From Rev Dr John Squires
Presbytery Minister - Wellbeing
As we draw near to the annual celebration of Easter, we find that we have a story that is driven by antagonism and conflict, with scenes of aggression and violence. We need to think carefully about how we tell the story found in the Gospels, and reflect prayerfully about how we preach the good news from these narratives.
We know the main characters in the story: Jesus and his followers, and the key authority figures of his day, lined up against him: the Jewish Sanhedrin; Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea; and Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea.
The way that the story unfolds, invites those who hear it—and those who preach on it—to make one party into “the villain”, even as others in the story receive (implicit) excusing. We side with Jesus, and that makes us view the other characters as “the baddies”.
So the danger sits before us, at Easter most especially: we might be tempted to target “the Jews”, to make negative or derogatory comments about Judaism and Jewish people, even (although I would hope not) to blame “the Jews” for the death of the Messiah. How close does this come to anti-Judaism, or even antisemitism?
We can be helped in our task by careful reflection on the nature of the texts, which we read, hear, explain, and reflect on, as we approach Easter, and especially as we move through Holy Week, from Passion Sunday to Good Friday.
I’ve written a blog that goes into some details about how we might read the texts we use at Easter. See https://johntsquires.com/2021/03/24/sensitivity-to-the-jews-as-we-celebrate-easter/
I’ve noted also that the Uniting Church adopted an important statement at the 2009 Assembly, which declares that “The Uniting Church acknowledges with repentance a history of interpretation of New Testament texts which has often failed to appreciate the context from which these texts emerged, viz. the growing separation of Christianity and Judaism with attendant bitterness and antagonism, resulting in deeply rooted anti-Jewish misunderstandings” (para. 9).
The Statement also affirms that “The Uniting Church does not accept Christian teaching that is derogatory towards Jews and Judaism” (para. 16). We need to hold to this in what we preach at Easter.
and also https://johntsquires.com/2021/03/25/the-passover-seder-a-jewish-religious-festival-which-christians-should-not-appropriate-at-easter/
Rev Dr John Squires
Canberra Region Presbytery
Uniting Church in Australia
0408 024 642
blogs on ‘An Informed Faith’