I realise that in my jet-lag haze last week I didn't even mention the fact that our theology evening course spent the evening looking at Judaism. For the first half the evening we were visited by a rabbi from London. It was fascinating to hear about the normality of modern Judaism not the archaic Judaism of the Old Testament and indeed the New Testament. Some of his first words were... "Judaism has moved on in three thousand years since the Hebrew bible". I realised that, in fairness, I often have thought of Judaism solely in terms of the faith known to Jesus and his disciples or to Esther, Jacob, Isaiah and the rest. The rabbi showed us that Judaism has had to deal with the self same issues that face the Anglican church; the decline of the traditional family, the question of women in leadership and issues in human sexuality.
Of course, as open as we were to hear about his faith, it was not a faith we could share. He could not encompass the idea that God could be divided into a trinity or that God could come to earth as a human being in the form of Jesus. I could see that he spoke from his faith and that he was a man serving God and yet he also spoke of a faith that wasnot consistent with my own. It was a real challenge. How could someone of the Jewish faith speak to me as a Christian. I was reminded of the words of (of this is quite embarrassing) one of the members of the Spinners at their Christmas concert when he introduced their performance of a Jewish song Avenu Shalom alechem (apologies ofr spelling anyone who knows better). He said that people always asked why they sang that song. His explanation was simple; "The Man Himself was a Hebrew."
In the next few weeks we will be hearing from other leaders of different faiths. I wonder what challenges they may present to us?