Synagogue 3000

It’s now been a week since I left my new friends at Synagogue 3000. Others, particularly Ryan Bolger, have already blogged about the substance of the meeting. I, instead, will blog about my personal experience there. [UPDATE: May I also commend to you these blog posts about the event: Synablog and Scott Collins-Jones.]

I spend a lot of time at Christian institutions — in the last three months I’ve presented at places as diverse as Princeton Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and Wheaton College. At every place, I have been received with a mixture of hospitality and skepticism. While I have been seen as a fellow follower of Christ, I’ve also been seen as a threat (I imagine that I pose a different kind of threat to each group).

Now, Jews surely have more reason to receive me, a committed Christian believer, with a great deal of suspicion. Surely my Christianity is more threatening to Jews than it is to Presbyterians, Southern Baptists, Episcopalians, or Evangelicals. Surely people of my tribe have earned hearty skepticism from Jews.

But, instead of suspicion and skepticism, I was received with the warmth and hospitality that made me think, “These really are ‘People of the Book.’” The hospitality toward strangers that is such a prevalent theme in the Hebrew Scriptures was exemplified in spades by the rabbis, cantors, and Jewish leaders present.

And the worship! To describe it would be a disservice, so it will have to suffice to say that it touched my soul in ways that Christian worship has not since I-don’t-know-when.

Was my confidence in Jesus, the Messiah, shaken by my time with those who do not accept his Messiahship? No, it was bolstered. But not in a fist-shaking, white knuckle way. More in a quiet, humble, this-is-going-to-be-alright kind of way. Oh, you can bet that Emergent will be working with these Jewish leaders more in the days to come. They are beautiful people.

  • Adam

    And for this, I am glad…thank you Tony for helping to make gatherings and partnerships like this possible…I look forward to seeing what other groups we in Emergent continue to work, dialogue and worship with…

  • Matthew Francis

    Amen! Amen! Amen! If memory serves, that’s a Hebrew word.

  • faith

    How beautiful! This gives me hope as well, and I’m always in need of a little of that!

  • Anonymous

    just another peice of evidence that emergent is becoming more and more Catholic – stepping in the direction of the Jews – a good thing, for sure…the only thing that seperates the Protestants (Emergents) and the Jews are the Catholics, the great mediators of truthHabemus Papam Pope Jones-Sanchez Susio

  • Short Hairs

    Snachez,I agree. This is one area where the Protestants have always been lacking. That is, in their appreciation for the people of the book. The people of the source, from whence we all came – The Jews – the most successful and wise people on this planet. It’s about time that the Protestants buck up like the Catholics and respect their eldes (those who went before them). Great insight Sanchez.

  • -mike-

    Although I was sceptical at first, our emails have changed my mind. I think this could be a very good thing, I pray God will continue to impart you wisdom and lead you in this journey.

  • Mark Van Steenwyk

    That sounds amazing. I wish I could have been a part of it. In spite of recent comments I’ve made on my blog, I really think that interfaith dialogue is incredibly important for us. Incidentally, we are having an interfaith dialogue between Jews and Christians for our March 1st Pub Gathering. In April, we will have a similar conversation with Muslims (though we won’t have that one at a pub) :)

  • David Drury

    Joy. That’s what I always seem to sense “the People of the Book” have: joy. Rabbis themselves and Jewish gatherings in gernal seem to have joy in ways that those in my tradition are lacking. I’ve always been drawn to that and wonder what we’ve lost in the translation to the West.It’s great to get your mini-report on the experience. May God keep blessing your journeys.

  • Anonymous

    Beautiful…..this dialogue makes me proud to be associated w/ emergent….thank youLindsay A.

  • Tank

    That sounds amazing. Thanks for pushing the boundaries of our faith. I pray for your peace in the upcoming year. I’ll see you in San Diego!

  • Friar Tuck

    I really liked your post Tony, although I thought “of course” when you talked about the Jewish folks being more open to you. You don’t pose a threat to them.Evangelicals and Mainliners see you as a threat…which is why you are viewed with more skepticism.

  • Arnold

    Friar Tuck wrote,Evangelicals and Mainliners see you as a threat…which is why you are viewed with more skepticism.”Tony IS an evangelical and mainliner. If he isn’t then who is?Come on, don’t bullshit me….

  • faith

    ^^ to be fair it would depend on what your definitions of evangelical and mainline are. There are many diffrent definitions.Of the evangelicals I know, they would not consider Tony one of them, but the mainline definately would. But does it matter anyway? No matter where we go or how we choose to ‘define’ ourselves (or what definition others put on us) Isn’t living out our giftedness in the way we know we should more important than what lable we associate with?

  • David Mackey

    Enjoyed the thoughts on worship with the Jews. My wife attended the Institute for Jewish Studies at Philadelphia Biblical Univ.

  • Friar Tuck

    arnold..exactly what I was saying.You are not afraid of someone who is not one of you. But when a leader among you leads folks in strange and new directions, that is threatening and that is scary. “A prophet is never accepted in the home town”

  • Anonymous

    tuck,who considers tony a leader? He is self-appointed pope of emergent, an organization that doesn’t can’t define itself and one that know one really cares about…hell, I’m a leader and pope then too

  • Coach_Zee

    Tony,This is all very exciting. These types of conversations look more and more like the kingdom.A kingdom far bigger than many have understood or defined.

  • Reid Bradley

    I have read your blog for awhile and I wanted to ask you if you ever get tired of absorbing everyone else’s ill-willed thoughts towards your theology of which are directed towards you as a person, and not just at your theology?

  • soupablog

    this is great, Tony. keep up the good work. i’m excited.

  • Anonymous

    Tony recently came to the denominationally affiliated university I attend. This was after his post, so I’m not sure how he feels about his experience here. I was excited to have him come and hear what he had to say about this whole “emergent” thing. For the most part, I loved what he had to say and I feel that we accepted him warmly. However, my acceptance of him as a person does not mean acceptance of everything “emergent.” We want to ask tough questions of this new thing before we accept some new description of our faith. I love alot of what I’ve heard from emergent voices, but I’m still asking questions. -Tim


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