I laughed a little when the text came through: “So what exactly do Unitarian ministers do for holy week?” No doubt, my minister friend at a Christian church was staring down this week of worship in Christian communities and wondering what it might be like in my side of the theological ocean. After a friendly back-and-forth I texted: “Mostly we pray for our Christian colleagues to get through the week.” There was probably a “haha” or a hug emoji after that.
Many around the world enter now the saddest and most miraculous parts of the religious year. In different faiths, the stories of faith founders being held captive and then finding freedom resound in sacred spaces throughout the world. This story of freedom is told in different ways, of course. Some talk about ancestors bound in slavery until God convinced a captor to let God’s people go. And others talk about the doubt a religious leader felt, the doubt his followers felt after he died, and the newness of a faith born when their leader was resurrected, free from the shackles of mortal flesh.
And in a season of religious reflection on miracles, there is an impulse in many to point to those things least credible in a faith, least likely to be able to occur in a world defined by discrete boundaries of physics and biology, as a reason not to believe. And I get that. There is a gamble in faiths where the most miraculous events, those events hardest to fathom, are also the events that come to define a faith or at least to differentiate it from other faiths. But when the bet pays off, a member is part of something that they feel is both true and miraculous.
I smiled a little when the text came through: “Miss you buddy.” No doubt, our friend who’d struggled mightily with demon captors in bottles of different kinds and had fallen out of touch was back in the land of the living. And this text was just the beginning of his return. Watching over the following months as flesh returns to his ribs, as eyes once sunken shine out again, as a smile curls the corners of a mouth before laughter makes a tentative return, the same thought comes to me over and over: it would have been enough.
If only some of my ancestors passed on to me the heritage of finding a way out of bondage, it would have been enough. Dayenu. But instead, my ancestors gave me a lifetime to try to free others. If only the message to love my neighbor and to love myself in divine equality and mutuality had gotten through the ages, it would have been enough. Dayenu. Instead a message of love that conquers death rings true for so many for so long. If only our friend had stopped trying to die, it would have been enough. Dayenu. But now a friend laughs again and tries to love others as he would be loved.
And may it always be so. Amen.
Rev. T. J.