Simon’s Says ~ from Alan

The other day one of you noticed a book I keep on my office desk:  The Jewish Annotated New Testament, edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler.  The volume reads the New Testament through a Jewish/Hebrew lens, which is only appropriate since Jesus and his followers were for the most part faithful Jews.  (The significant exception to this is Luke, writer of the gospel and of Acts, who was a gentile.).  The fact that the book sits on my desk rather than on the bookshelf is testament (sorry) to the use it gets.  I find it very helpful to understand how Jewish ideas and traditions both inform and define the story of Jesus and the experience of the early church.

I think the book is particularly useful (full disclosure:  I have studied with Amy-Jill Levine) in our times, as we are witnessing an uptick in anti-Semitic thought and actions.  The Tree of Life Synagogue shootings represent the current at its worst, of course; just as disturbing is the FBI’s 2017 report that anti-Semitic hate crimes rose by 37% over the previous year.  (The ADL, which keeps more careful track, shows a 57% increase in anti-Semitic incidents, including hate crimes, harassment and vandalism over the same period.) So remembering Christianity’s Jewish roots is more than just an academic exercise; it is an important part of confessing our roots and living in solidarity together with our Jewish brothers and sisters.

Later this year, the Valley Shore Clergy Association will be hosting a series of “Peace Potluck” suppers (more details will come as plans firm up) that will transcend denominational lines and include our Jewish and Muslim neighbors.  It will be an opportunity for folks of varied faith traditions to engage in conversation and discover the many, many ways our beliefs share common origins and continue to converge, because It is important in these days to be clear about the ways we belong together, believe together, live and love and act together.  (Also, as this is written, Rabbi Marci Bellows and I are planning occasional joint Coffice Hours in town - stay tuned...)

Along the same vein, in the department of coming attractions, this Sunday we’re going to look at the giving of the divine name in Exodus and how it became a central part of Jesus’ identity in the gospel of John.  While the next sentence may seem totally unrelated, it is not:  this weekend the New Haven Symphony is presenting a concert performance of Dr Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham,” a story that will be front and center in God’s revelation to Moses in Exodus.  See you then.

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