The Passover and Easter holidays are traditionally times of joyous sacred celebration, with family and community rituals centered on the promises of exodus, deliverance, new hope, and rebirth. These promises are desperately needed right now. The beloved Nobel Peace Prize laureate South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu said about Easter: “In the middle of our faith is the death and resurrection. Nothing could have been more hopeless than Good Friday—but then Easter happened, and forever we have to become prisoners of hope.” The American World Jewish Service says this in a supplement to their Global Justice Haggadah for Passover, “Hope Amidst the Tears”:
“In the telling of the Passover story, we recount the oppression that our ancestors experienced when we were slaves in Egypt. We dip a growing vegetable—karpas—into saltwater, to taste their tears of grief mingled with our hopes for life, health and renewal for a more just world.
“This year, the tears are ours.
“They are the tears of the sick and their loved ones who worry or mourn. They are the tears of those who have lost their jobs, are uninsured, live in isolation, or must go to work each day to provide essential services to others. They’re the tears of courageous health care workers who save lives and risk their own.
“We must acknowledge this pain and suffering and allow ourselves the space to grieve. Yet, as the karpas ritual beckons, we must also look toward the future with a sense of hope and possibility. Passover arrives on the precipice of spring, when new growth is just around the corner. All over the world, resilience, strength, compassion and innovation will grow from under this tragedy.
“We honor the tears, but we also bless the hope.”
In this holy season of Passover and Easter like no other, we are shaken out of comfortable routines and customary celebrations—physically separated from loved ones and communities of faith, hearts heavy with the suffering of those near and far, struggling in the present and anxious about the future. For children and families who have long endured poverty, lack of health care, domestic violence, hunger, homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, and marginalization, the weight of this pandemic is especially heavy.
For all of us, but especially for those who are suffering most, this year may we live into the meaning and messages of both Passover and Easter. God’s intention is for people to move out of oppression and injustice into the promise of freedom and justice. Death-dealing empire does not have the last word.
This is not a time of easy or glib faith, but rather a time to lean on our faith in all of its complexity and questions. In this season, we look back to the formative experiences in our histories as people of faith—histories of God’s people enduring suffering and struggle, oppression and injustice, fear and doubt. In these celebrations, we may experience new meaning for this present moment. And in this time, may we look ahead with faith and hope to ways that we can reach out especially to children and families who are struggling, and help make sure that we will not return to the old “normal” but instead will usher in God’s future of peace, love, freedom, and justice these holy occasions celebrate and anticipate.
In this season of renewal I offer prayers for new hope and strength.
God, guide our faith that by it we might make our children and nation whole again.
God, help us to believe with every ounce of our being that we, with Your help, can save our children and make them well.
God, renew our spirits—Your spirit within us—and make us worthy carriers of Your message of love and hope and life in all we say and do this day and forever more.
We thank You God for Your grace of life.
We thank You for Your breath of life.
We thank You for Your hope in life.
We thank You for Your challenges in life.
We thank You for Your companionship in life through family and friends and fellow sojourners in the faith.
God, thank You so much for giving us a new beginning each day and each minute.
Help us to grow in grace and faith and hope and shine Your light everywhere we go today.
Let us never forget what it means to be free.
Let us never forget what it requires to be free.
Let us fight for freedom for ourselves and others
So that all God’s children may be free.
Let us never forget that You love us so much
that You gave Your only son so that we might learn that we are loved and forgiven.
Thank You, God, for Your ungraspable love so freely given.