Friday, April 13, 2012

We Are Related

Scripture mentioned in this Easter Eve homily includes Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Exodus 14:10-31, 15:20-21; Ezekiel 37:1-14

This is a year when a lovely thing happens. Christian Easter and Jewish Passover festivals overlap on the same weekend.

Novelists Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander have published a new Haggadah, the script used at the Passover table to tell the story of God’s relentless love for the human race, a story we are rehearsing tonight in our own way.

Foer recently wrote about the experience of writing this Haggadah, which may replace the most popular and widely used script from the past two generations in America, a Haggadah prepared and distributed free (as a very effective piece of public relations) by the Maxwell House Coffee Company. I want you to hear a portion of his article:

“Like every child, my 6-year-old is a great lover of stories—Norse myths, Roald Dahl, recounted tales from my own childhood—but none more than those from the Bible. So between the bath and bed, my wife and I often read to him from children’s versions of the Old Testament. He loves hearing those stories, because they’re the greatest stories ever told. We love telling them for a different reason.

We helped him learn to sleep through the night, to use a fork, to read, to ride a bike, to say goodbye to us. But there is no more significant lesson than the one that is never learned, but always studied, the noblest collective project of all, borrowed from one generation and lent to the next: how to seek oneself.

A few nights ago, after hearing about the death of Moses for the umpteenth time—how he took his last breaths overlooking a promised land that he would never enter—my son leaned his still wet head against my shoulder.

’Is something wrong?’ I asked, closing the book.

He shook his head.

’Are you sure?’

Without looking up, he asked if Moses was a real person.

‘I don’t know,’ I told him, ‘but we’re related to him.’”

Yes, we are. And we count on many great figures and their sensational stories to teach us to recognize, use, and be grateful for the powers given to us by God.

We are related also to Xzavior, Athena, and Aura. In just a few moments God and we will seal that deal of relatedness by the covenant of baptism, when they will receive the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus, making them members of his worldwide family and intimately related to us.

Their families and we, their new family, will promise to do our job and see that these children keep learning from Moses and Ezekiel and, most of all, from Jesus, just what powers these are that God has given them. For we’ve heard tonight some important clues.

Moses’ story, leading Israel to freedom, speaks of the powers of courage and trust. Ezekiel’s story of the dry bones tells us a lot about the powers of spirit and hope. And the creation story points to the truth that we are given the power of creativity, and called into a grateful partnership with God who empowers us to be good stewards of creation.

This is, most of all, Jesus’s night, when the story of his life being stronger than his death shows us what powers he gives us: the power of love to become good caregivers and servants to one another, the power to inspire and teach and use our talents, the power to open our hearts, our friendships, and our world to God’s justice and peace, and the power of joy that rises out of the gift of life that is stronger than death.

His story really does become our story, for we are related to him.

(Jonathan Safran Foer’s article appeared in The New York Times on Sunday, April 1, 2012.)