I am probably not the only preacher who cringes every Good Friday as I read John’s passion narrative, with its relentless negative references to “the Jews.” As I read those passages I think of my friends Joe and Tony, Jews who are married to Presbyterians and are sitting in the pews. I want to interrupt the reading and say, “This doesn’t really refer to all Jews.
The committee that interprets religious law for the Conservative Jewish movement, the centrist branch within North American Judaism, has accepted a legal opinion that allows for the ordination of gay rabbis and the blessing of same sex unions.
On a blustery Wednesday evening in central London, about a dozen people from different parts of the city made their way to St. Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace. They included an attorney from a large London law firm, a political lobbyist, a corporate consultant, a Muslim college chaplain, a university professor, a female rabbi and a research scientist.
In the fourth century, a Spanish monastic named Egeria made an arduous pilgrimage to the Holy Land and left behind a diary that is the chief source of what historians know about early Christianity in the Middle East.
The Jews of Jesus’ time, the preacher intoned, were slavishly devoted to the practices of their ancestors. They studied scripture but did not apply it. Their temple was “rotten to the core.” Ancient Judaism was a religion whose rituals were “impressive, inspiring and empty.” It was a faith preoccupied with the superficial and lacking in substance.
Here is a lovely parable—all the more lovely considering that it comes from the chief rabbi of Great Britain’s Orthodox Jews. A young man, having troubled over the question, asks his father: Why does the Messiah not come?
Most Christians and Jews remain settled in separate enclaves. They rarely step outside of their familiar domains and risk the confusion that comes from a searching encounter with the stranger next door.