3.02.2010

The Jewishness of Christianity


Our church's Sunday afternoon Lenten series on the cultural and architectural aspects of Jesus' ministry on earth reminds me of the Jewish roots of the Christian narrative, and of how I benefited by having my formative Christian years take place at the University of Pennsylvania, which at the time had a significant Jewish population on campus. Jesus was a practicing Jew, ministered mostly to other Jews, and both spoke and fulfilled Jewish Scriptures. Even as He spoke of and ushered in a more expansive religion, what was being pushed out to other nations was firmly rooted in Jewish concepts. You could be forgiven for concluding that learning about ancient Jewish religion is more useful to living out the Christian faith than what is taught in most modern-day American churches.

And so circulating in a place with so many Jewish people was a fantastic Petri dish for this young Christian. It wasn't hard to attend their religious services, have late night discourse about what God is like, and just observe the Jewish worldview in action concerning concepts like having a relationship with the Scriptures or taking a Sabbath rest. When Jewish groups organized around festivals like Purim, Yom Kippur, or the Passover Seder, it was a unique opportunity to learn about concepts and practices at the very core of the Christian story. I'm thankful for this kind of exposure, and our church's Lenten series reminds me to make sure I have more such exposure.

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