“Why is this night different than all others?”
So our Jewish brothers and sisters have been marking the beginning of this week of Passover which began today, for millennia. Rarely does that celebration coincide with the holiest of weeks in the Christian year, the week leading into Easter, but it is so appropriate that this year it does so. This is a reminder to those of us who are Christians of how inter-related our faith is with theirs. It was during Passover week that the events Christians celebrate in the days leading up to Easter occurred. In fact in most languages other than English, the word for the Christian celebration of Easter and the Jewish celebration of Passover are the same.
It is important to recognize that this night which they celebrate at the beginning of Passover is why our faith is possible. It is the foundation of who we are — the story of how God unexpectedly chose to side with the oppressed, as yet unknown, family of slaves against the most powerful empire of the day, showing that the God who is (“I AM”) is the one who sets free the captive, the slave, and the oppressed. That story which is remembered every Passover night by our Jewish brothers and sisters is the foundation for the faith we Christians share too, linking Christians, Jews, and Muslims in a shared heritage.
On Passover we should remember as Christians that our faith grew out of Judaism with Jesus, the early Christians, and the apostles viewing themselves as faithful Jews.
As a way of remembering that connection and reflecting on how this powerful story can shape our faith today, I am re-posting a poem I wrote earlier in the year as a reflection on some powerful experiences I’ve witnessed as a pastor and a chaplain. May it inspire you to reflect on how the God who resists empire, slavery, and bondage on behalf of the oppressed, forgotten, and enslaved continues to call us all to be people of the Exodus today.
And I’m not just whistling Dixie here,
your progressive redneck preacher.
O Come, Deliverer
“O come, o come, deliver me,”
cried those under Pharoah’s lash.
Their hearts longed to soar free
with eagle-feathers bright and brash.
Staff raised high, Israel did see,
with mighty ocean crash
the flaming light of liberty
their backs freed from burning lash.
Like waves I hear this cry still roar
echoing in many deserted hall
lined with cots for the homeless poor
abandoned by those called great and tall
whose money moved to distant shores
when profits began to fall.
“Deliver” echoes still in whispering call
where others lie, victims of a hidden war.
Their broken bodies writhe in withdrawal
from poisons that trap them like iron doors
and wrap their minds in darkling pall.
“Deliver” cries children from other homes
whose minds and bodies lie broken by neglect.
Their hearts bear wounds and scars like broken bones
that will not set but must lay wrecked
uncertain for minds what healing comes.
Oh God, who once set Israel free and yet brightens our sky
what light in such shadows can you bring
what freedom shine in their eyes.
“Deliver, Oh deliver,” their stories sing,
and I cannot help but question why
and what shape will we see rise on morning’s wings
in answer to their ceaseless cry.