- Music Video: I Do by Musiq Soulchild
- Music Video: I Do by Jessie James Decker
- Poem: Do Not! (excerpt of full poem at Poetry Foundation) By Stevie Smith
… Oh know your own heart, that heart’s not wholly evil,And from the particular judge the general,If judge you must, but with compassion see life,Or else, of yourself despairing, flee strife.
- Poem: Bread (excerpt of full poem available on Poetry Foundation)
By W. S. Merwin for Wendell BerryEach face in the street is a slice of breadwandering onsearching …
In anticipation of the coming Passion Week, which is the holiest week of Christianity between Palm Sunday and Easter, we are reminded that Jesus celebrated PASSOVER with his friends. It was a Jewish ritual.
This seder meal is an act of remembrance of the Jews suffering in Egypt, and God’s act of liberation: freeing the Jewish slaves in the time of Exodus. The great Hebrew narrative goes on to tell of Moses’ leadership through his people’s times of trial and being lost in the wilderness, and acknowledges their wandering and forgetting the covenant with God, and celebrates receiving the ten commandments, and coming to their promised land.
This seder meal continues to be celebrated by Jews each year. Over time and layered by Christian tradition, we now symbolically honor a form of the seder meal as communion: our Last Supper. And during Passion Week, our Maundy Thursday supper is often a seder meal, similar to what we understand was shared by Jesus and his followers.
Below is a diagram of the seder plate in traditional Jewish customs today:
The meal that we celebrate at communion holds echoes that reach back through millennia, into deep memory. Yet it also has meaning now.
People continue to suffer. To seek liberation. To desire their promised land, their home, their place and way of belonging. To need redemption.
I would argue that we share spiritual ancestors and relations. And these meal hold as much meaning now, as they did thousands of years ago. Our faith ties us to our spiritual cousins: Jews and Muslims. We are all connected by our faithfulness to One God.
This PASSOVER meal, now transformed Maundy Thursday’s meal and communion, reminds us that inside Holy Week, Passion Week, which starts and ends triumphantly, also contains the trial and execution of our Messiah. It holds its own time of suffering and loss, and three days of absence and separation. Like those who sat down to the seder meal, remembering their past, when we partake of communion, we also remember oppression and liberation. I don’t claim that it’s the same, but that we are bound together by this shared narrative.
Like the seder meal, the Christian communion also ends in hope. Yes, we look backward, rooting ourselves in time and place and history. And yet, we also look forward with hope, believing in the transforming grace and love of God to heal and restore all of us, and ultimately, this whole world. We hope in God’s capacity to bring all of us to a common table in a mutual home … someday.
Excerpts from today’s lectionary:
- Leviticus 23:4-6 — These are the appointed festivals of the Lord, the holy convocations, which you shall celebrate at the time appointed for them. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, there shall be a passover offering to the Lord, and on the fifteenth day of the same month is the festival of unleavened bread to the Lord.
- 22 Luke 22:1 — Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near.
- 22 Luke 22:7-8 — Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus[b] sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.”
- 22 Luke 22:13 — So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
Today’s text highlights the word CHILDREN. It is used here to refer to generations of Israel that inherit the legacy of God’s chosen people. It is also, in Gospels, used to refer to all those adopted into God’s kingdom by becoming children of God. It implies vulnerability in our relationship with a God who wants to care for us.
By implication, we are all siblings. And in the way of families, we didn’t all choose each other, and it’s not always easy to get along with our adopted brothers and sisters. And yet this is our family, and we are asked to find ways to be in community together. We can sit at a common table, maybe on opposite ends, maybe arguing or staying quiet or speaking out, but we pass the bread and wine, and we eat together and pray together, and ideally when we leave the table, we find common work to do together in the world.
CHILDREN in the time of Christ were vulnerable. The Gospels tell many stories of children being brought into Jesus’ presence for a blessing. Parents were concerned for their offsprings’ wellbeing, because amny children didn’t live into adulthood: childhood mortality rates were high in those times. Gospels stories especially include instances of Jesus healing and even resurrecting children.
Thus the comparison of people to children is a reference to our vulnerability, as well as God’s caregiving role. We are asked to come into God’s presence openly, admitting that we are imperfect and flawed, beautiful and also broken. We asked to come, not robed in confidence, authority, and trying to look like our best and most powerful, potent selves, but as our honest selves.
For some people, the image of a mother-like or father-like God is problematic. We don’t all come from safe or healthy families of origin. Sometimes our personal experiences with parents cause us to mistrust the idea of God as a parent and ourselves as children. It’s important to honor this issue, and find other ways to talk about and illustrate God’s care and connection to us.
CHILDREN are the offspring of our own bodies. Like us, they integrate spirit and flesh. And they are tethered to us not only by physical, genetic ties, but also emotional, spiritual and mental ones.
After all, children are vulnerable in today’s society, too. Daily headlines remind us of this, whether it’s children dying from violence in our homes, city streets or someone else’s children killed as collateral damage in global conflicts. Diabetes is a threat in our country. Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues abound. Children are victims of abuse and crime. They struggle with addiction. Many of the US un-homed population are children. Even in the United States, and in greater proportion around the world, children live in extreme conditions of poverty, hunger, without shelter or access to basic healthcare or economic stability. Too many are living in times and places of violence, uprooted and forced to move without a regular home, refugees.
CHILDREN put a face on issues of justice. They cause us to pay attention, when it migh otherwise be easy to avoid or ignore the problem. It’s hard to look into the eyes of a child without caring what happens next. CHILDREN reach past our boundaries and create connection, when we’d prefer not to get involved.
As we are called to care to love God, and our neighbors as ourselves, our neighbors’ children are at stake.
Excerpt from lectionary texts from Bible:
- Exodus 12: 26- 27 — When your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this observance?’ you shall say, ‘It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord.
- John 11: 53 — And not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God.