Last Sunday was the beginning of Holy Week which focused on both the Palm and the Passion stories. Combining these texts is an intentional choice that many faith communities have made as a reminder that we cannot get to Easter without holding space for the tension that resides at the crucifixion. This is not the only intentional choice faith communities make during this holy time of year. A deliberate choice was made not to include a certain word in the service last week, however, we’re going to talk about it now.
While some faith communities tend to avoid reading difficult texts, the good intentions of this practice excuses us to a certain extent from being accountable to the harm they have perpetuated, in this case against our Jewish neighbors. At some point, we become complicit through our silence. As the Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney writes in A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church, “the Passion narratives on Palm Sunday and Good Friday have been used to incite lethal physical violence against Jewish communities by the Church and its ministers. They have also been used to craft violent, anti-Semitic theologies that blame Jews for the death of Jesus, demean and defame Judaism, and deem it failed and its covenants replaced.”
As God’s beloved who recognize our mutual kinship to all of God’s creation, how do we take responsibility for reconciling this harm? Dr. Amy-Jill Levine has provided a resource which includes various strategies implemented by faith communities and educational institutions. She writes that “there are many ways congregations can address the difficult texts. Put a note in service bulletins to explain the harm the texts have caused. Read the problematic texts silently, or in a whisper. Have Jews today give testimony about how they have been hurt by the texts. Those who proclaim the problematic verses from the pulpit might imagine a Jewish child sitting in the front pew and take heed: don’t say anything that would hurt this child, and don’t say anything that would cause a member of the congregation to hurt this child. Better still: educate the next generation, so that when they hear the problematic words proclaimed, they have multiple contexts — theological, historical, ethical — by which to understand them.”
I reached out to a couple friends asking what they hoped Christian faith communities would know going into Holy Week. I will provide those resources below. As we go forth in Holy Week, may our journey be guided by the divine love which calls us to witness our collective sacredness. Amen.