The Jewish holiday of Pesach (Passover) is a spring festival that celebrates the freedom of the Jewish people from being slaves in Egypt (Mitzraim – Narrow Places). The holiday has come to be celebrated with a hope for freedom for all people. The Passover Seder (celebration ceremony) uses the Haggadah (“order”) to celebrate the holiday. The Haggadah has always had the story of four children who comment or ask questions about the seder. This is a modern version of the questions from American Jewish World Service:
At Passover each year, we read the story of our ancestors’ pursuit of liberation from oppression. When confronting this history, how do we answer our children when they ask us how to pursue justice in our time?
What does the activist child ask?
“The Torah tells me, ‘justice, justice you shall pursue,’ but how can I pursue justice?”
Empower her always to seek pathways to advocate for the vulnerable. As Proverbs teaches, “Speak up for the mute, for the rights of the unfortunate. “Speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy.”
What does the skeptical child ask?
“How can I solve problems of such enormity?”
Encourage him by explaining that he need not solve the problems, he must only do what he is capable of doing. As we read in Pirkei Avot – The Ethics of Our Ancestors, “It is not your responsibility to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
What does the indifferent child say?
“It’s not my responsibility.”
Persuade her that responsibility cannot be shirked. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel writes, “The opposite of good is not evil; the opposite of good is indifference. In a free society where terrible wrongs exist, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
And the uninformed child who does not know how to ask…
Prompt him to see himself as an inheritor of our people’s legacy. As it says in Deuteronomy, “You must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
At this season of liberation, let us work toward the liberation of all people.
Let us respond to our children’s questions with action and justice.
Cantor Elliot Taubman
Rev. Joseph Protano, Pastor
St. Andrew Catholic Church
Dear friends and visitors of Block Island:
What a year! Disease and death in numbers we could not imagine. Thousands of front liners put their lives on the line to save and succor strangers. Tens of thousands of others put their lives and all those around them in danger of the virus and death by selfishly and deliberately ignoring the science and the minimal precautions. We lived through a year in which we witnessed the savagery of murders of our fellow citizens; the reaction of the outraged and the insurrection of our very democracy. Through it all, our neighbors and communities found millions out of work, out of money, out of food and out of hope. Even the children were not spared the loss of school and their friends. What a year indeed and in fact.
When Jesus walked the streets of Nazareth, Galilee and Jerusalem, the horrors of disease, poverty, indiscriminate death at the hands of an occupying force and unethical, amoral religious leaders were the daily burdens of an oppressed people.
It was to the human condition, as it is, that Jesus came to right the wrongs and Himself choke on the dust of unfairness and crumble into death on the cross of shame. In the human condition as a human, Jesus walked side by side with His fellow humans with the only cure for disease, the only remedy for injustice, the only freedom from oppression: Love of neighbor as one loves themselves. So long as the human species denies the Creator of nature, the Savior of sinners and the Re-Creator of Nature and humanity, all brought about in Love, then we are doomed to hate and be hated.
With the Resurrection of Jesus, God makes it clear and definitive that death does not have the last word; hate does not have pervasive power; injustice does not overcome goodness and fairness. From the very ashes of brutality, God raises up hundreds of millions of the Christ-like who do love their neighbors; who do fight injustices with their own lives; who do the right thing just because it is right. And, yes, this painful year witnesses the Resurrection of Jesus in all men, women and children who said “yes” to Love and allowed Love to conquer! Happy Easter!
Easter Reflection 2021
The Rev. Eletha Buote-Greig
One of my favorite Easter songs is “He’s Alive” by Dolly Parton. The words of her song begin after the crucifixion of Jesus. It highlights the fear that Peter and the other disciples must have been experiencing. Would the soldiers come for them? Another verse tells how Mary came to Peter to tell him the stone closing the tomb had been rolled away. He and the other disciples ran and found the stone was gone and the tomb was empty. Peter returns home feeling so guilty. Everything he had promised Jesus caused him shame. As we all know, Peter denied knowing Jesus at the time when Jesus needed him most.
I remember in my twenties and early thirties I wouldn’t even give a hint of my faith, my belief in Jesus. Wanting to be part of the in-group, I was well aware that I would be out, and not in, if I said anything. Silently, I felt guilty and ashamed that I was afraid to declare my faith in Jesus.
In the song Dolly says, “something suddenly happened…light that came from everywhere drove shadows from the room. And Jesus stood before me (Peter) with his arms held open wide…And I fell down on my knees and I (Peter) just clung to Him and cried.” Peter experienced that wonderful gesture that says, “I forgive you.”
Falling into the arms of Christ and feeling embraced can cause all of us to cry. Those experiences bring us back onto our feet and as the song says, “the guilt and the shame disappears in sweet release, and fear melts into peace.” Our spirits are lifted up and we are renewed.
I don’t know about you, but my human condition keeps me seeking the open arms of Christ and feeling embraced knowing the unspoken words from him are “I forgive you.” It is at the end of her song that Dolly, with that wonderful and powerful voice declares, “He’s alive, He’s alive, yes, He’s alive and I’m forgiven, heaven’s gates are open wide…I believe it. He’s alive. Sweet Jesus.”
Each time I experience forgiveness and heaven’s gates are open wide it is a resurrection in the here and now. I’m forgiven, I can start anew, start again with a clean slate and continue on my journey until my final resurrection brings me into the presence of God.
He’s alive, yes, He’s alive and heaven’s gates are open wide. AMEN.
Shadows & Sunshine
"Arise, shine! For your light has come; the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For look! Darkness will cover the earth and thick darkness is over the people, but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.” – Isaiah 60:1
I read a fascinating book recently entitled “Reading the Clouds: How You Can Forecast the Weather” by Oliver Perkins. He says that you can often tell what weather is coming just by looking at the sky. There are all different types of clouds; puffy cumulus that look like cotton candy spread out on a fair day. They can also tower above like giant anvils warning that you will soon be hammered by a squall. There are wispy cirrus clouds streaking the heavens like the light strokes of a paintbrush that often point to a change brought on by an approaching front. There are also the stratus clouds that cover the sun with a gray overcast and often bring rain with them. But above them all, if we can only soar high enough, the sun is always shining!
This past year has had the many clouds of a pandemic, and the many storms that it has brought with it. Yet even now, with the distribution of vaccines, we are beginning to see signs of light and life once more. Like the sun breaking forth after the clouds begin to dissipate, the hope of a newer, brighter season lays before us.
Like the sunshine, the light that Easter brings to us at this time of year is a reminder that clouds and storms and shadows may last for a moment, for a while, or even for a season, but that hope, light and life always return if we wait long enough for them. The shadowy clouds of death are eclipsed by the “Sonshine” of Easter’s promise; each year it reveals that the light of God shines forth to illuminate our way during this life, and holds forth the hope of life eternal in the next.
Happy Easter, Friends!
Pastor Peter Preiser, Harbor Church