Saturday, March 24, 2007

In reaction to my sermon posted on February 28, Rabbi Jonah posted this reply:
So. Why do you feel the need to question the integrity of the Pharisees that came to warn Jesus?

It seems anti-semitic to me...the age old adversos Judeos tradition in Lutheran theology.

Doesn't make sense.
I responded with this:
Rabbi Jonah,
Good question. All too often, the Pharisees are caricatured or demonized in Christian writings and speech (and action), and that is unacceptable. The fact that Jesus and many Pharisees interacted so often is a testament to how close they are - Jesus' disagreements with, and criticisms of, Pharisees are a family affair, brother to brother, Jew to Jew.

I guess that, having been reading Luke for a while this year, I was set up to be suspicious of the motives of these Pharisees - which is unfair to them and a reading into the text something that is not there. I am sorry for that error. Thank you for correcting me. Thinking of the wonderful Pharisees in scripture - including Nicodemus, Gamaliel, and Saul/Paul, it is foolish and false to paint them all with a villainous brush.

Personally, whenever I read about Pharisees in the Bible, I try to apply any of Jesus' criticisms of them to me - after all, I am a 'religious professional.' If Jesus walked in the flesh today, he'd have lots to say against the religious people of the world.

I also recognize that much of the Newer Testament reflects the internecine feud between the early Christian movement and the Jewish community from which it broke away. I reject any notion of supersessionism, as if Christianity has superseded God's promises and covenant with Israel. The fact that I believe the Christian message (which I comprehend dimly, as in a mirror, to quote an apostate Pharisee) to be true in no way entails that your faith is false or deficient.

Thank you for reminding me of the insidious and subtle nature of prejudice.
In looking back, I realize a couple things. First, I should have clarified in whose scripture Nicodemus, Gamaliel, and Saul/Paul are mentioned as Pharisees (the Christian Newer Testament, of course). Second, I went back to my sermon of three years ago (of which this was a last minute update), and realized that the prejudicial comment was in that old sermon. Hopefully, I will be a wiser, more gracious preacher in the future than I was in the past.

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