This past Saturday, during Shabbat services at the Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh, eleven people were murdered by a man fueled by anti-Semitic hatred, the kind that has terrorized our Jewish sisters and brothers for millennia. Our first response is to grieve, and so we mourn with the Jewish community the loss of precious lives cut short as they grapple with this act of hate. As we have been reading through the books of Acts, you perhaps have noticed that the theme of conflict between the Jewish and Gentile communities figures prominently in the story of the early church. These and other New Testament Scriptures have been used by Christians to fuel anti-Semitism through false interpretations, seeking to divide Jews from Christians using the person of Jesus, the Jewish rabbi who we call the Messiah.
Although we ourselves may not have promoted anti-Jewish theologies, we nonetheless confess, before God and our Jewish sisters and brothers, the ways in which the Christian church has promoted hate through fear, false narratives, and poor interpretation. Although it may not be our fault, it is our responsibility to set the record straight in proclaiming that the God of Jesus Christ, who we worship, is also the God of Israel, and that our hope is in the reconciliation, not the division, of all peoples.
Simply put, this vision of reconciliation is woven into the fabric of scripture. It begins with the “tree of life in the middle of the garden,” (Gen 2:9) and culminates in the “the tree of life with… the leaves of the tree [that are] for the healing of the nations.” (Rev 22)
Don’t be afraid to reach out to a Jewish friend, co-worker, or neighbor, and let them know that you care, and that you reject the hateful ideology that has led to this past week’s tragedy. As we continue our journey through Acts we must interpret scripture through the greatest commandment: To love God and love neighbor. There can be no valid Christian interpretation outside of this. This congregation seeks to provide these interpretive tools through worship, education, and in conversation with pastors and one another.
Peace, Pastors Camille, Rachel, and Chris