STORY: The Jefferson Bible
ACTIVITY: Easter egg hunt. Eggs contain treats, jokes, and quotes from the teachings of Jesus. The congregation will reflect on the teachings together.
What a week it has been. On Monday, just after the marathon ended, we watched, gob-smacked, as Notre Dame burned and burned. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
In the days that followed, environmental activists around the globe staged disruptive actions. In London, for example, they glued themselves to trains and stopped traffics for days. 680 people were arrested in that city alone.
Then on Thursday, the redacted Mueller came out, and the US media erupted with analysis and prolonged cogitation. Who is the victim? Who are the criminals? Where is the smoking gun?
It is a fitting moment to pause and meditate on the moral meanings of the great festivals Passover and Easter. It is a fitting moment to ground ourselves once again in their enduring lessons.
At Passover we celebrate freedom. We remember the story of Moses and Pharoah, how God gave his messenger the persuasive power of Plagues, and over and over, Pharaoh resisted. But Moses persisted. He said over and over, Let my People Go.
Until Pharoah finally did. Only to chase them to the Red Sea and there perish.
And that’s only the beginning. After all the plagues and the miracles, the Jews still face 40 more years in the desert, wandering, hoping somehow someday to get to the Promised Land.
The Jesus story coincides with the Passover holiday, when the great teacher enters Jerusalem humbly, on a donkey, but the crowds follow him and the powers-that-be are alerted to the threat he poses. By week’s end, the man is hanging. He suffers like a common criminal, alongside common criminals.
The way, my friends, is never easy. The path is never clear or straightforward. We can’t see the way forward, good people disagree with one another. We get lost. We suffer.
Like slaves, like criminals, we suffer. Like ordinary humans with soft fleshy
bodies and cloudy old brains, we suffer.
The way is never clear or simple or easy.
But the teachings are.
“‘Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
“He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone.”
Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
The last shall be first, and the first last.
Set all the slaves free. Freedom is our human birthright.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
“The truth will set you free.”
You are the light of the world.
If you love only those who love you, what reward will you get?
If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
“We cannot forget the politics of Easter,” the Reverend William Barber wrote just yesterday in the Guardian.
“Jesus was crucified as a criminal because the movement he had started threatened the established order maintained by the political and religious authorities of his day. Today, in the midst of policy violence and racist attacks against undocumented Americans, refugees and asylum seekers, Jesus stands with those labeled “illegal”. To celebrate his resurrection is to proclaim that the lies being used to pit people against one another under this administration cannot last forever.”
No they cannot. The lies are superficial, transparent, transitory. We see right through them.
The truth is permanent, eternal. The moral teachings are crystal clear.
Freedom is our human birthright.
Every person has worth and dignity. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
The way is never clear, the going never easy. But deep inside we know the right direction.
“In the springtime we remember,” writes Victoria Safford. “the promised land is not a destination – it is a way of going. The land beyond the Jordan, that country of freedom and dignity and laughter – you carry it inside you all the while.
It is planted in your mind and heart already,
before you ever start out,
before it even occurs to you that in order to leave that life in Egypt, the intolerable bondage of that life,
what you need to do is stand up and walk forward.”
Today, this morning, my friends, let us pray that we might, as a nation and as a people, stand up and walk forward, toward that Promised land the one of freedom and dignity and laughter we already hold inside.