Last Sunday I was leading worship at Thatcham Methodist Church; one of the lectionary readings I used was Luke 4:14-21. This is an account of when Jesus was invited to read from one of the scrolls during the Sabbath service in the synagogue at Nazareth. The passage he read was from Isaiah 61which, describing the message of the promise Messiah, stated that he would: 'bring good news to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to announce release to captives and freedom to those in prison'. These words have been used in many countries, particularly Latin America, to develop what is often referred to as 'Liberation Theology'.
Reflecting on the Bible reading, I compared the contrasting response of Christians as illustrated in story of the Jewish refugees who were given support and cared for by Christians in Mousehole - see the Inter Faith Relations home page - and the experience of Rabbi Hugo Gryn (1930-1996) recounted in his autobiography Chasing Shadows. During the service at Thatcham I read the following passages from Hugo Gryn's book:
'Although Jews were involved in the [Berehovo] community over such a long time and although, particularly in the Czech period, they really had full legal equality ... the fact is that while Jews and non-Jews depended on each other for many of the essentials in life, and we lived in the same society, we were not really part of the same community. There was hardly any visiting, sharing or gossiping.
I realise now that of Berehovo's three big and beautiful churches, I had never been inside any of them, and the chances are that none of the Christians had ever set foot in any of our synagogues. And when the chips were down, I do not know of a single instance of a Jew [from Berehovo] being saved or hidden by a non-Jew...........
But there are still so many prisons. Of poverty and of ignorance, of loneliness and being abandoned, of political tyrannies and religious fanaticism, bars around people made of racism, wounds inflicted by the barbs of intolerance and bigotry - all of them betrayals of humanity. Human rights are either the rights of all people or else they become a meaningless facade for a bankrupt conscience. Civil liberties are an empty slogan unless they guarantee every citizen freedom of opportunity to work where their talents best suit them, to live where they may choose and to enjoy an equal partnership in the brotherhood of humanity.'
The challenge for each one of us is: to what extent do we 'visit, share and gossip' with members of different faiths or are we living parallel lives as in Berehovo? Do we engage with people of different faiths? Are we sensitive to the needs of those around us who are lonely or feeling abandoned? Which of the two church responses is closer to that of the local church of which were are of member: Mousehole or Berehovo? Which of the two church responses reflects the life and teachings of Jesus?