The God Squad: Passover, Easter both grounded in love

I love the fact that that Passover and Easter, both being lunar holidays, usually overlap. This seems to me to be a sign from God that we're more the same than we are different. To be sure, the official theologies of Passover and Easter are fundamentally different.

The Passover meal is eaten for God, and the Easter meal (the Eucharist) is eaten of God. In Easter, a man becomes God, and in Passover, a man leads an entire people to God at Mount Sinai. In Easter, atonement is made through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus, while in Passover, the ancient biblical sacrifices offered at the Temple in Jerusalem remind us of how we still must sacrifice for our faith and seek atonement from God for our sins.

However, beyond the differences between ham and gefilte fish, chocolate bunnies and horseradish, Exodus from Egypt and Exodus from original sin, there are powerful commonalities between these two supremely important holidays that we'd all do well to remember.

Passover and Easter both remind us that nature is not enough to reveal God. Springtime is a time so marked by the glories of nature that it's easy to think of nature as a direct pathway to God. This is not so. Nature is amoral. In nature, the strong eat the weak and storms tear up coastlines and cities without remorse.

Both Passover and Easter overlay sacred history upon the eternal cycle of nature. The Exodus and the Passion are both sacred moments in history, unique and unrepeatable. They teach us that beyond nature, God's love and grace are available to us, especially when we are weak and about to be consumed by earthly power. They teach us to look beyond nature to the God who made nature and made us.

This makes the change of seasons an opportunity for a change of heart. The immutable power of nature is made mutable by God's love. This is the essential spiritual revolution that Judaism and Christianity brought to the world. We're not just animals driven by the urges and rhythms of nature. We are sacred beings with animal natures made in the image of a loving God. Nature yields to love.

Passover and Easter also remind us that hope exists even in our most broken and fearful times. The people trapped temporarily at the shore of the Red Sea lost hope. The followers and family of Jesus, seeing the death of their messianic savior, lost hope at the crucifixion. But hope endures and the sea splits and the cross and the cave are emptied of death.

Those miraculous historical evidences of hope must give to each of us enduring hope that our personal trials will yield to a divinely ordained hope as we progress on our spiritual journeys to the God of hope. I know that for many, the essential gifts of religion are laws and customs and creeds, but for me the greatest gift of faith is hope. May your burdens be lifted by hope and may you never despair that you will live out your days in the House of Bondage. Sinai and the road to Damascus await you and the sun will shine again on your burdened life.

Passover and Easter both teach us to treasure our families as the fundamental building blocks of faith. Beyond the communal prayers in church and synagogue, these holidays give us the impetus to gather in our homes with those we love — not just families but also dear friends for old and beloved customs and menus and the deep feeling that we are knit up in the fabric of family and friendship.

Even for those who are not ready or open to the deep theology of these days, these gatherings retain their power to call us together. I'm not the one to say that this is not enough of a motivation to gather and eat and share our blessings. For many, this is enough for them and for now.

I bless you and those who love you as you gather together in the holy springtime of your life. We live the rest of the year eating mostly alone or in small groups with no ritual framework or history to our meals. This time we eat together and that is a surpassing blessing.

Finally, both Passover and Easter teach us to keep one eye open for the coming of the Messiah. Whether it's the first or the second coming matters to those who score theology, but it will not matter so much to anyone else if our hope for an epiphany of God's chosen one becomes finally real in our broken world.

We are charged to do everything we can through acts of love and compassion, justice and forgiveness to make the world ready for the coming of the Messiah, but we know that such a profound change in our spiritual horizons cannot come through our unaided efforts alone. So I pray and I ask you to pray with me for the coming of the Messiah, whose name we cannot agree upon but whose promise gives us the strength to carry on until that springtime which will be the very last and the very first at the very same time.

Happy Passover and Happy Easter, and God bless us every one!

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