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Monday, August 20, 2012

AMF & This Present Generation

Credit: Aaron Kasdan
The Asheville Music Festival (AMF), at Deerfield's near Ashveville, NC, was one of the great events of my life.  I was incredibly honored to be asked by my friends who planned it to emcee this important event.  It was amazing to experience AMF from behind the scenes and from on the stage.  To be back stage with all the singers and look out over the whole crowd was simply exciting.

Leading up to AMF I had great expectations of all that the Lord wanted to do in this present generation. Of course some of the expectation was because my wife, Laura, and I traveled by ourselves and left our children with her parents.  For us, as a couple, there was high expectation.  But also, as a young Rabbi, I had great expectation in seeing, hearing and participating as a voice in my generation.  

Credit: Andre Oliveira
My expectations were met on the first day (Thursday) when a major storm hit. As I drove a golf cart around and helped various people get to their campsite, rain began to fall, mud began to form, followed by hail and rivers of water instead of walkways.  Some people began to say, "the enemy is attacking" and it dawned on me that Satan cannot control the weather.  Sometimes we attribute things to Satan that are not his.  Only the One who created the weather can control the weather.  Often Satan is made out to be the arch enemy of God and in a conversation about these things, Jonathan Mahoney said, "Satan's arch enemy is actually Michael the arch angel."  Beautiful.

There is no one like our God and no one at His level that can be matched with Him.

Credit: Heather Silverman
Now, I am not sure why God sent rain and delayed the start of AMF by several hours.  But, I am sure He is God and that I don't need to know His reasons.  And with the rain I saw people helping each other that had just met.  I saw young and old together helping each other move tents that were being flooded.  I saw people go to Walmart and buy other people rain boots.  I saw a ton of volunteers doing a ton of little jobs to get the event started in the midst of chaos.  I saw people in the remote lot (which you had to take a shuttle from) stay down there the entire time so that people could be registered and enjoy the festival.  I saw seasoned leaders come to enjoy the festival though they were not asked to speak or perform.  I saw young people doing amazing art work.  I saw a big dude serving beef ribs, hippies serving vegetarian quesadillas, "trash huggers" taking trash away, and a young sophisticated dude serving coffee of which he knew everything one could know about coffee.  I saw an awesome couple that served unreal root beer snow cones! Yes, root beer!  I saw a crazy cross section of the world of Messianic Judaism and was excited that it is so much bigger than the circles in which I run. I saw Joel Chernoff and Stuart Dauermann carry two Torah's at the same event in the same Torah service. 

Credit: Ben Weisman
I heard crazy things like "this is the cleanest festival we have ever worked" (trash huggers).  I heard, "We are having intelligent conversation because everyone is sober" (coffee guy).  I heard bands who had never heard each other’s music talk about working together.  I heard an amazing message on Shabbat and a cool analogy of AMF being like Dorothy shifting into technicolor.  the message was assisted by Ross Anderson who blew my mind with his memorized reading of the Parsha and how he forced us to imagine Moses receiving the revelation from God and speaking it with the kind of passion that imagine Moses actually spoke.  I heard some of my favorite music and was introduced to new music I had never heard before.  I heard an awesome choir of AMF musicians lead us in song together on Shabbat morning.  And I heard joy when a giant tent was put up to shield people from the rain and sun (when it came out).

Most of all there was an excitement in the air because it was our event.  It was a festival lead and performed by people of this present generation.  It was a festival blessed by our fathers and leaders of a variety of important Messianic organizations.  It was a festival that I believe pleased the Lord.  It was a festival that will spur our generation to rise up and move forward with abandon with what the Lord has called us do while honoring those who came before us.

It was a festival to make Messianic Judaism relevant to our generation and to lead our generation in turning to the God of Israel in repentance through the person of our Messiah Yeshua. It was a festival that will spur our current leaders to see value in our generation and no longer treat us as children but as co-heirs, comrades, and partners in the preaching of the Jewish Gospel that our Jewish people so desperately need.  

Credit both: Andre Oliveira
As the end of AMF came, a strange thing happened.  The order switched for the last two acts.  Hazakim went first and Micah Mahoney went last and for me at least they were two of the most powerful performances.  Hip-Hop is the music of our generation and it deserves to be highlighted and re-imagined as a Messianic art form.  And it was fitting to end with Micah and his band on a note of reverent worship because after all this was a Messianic Jewish Music Festival and it made sense to end worshipping the One who created us and gave the vision for this event in the first place.  

As my friend, Troy Wallace, and I worshiped and talked on stage, we saw our Rabbi friend go and sit on speakers outside of the lights of the stage and without a microphone.  He began to pray.  Of course few could hear him so I went to get a microphone and he pushed it away as he prayed.  The crowd that was left was forced to quiet themselves and push in closer to hear.  I then understood what Seth was doing.  Spontaneously people began to pray, young and old together.  It seemed to be the best way possible to end the festival.  After all, the whole heart of AMF was to bring people together to celebrate through music, dance, art, drama, sight and sound -- all these things that God has given our generation in abundance.  

Credit: Ben Weisman
I shared something in the midst of all these things that seems to have resonated with many people and I want to share them here as well.  As a young Rabbi in a predominately old movement, I can't tell you how much I love my dad (Rabbi David Rosenberg) and his generation.  I can't tell you how honored I am to carry the mantle of leadership that has been passed down from generation to generation.  It has often been said to me in terms of rising up to lead this movement by seasoned leaders, "you will have to wait until some of our leaders die before you can take your place."  From my heart, as a voice in my generation, that is the last thing we want.  We are not asking for a torch to be passed to us so that we can be lone runners moving forward.  We, this present generation, want to stand with those who have come before us.  We would rather hold the torch with you, lead with you, preach on the same stage as you, sing with you and continue to learn from you and have you learn from us.  We continue to sing your songs and want you to sing ours.  We continue to hear you preach and want you to hear us preach.  We want this to be about us together, many generations together, working together to reach many generations -- together.  Not just "us" as in your generation. Or "us" as in this present generation. But, "us" as in many generations together sharing the message of the God of Israel with our people and leading them in repentance through our Messiah Yeshua -- together.

Credit: Ben Weisman
So many people wanted to know if there will be another AMF. As far as the vision for the festival goes, it was the only one.  I see the wisdom in this though I long for this festival to repeat every year.  But it has happened.  A shift was made that is bigger than you and me.  It is bigger than one generation or another.  A shift was made because AMF gave this present generation a voice.  And leaders of the older generation were there to support it, see it and hear it.  It was loud. It was heard. And we all, close to a thousand of us, saw it -- together.  

AMF changed me.  AMF changed the Messianic Jewish Movement.  And those who planned it will be blessed to know that, though some of the change cannot be measured, much that is still to happen in this present generation will point back to this important Messianic Jewish Music Festival!