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Tears, Tents and Torn Bread
Are you living spiritually unencumbered? Free from shame-trappings and legalistic entanglements? It sounds impossible.
But… I am, mostly. I'd like you to come along with me for a moment to experience Passover in this space together.
Today I feel compelled to make a 3-day bread. I'm starting the basic ingredients today, letting it rise, and baking it on Easter. I trust that leading. I'm not going to any services tonight, and I don't think I'll go on Sunday, but I feel very much alive. That's the only practice I've identified for the marking of this season thus far, outside of writing from my heart for you. We all hope it is really good bread.
You don't have to be Jewish or Christian or even spiritual to join me in contemplating the deeper invitation of Passover and what is known as Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday to Christians. I am a Universalist who has experienced the light of unconditional love shining through Christ since I was a young child, but I see that light pouring through many different cultures, faiths, doubts and expressions of devotion, all unique and all important.
Genetically I am Jewish as well as a Scottish settler, then French Canadian, and also very much an Englishwoman. At the intersection of genetics and spirituality with my own unique personality is my experience of this week.
If you're reading this it is possible and even likely that you are a former or current Christian who has undergone some renovations lately. Christianity has become so distorted and many have chosen to disassociate from the trajectory of an empire religion co-opted by politics, as Jesus would certainly do and did.
No matter our belief, the things we take time to read about Christianity matter because this great distortion and falling away from Jesus's intent affects everyone, especially in American and Western Christianity.
Spirituality is a beautiful communal experience no matter what form it takes because it connects us to others and to our group resilience.
So let's ponder together. Join me for another moment, no matter your faith or belief.
Jesus at Passover is a model of looking back and looking forward. This moment has been one of the most formative ones in my spirituality.
If there's one thing that strikes me about Passover, it's the eating drinking and digesting of memories.
Collective ones. Traumatic ones. There's wine for bloodshed. Bitter herbs for unbearable pain. We literally taste the pain again. We swallow. We pause.
In this meal we see an invitation (in the form of questions) to an embodied rejoining to the past. By re-membering we literally knit ourselves back together in our bodies to everything we've experienced and come through as a people. This can be recalled in your family, friend groups, or even in a sense with all of humanity. We look back and we remember where we've been and what we've endured and how we have thrived or survived. This doesn't have to fit a mold. What have you come through with your people?
This night celebrates a massive pause and a time of remembering a lot of the pain and a lot of wonder. This pause honors the rescuing nature of love from the trauma, exploitation and dehumanization we all have known or even perpetrated. Rescue can also manifest in delivering us from lack of discernment, or some kind of bondage when we hoped and hoped and waited and lost, at least for a season. It's a time of celebrating overcoming. But not before redigesting the grief.
Passover as a larger theme invites something different for everyone. In Jesus's friend group, Passover was referenced implicitly; he turned it over and shook it up. Weary of religion and legalism, he brought new life to the meal and made it about new losses - he, himself- and new spirituality of a more free flowing nature. He broke tradition, changed the words, changed the application of the meaning and renovated a moment of extreme ordinariness, charging it with the present. In one fell swoop he dismantled rote liturgies which had long ago been so fresh, and re-membered himself and his group to the larger Story of Us. He re-membered the moment. He brought it full circle and made it whole.
But then we turned it into an institution again. We made it rote. We argued over the details again. All I think Jesus wanted his friends (and us) to do is look at the story of our lives. The Story of Us. And remember what we have come through. And eat and drink and digest the grief and invite unconditional love to our table and take a moment. But instead we tried to copy the way he did it and mass produce it. From this quiet moment we built an empire.
Following isn't copying. It wasn't a command in the way we think. He was commanding the moment.
He was filling the bread and the wine with the present, because the past was changing quickly to the future and reorientation was needed.
Jesus didn't ask us to "become Christian."
He invited us to become alive and walk in a way of paying attention and becoming whole. His way, but in our way.
Resurrection from death is resurrection from rote religion. It's a time of recognizing that despite it all, we love each other and that our Creator works through us and in us to sustain us. Just when we thought we understood God and how God acts, maybe it's something different. Spirituality is starting fresh every day. It lives in tents and temporary feast rooms more than temples. It moves. It's moldable.
We are invited to sink more deeply into our own lives tonight or any night whether we are Christian or Atheist or Buddhist or Pagan or uncertain. American Christianity is not the point. The spirit of Christ is the same spirit that brings joy and wholeness no matter who we are tonight.
Looking back isn't easy. It can bring memories of violence and even longing for violence. It can bring searing pain and it can bring sadness, but maybe you might construct your own story tonight with a meal?
Take some cues from Passover. Don't get stuck in the pain. It's just part of the story. But remember it. Integrate it. Digest it. Drink, eat, taste the tears and look in one another's eyes. Your friend's eyes, your family's eyes, your own eyes. God is there.
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