On Tuesday night, May 7, our sisters and brothers at American Lutheran Church in
Burbank will host Commemoration of the Holocaust, A Story of Perseverance.
Holocaust survivor Joseph Alexander will speak about his experiences in twelve Nazi
This will be one of many commemorations on and around Yom Hashoah, which begins
this Wednesday at sundown.
It is especially important for us as Christians to remember this atrocious history and to
remain mindful of the deeply regrettable role our tradition has played in it.
(As if this wasn't true enough when I wrote it earlier this week, yesterday's shooting in
Poway is a haunting reminder that hatred and violence against Jews isn't just some
sad relic of the past.)
Yes, there are stories of Christians being Christlike, saving lives, protecting the innocent,
defying the Third Reich, defending synagogues, behaving like Jesus.
But there is also a large, long, dark shadow side of Christian anti-Semitism, including
writings of Martin Luther our church has since condemned, and its roots reach back all the way into the New Testament.
So I cringe evert time I read the line in this morning's gospel that the doors of the house
where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews.
Why does John, almost certainly Jewish himself, write that?
This and other details from his gospel have led scholars to believe that John's community
had an ongoing conflict with a nearby synagogue.
Belief in Jesus became a fault line that separated families and friendships.
People were forced to choose between faith and family, then disowned for their
The synagogue rejected Jesus believers, while John and his community no doubt irritated
the situation with unwanted evangelism and petty trolling, because human nature
hasn't really changed much in thousands of years; we've just gotten new toys.
In the heat of this nasty local spat, John refers to his neighbors as "the Jews" and
associates them with the conservative religious leaders who had an influential
hand in Jesus' arrest and crucifixion.
Fast forward hundreds of years.
John's words become Scripture and the specifics get forgotten.
The church labels Jews "Christ-killers" and worse, and the church's enormous influence
on European culture over the centuries contributes signficantly to the conditions
that make the unthinkable happen.
Historically, it could be convincingly argued that the church had a bigger hand in the
Holocaust of millions than the Jews had in the crucifixion of one man.
There is certainly now more reason for Jews to lock their doors for fear of the Christians.
So why do we read this locked door gospel as Easter good news?
Because there is a break-in.
Jesus gets past the security system.
The risen Christ, who is a Jew, appears behind the locked doors.
The burglar, an escaped criminal, shoots nobody and steals nothing; he is there to give,
not to take.
Jesus stands in the circle of fear and s