the curb or approaching another car too quickly, you may get a warning adrenaline surge but everything calms down as soon as you have made the steering adjustments. Then it is quickly forgotten. Perpetually dying to the flesh every day, particularly when we wander back into it, is a bit like that, and definitely not something we should be brooding over long after the adjustments have been made. Compared to those who end up in the ditch or crash their lives into other people's metaphorical 'cars' it is comparitively painless. None of us, though, can ever assume the fleshy nature is dead to us because it remains with us so long as we are in this mortal body. We just have to make sure, on a daily basis, that we are not being drawn to it, work on what it is that still attracts us to that deadly Tree of Knowledge, and keep facing our Redeemer and the Tree of Chayim (Life). If we will do that, Sukkot (Tabernacles) will be a joyful time indeed. For those of you travelling from abroad at this time or still having visa problems, we pray Yah's blessings and protection for your safe arrival and for the successful issue of your visas on time in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name. Amen.
 "I love it" (SW, Germany, 5 October 2014)
 N.T.Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, Parts III & IV, Christian Origins and the Question of God (SPCK, London: 2013), p.963