Christians and Jews in Holy Week

Over the last few years I’ve become much more aware of the things in the life of the Christian church which cause trouble for other people. Specifically, I took part in an interesting symposium a couple of years ago on how Christian preaching relates to Judaism. I learned a lot by listening to people there – a mixed group of Christian and Jewish folk.

I was particularly struck by the assertion that liberal Christians in particular sometimes preach sermons which might be considered to be anti-Semitic. It was entirely fascinating hearing one’s tradition spoken of by those outside of it. At first I was puzzled but the more I heard, the more I realised that there was something that needed to be taken note of. Some of the claims that sometimes get made about Jesus coming to “set people free” from the law, for example. As though people were not living liberated lives within Judaism for centuries before Jesus and for the centuries since. Also sermons which seem to imply that there’s one Jewish opinion that is trounced by the sudden appearance of Jesus. As if, several people said to me, as if there’s ever only one Jewish opinion. Going to this symposium made me much more aware of supersessionism than I had ever been before. (Supersessionism is a belief that Christianity is the fulfilment of Biblical Judaism, and therefore that Jews who deny that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah fall short of their calling as God’s Chosen people). It made me very wary of Christians passing themselves off as the new chosen people using things like “Christian Seder” rituals which quite often get used at this time of year. My own view is that there’s a bit of a problem with non Jews taking the Seder and doing what they want with it to make it represent something that might well be misunderstood or be offensive to those for whom it is a treasure and a joy. (I’d leap at the chance to go to an actual Seder if I was invited though…).

It all made me listen more carefully to my own preaching and that of others.

I also learned more than I previously knew about Holy Week being a time when violence has often been meted out to Jewish people in the name of Christianity by ignorant thugs.

And recently, I’ve been hearing of the Jewish communities in Scotland expressing fears for their own safety.

All of this is just by way of suggesting that this is a good week to be aware, to become more aware and to take care with words.

I learned astonishingly little about modern Judaism when I was a student. I’ve learned more since, but there’s still a lot to learn.

Recognising that the Jewish communities in Scotland don’t currently feel as secure as they should do, the retiring collection on Good Friday afternoon at St Mary’s will go to support the work of the West of Scotland Branch of the Council of Christians and Jews.

Change your life

[This post is reposted from a previous year. No-one who has ever kept the triduum with me has ever told me that what I promised fell short of their experience].

Every year I make a promise to people. I say that if they keep the triduum with me at St Mary’s then it will change their life and change their faith.

The Triduum is the three days from Maundy Thursday to Easter Day. Although the various services take place over several days, it is really one big feast, which is what makes it so extraordinary when you keep it in one place and experience the whole thing. It really is life changing stuff.

I blogged a bit about it [one] year, and it might be worth pointing people to those blog posts:

Maundy Thursday
Veneration of the Cross
Three Hour Devotions
Good Friday Evening
Holy Saturday – all hands on deck!
The Vigil

I’d say you’d kept the Triduum with me if you come to the Maundy Thursday evening service, two of the three services on Good Friday (try for the three hours if you can), the clean and polish on Saturday and the early fire Vigil and the main Festival Mass on Sunday.

It really is life-changing if you do it all and there are people around who will testify to just that.