A Parable of Salvation

by Arthur Bowman

Joel had been circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, becoming officially Jewish, a member of Israel. But Joel grew to manhood with little sense of his Jewishness. He did not attend synagogue nor did he go through Bar Mitzvah. He was just your average American baby boomer looking after his own career and interests as best he could. All that changed one fall day.

Joel had heard about a charismatic rabbi who had started a synagogue on the edge of the inner city where he lived. People were flocking to listen to this rabbi preach and proclaim the living dynamics of Judaism. Joel decided to join the parade, and one Sabbath he found his way down to the synagogue which was located in an old Sears store. He was amazed at what he found there.

As he looked around, Joel realized that he might be the only Jew in the congregation. People of every race and color were there. The atmosphere was electric. When the rabbi got up to speak, an eager sense of anticipation rose simultaneously. Joel was all ears; he had never experienced anything like this.

The rabbi called for a return to Yahweh and strict obedience to the laws of Moses. The people cheered. Joel cheered. But at the end of the sermon, Joel heard something that gave him pause. The rabbi challenged all those who wanted to obey the law and follow Yahweh to be circumcised. “Who you were or what happened in your life previous to this holy moment doesn’t matter,” proclaimed the rabbi.

Joel was stunned. If he were to enter this new synagogue, did that mean he would have to be circumcised all over again? Maybe the rabbi thought he was preaching to a bunch of uncircumcised pagans. “That’s surely it,” thought Joel. He would go back next week and find out more.

On the next Sabbath, Joel found his way again to the new synagogue. The rabbi didn’t let up. He pleaded with his listeners to get right with God. He told them that the past meant nothing. The moment of decision for God was now or it was never. And the sign of that decision would be circumcision.

Joel now had a big problem. What of his first circumcision? Had it meant nothing? He liked the new synagogue and its charismatic rabbi, and he wanted to become part of this new community. But how would it be possible to be circumcised a second time?

Joel did some research. He discovered that some Jews two thousand years ago became enamored of all things Greek. These Hellenistic Jews were hell bent on fitting in at the baths and exercise gymnasiums. To look as Greek as possible, some had their circumcisions reversed. A tricky procedure to be sure, but it could be done. Joel thought to himself, “What if I had my circumcision undone and then redone? That might qualify me for membership in the new synagogue.”

– to be continued...

Arthur Bowman, former Covenant and Lutheran pastor, works for the Archdiocese of St. Paul as an Interim Parish Life Administrator. Presently he is on assignment to St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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