by Rev. Dr. Stephen H. Furrer
April this year includes Passover and Easter, holidays celebrating, respectively, release from captivity and renewal in life. But this year, with the Coronavirus plague seeping across all of our lives, April is likely to be remembered as a very dark and foreboding time for many of us.
According to the biblical book of Exodus, the first Passover followed the tenth of Ten sequential Plagues, each one more disastrous than the last that God inflicted on Egypt through Moses and Aaron. The plagues increased in intensity, culminating in the death of firstborn children and livestock. The pass over was accomplished by splashing the blood of a slaughtered lamb or goat on their doorways, so that God would “pass over” their homes and spare their firstborns. And now, today, with the invisible Coronavirus raging worldwide outside everyone’s door, people everywhere are praying for new sacramental formulae in hopes that God will pass over their houses over, too.
Generations after the Exodus, Jesus and his followers came to Jerusalem on Passover week to celebrate their people’s long ago liberation. But things didn’t turn out as most of them had expected. Moments after their Seder ended, Jesus was arrested and summarily tried. And put to death by Roman authorities the very next day—Good Friday.
If the stories stopped there—dead children and animals / the summary execution of another revolutionary poet—it would have been no story at all; or not one worth recalling. But there’s more to each story. The Israelites gather their things and depart in the nick of time, eventually finding their way to the Promised Land. The disciples, buoyed by the palatable presence of their leader still experienced in their minds and hearts, were guided onwards to great purpose: establishing a democratic and transformational Church Universal they suddenly understood had been Jesus’ goal.
We have no way, at this point, of knowing how things are going to turn out a month or six weeks or fifteen weeks from now, let alone in a half a year. Grim as things may look today, we must remember that the whole story, while including dark and harrowing passages, leads in the end to liberation and creative, purposeful renewal. That is the lesson at the heart of both holidays. Let us absorb these lessons as fully as we can, that we can fully recognize, and be included in the celebration that comes at the end.
Yours in abiding liberal faith, Stephen