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Rabbi plans to preach Jesus under the big top

An old-fashioned "tent meeting," the likes of which Christian evangelists have been conducting for centuries, will start tomorrow night and continue through Wednesday in South Toledo.

But this one will have a twist.

There will be a clergyman, Bible in hand, preaching about salvation through Jesus Christ.

But the clergyman will not be a Christian evangelist; he'll be a rabbi - Messianic Rabbi Kirt Schneider of Toledo's Adat Adonai Messianic Congregation.

"I love just getting out there and doing creative things and getting an opportunity to minister to the community at large," Rabbi Schneider said.

The 46-year-old Messianic rabbi, who was reared in a Conservative Jewish home in the Cleveland area and celebrated his bar mitzvah at 13, found his calling more than 20 years ago in Messianic Judaism, a religious hybrid that combines a belief that Jesus is the Messiah with traditional Judaism.

According to traditional Judaism, the Messiah has not yet come to Earth to save humanity.

Rabbi Schneider and other Messianic Jews consider themselves to be a continuation of Jewish tradition, but they also realize that most Jews do not consider them a legitimate Jewish movement.

"The traditional Jewish community agrees on one thing: You can't be Jewish and believe in Jesus," Rabbi Schneider said.

"But it's totally not based on anything but fear and ignorance."

The commonalities of the two major faith traditions will be the focus of his sermons each night of the tent meetings.

"I'm calling it 'Discovering the Jewish Jesus,'●" Rabbi Schneider said, adding that he expects the

audience to be primarily Christians, at least for the first night of the meeting.

The rabbi, in addition to heading the Adat Adonai Messianic Jewish Congregation on Rambo Lane, also gives talks to religious groups on Messianic Judaism for the organization Shalom Ministries International.

"I travel all over and I think there's a real hunger among believers to understand the Jewish roots of their faith," Rabbi Schneider said.

Tomorrow night, he will preach on "How Jesus connected his ministry to the Jewish holidays," he said.

"Jesus was crucified on Passover, buried during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, rose from the grave on the Jewish feast of Firstfruits, and God's spirit was given on the Jewish Feast of Shavuot, or Pentecost," Rabbi Schneider said.

Monday's night's sermon will explore the similarities between the Old and New Testaments.

"Many believers believe God is the author of the Bible, but are confused how the Old and New Testaments tie together," he said.

"They see a harsh lawgiver in the Old Testament and a God of love and forgiveness and grace in the New Testament. It seems like two different Gods, but I show them how God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow."

As an example of God's consistent nature, the rabbi cited a series of Scriptures in the Old Testatment book of Exodus, chapters 33 and 34, in which God reveals Himself as merciful.

In these chapters, Moses asks God to "show me your glory" and God "came down in the cloud and stood there with him .●.●. proclaiming: 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin.'●"

Some Old Testament laws may seem harsh but they are actually a manifestation of God's grace because they separated the Israelites from the pagans and the barbarian cultures of the time, Rabbi Schneider said.

On Tuesday, the sermon will focus on the Tabernacle in which the Israelites fellowshipped with God during their 40-year journey through the wilderness, and on Wednesday the topic will be "the ancient biblical wedding and marriage supper of the Lamb," he said.

While the tent meeting is intended to help Christians understand the Jewish roots of their faith, Rabbi Schneider hopes it will attract people who are searching for spiritual answers.

"I hope people who come will begin to invite their neighbors and friends," he said.

"My hope is that it is not just an opportunity for believers to learn about the roots of their faith, but that it turns into an evangelistic event as well."

Messianic Rabbi Kirt Schneider's Tent Meeting will be held at 7 p.m. tomorrow through Wednesday on the grounds of Toledo Christian Schools, 2303 Brookford Dr. Information: 419-475-3144.

- David Yonke

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