•Exodus 20:1-17 • 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 • John 2:13-25•
Scripture Readings: Third Sunday in Lent
After the horror and inhumanity of the Nazi “holocaust” became common knowledge, it seemed that most anti-Semitic propaganda and activity had been rejected. Then the ugly head of anti-Semitism gradually has reemerged.
Most of us know the name Benjamin Netanyahu. He is the current prime minister of Israel. He, like his predecessors in that office, is an extreme Zionist determined to create an “apartheid state” and eventually expel all Palestinians from their homeland. The policies and actions of Israel violate UN mandates and international law. They ignore the foundations of Jewish life articulated by the Mosaic Law and the Prophets. The policies and practices of the state of Israel mimic what the Nazis did to the Jews and simply are inhuman and immoral. For this reason I was offended by his appearance before our Congress. It seems obvious the Zionist state of Israel is the root cause of the turmoil and terror that now infiltrates the Middle East.
This is why I no longer lead pilgrimages to the Holy Land. I cannot support the government of Israel in any way. This is a complex issue. I was surprised and am embarrassed to say that some of my recent thoughts and feelings about Israel felt anti-Semitic.
I am not anti-Semitic. I am very critical of Zionism but I am very careful to distinguish between the government of Israel and Jewish people. I have Jewish friends and respect Jewish people.
So I continue to criticize Zionist policies and the government of Israel but respect Jewish people. I share that little testimony as a window through which to enter and hear the gospel text today. Our lectionary suddenly moves us away from Mark to John. John tells us it was “almost time for the Jewish Passover” and Jesus “went up to Jerusalem,.”
He entered the Temple and made a clear, unmistakable statement. His words and actions upset his Jewish peers. “By what authority do you say and do these things?”
By the time the story jelled in what we know as the written gospels, the followers of Jesus and the Pharisees were in fierce competition. Each group claimed to be the true Israel. Was it the Christians or was it the Jews? Christians were convinced the old Israel was superseded by the new Israel – the Church. Thus in the minds of Christians, Jews became identified with the devil. Anti-Semitism became a cancer in the human family. The rest is history – contempt for Jews as heretics, crusades, mass persecutions, and the Nazi holocaust.
In our Sunday gatherings, the first reading always is a text from the Hebrew Bible. That is a
reminder. Our life in Christ is rooted in the rich, God-centered tradition of Judaism. We are not simply Christians. We are Judeo-Christian people.
The great German theologian Karl Barth wrote this about the objects of God’s love. “God loves his son Jesus Christ. In his Son God loves all his children (Jew & Christian). In his children God loves all human beings. In human beings God loves the whole creation.”
His words parallel the cosmic image set before us by Teilhard deChardin. Imagine the universe as a cosmic tapestry of intricately woven threads, ablaze with the fire of divine love embedded in every fragment of matter. The fire streaming from the radiant center is the energy of divine love that impregnates, organizes, sustains and energizes all things. Christ is at the center, at the very core, permanently knitting everything together as well as being knit together with all creation.
In the Temple Jesus stood at the heart of the Jewish people. He made a clear, unmistakable
statement. The tragedy is — we did not and still do not understand there is no need for a Temple, for incense or sacrificial offerings. In Christ there are no chosen races or excluded nations. We, all of us, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, agnostic — we all are the Living Body of Christ. Had we understood this, there would have been no holocaust in Germany and no apartheid in Israel.