Sunday, April 15, 2007

Doubting Thomas and fear of the Jews

The Gospel reading for today is the wonderful story of doubting Thomas (John 20:19-31).

It is from the Gospel of John, with its language about "the Jews," in this case "for fear of the Jews" in the first sentence. The language makes it seem as if Thomas and the other disciples were not Jews -- which of course they were!

I wrote about this in an essay (also a sermon-help sort of thing) in the late lamented but still online The Witness.

This Sunday's Gospel and most of the other readings for the day – Psalms included – are about opening doors, not only literally but into new ways of seeing and being and doing. Easter is the season of openings and transformations: open tomb, walls traversed, truths revealed. Even the jaws of death and the gates of hell give way.

The Gospel also contains its own jagged gate: “for fear of the Jews.”

Mel Gibson's film The Passion of The Christ reminds many of us of the anti-Semitic uses of the Passion story and of the anti-Judaism within the Passion texts themselves. What we do not always attend to is the way in which this season of Resurrection is pervaded with some of the most deeply anti-Jewish material in the Christian testament.

As you can tell, I wrote it three years ago just as Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" was coming out.

You can find the rest of the essay here.

Yes, it does broaden out, while not losing sight of the jagged edge.

Reading together – in conversation – the text and its edges, its fissures, its uses and misuses, its past and present contexts, how will we define our Episcopal, Anglican, Christian, and Earth communities? Like the early disciples, we often huddle with walls about us and doors locked. But the Risen One walks through them. Will we follow?

P.S. A few of my clergy friends who don't want to spend the whole sermon explaining context substitute words and read the Gospel as "for fear of the authorities."

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