“Living With Hope”
This week was one of those rare calendar events where the high holidays of three Abrahamic religions overlapped. The Jews’ Passover was from April 5 to 13, Christian Lent and Easter was from February 22 to April 9, and Islam’s Ramadan is from March 22 to April 20.
We know that the history is the Passover celebration of the freedom of Hebrew children from Egyptian slavery. Rabbi Danielle Eskow explains Passover this way. “It is essentially a festival of freedom and justice. Part of the reason why Passover is understood and appreciated by so many, regardless of their religious background, is that the core of the holiday is about justice for all. It’s about helping the downtrodden and persecuted find freedom. We remember that we were once slaves in Egypt and that it’s our responsibility to help others in similar situations.”
Ramadan is a holy month of worship, the study of the Quran, prayer, and fasting for Muslims. During Ramadan, healthy adults are expected to fast from Suhoor (the final meal before sunrise) until Iftar (the meal to break the fast, and during the hours of the fast, Muslims abstain from all food and water. During Ramadan, the fast helps believers purify their hearts, renew their faith, seek forgiveness, and increase self-discipline. During Ramadan, believers are also encouraged to abstain from anger and to show compassion. Fasting helps them be more aware of the plight of those who are poor and suffering. Acts of charity are encouraged.
Lent is the season Christians exercise prayer, fasting, and study on the sacrifice of Jesus and ends on Good Friday, which celebrates the death of Jesus on the cross. On Easter, Christians gather to celebrate the resurrection and Jesus overcoming death. Easter represents freedom from the bondage of sin and new life in Jesus. Disciples and the early church brought the message of New Life in Jesus to everyone.
What is interesting is that all three Abrahamic religions believe in the same God, but the world’s greatest hatred is against one another. Christianity was a revival movement of Judaism that was first accepted in Eastern Europe. Islam began as a revival movement of Christianity in North Africa. Just as Jesus’ teachings were rejected by the threatened Pharisees and Sadducees, the call for the spiritual revival of the Christian Church by Muhammad and his followers was rejected by the corrupt priests and monks of the Church in the 600s.
It seems that while Jews and Muslims were honoring their high holy days, conservative NOT-christians were busy hating their neighbors. As bigots and fools, and in the name of Jesus, they sought to ban books on anti-racism from the library, and when they could not get their racist way, they threw a temper tantrum and tried to close the public library. What fools. How anti-Christ.
Rather than holding our neighbors in the bondage of our hatred, we are called to free them from out of bigotry in the name of Jesus. Rather than oppressing those who disagree with us, we are called to fight for their rights for freedom in Jesus. Rather than condemning people whose life choices differ from ours, we are called to affirm and honor the image of God in them and the ways they choose to express it. Rather than lying to people that they will go to “hell and burn forever and ever and ever” – to quote one of those who tried to shut down the public library – simply because they go to a different church, we are called to tell the truth that we all worship the same God of Abraham, though in different ways, and in Jesus everyone will know the love of God.
We are now in the Easter season until Pentecost. It is the season when we say that Jesus is alive and is present in our midst. Let us look for and find Jesus in our neighbors. Let us love one another so Jesus may be visible. Let us love one another because we know that God is love, and it is the only way we can experience Jesus and the love of God for ourselves.
Let us be the Easter people.