On Sunday, April 24th our combined grades 1-6 class celebrated a second Jewish holiday this spring: Pesach or Passover. Our lesson began with prayer such as, Baruch atta Adonai, eloheynu meleh ha-olom, she-heh-he-yanu, ve-kiy’manu, ve-higi-an la-z’man hazeh. Praised be Thou, our God, who hast kept us alive and sustained us, and brought us to this season.
Each year during Pesach, Jews around the world engage in embodied ritual, the Passover Seder. During the Seder, which, like many Jewish holidays, is a home-centered tradition, the story of the Jewish people and their journey to freedom (Exodus 1:1-15:21) is re-told and passed down to the younger generation through a set of four questions, prayers, traditional songs, and special foods. The Exodus is a story of an enslaved people throwing off the yoke of bondage and enduring tremendous hardships on their way to the Promised Land.
The symbolism of the Exodus has also been embraced in the African Diaspora. The well-known African-American spiritual “Go Down Moses” — often sung as part of the Seder — is an example of how the Exodus metaphor was incorporated into American slave culture. A later musical interpretation is reggae legend Bob Marley and the Wailers’ 1977 song “Exodus.” The lyrics say, “Exodus, movement of Jah people / Send us another Brother Moses gonna cross the Red Sea Liberation /… Jah come to break down ‘pression, rule equality / Wipe away transgression, set the captives free…” Marley wrote “Exodus” in response to the religious politics in Jamaica during an election year. Marley’s reggae espoused a theology of liberation.
Theologies of liberation are found throughout the world’s religions. All liberative theologies and ethics of risk are defined and lead from the inside by the oppressed and the marginalized, and the particulars of the context are crucial to its form and substance. All three of the Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — view Moses as a liberative leader and use the story of the Exodus to inspire followers to seek freedom.
Liberation theology as contextualized praxis is most frequently anchored in rereading the texts of the tradition as metaphors for the present historical context of the oppressed and marginalized. Black Liberation Theology is one result. Black Lives Matter is the political equivalent of Black Liberation Theology.
Catholic liberation theology, which arose in 20th century South America, where Pope Francis served as a priest, is another example of the marginalized and oppressed using their faith to effect systemic change. They look to Jesus as a liberative leader. Jesus was a radical, non-violent revolutionary; his call — his mission — was to free the people from oppressive Roman rule. Jesus did “not see the day of our liberation physically” but he contributed to the struggle. As Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu reminds us, Liberation is Costly (#593 in Singing the Living Tradition): “We must remember that liberation is costly. It needs unity. We must hold hands and refuse to be divided. We must be ready.”
The Passover Seder is an annual reminder for the Jewish people, their friends and allies who gather around the table with them, that liberation is costly. Each year at the end of the Seder, Jews around the world bring this story from the beginnings of their faith tradition up into the present day. They speak about the costs of enduring as faithful people through the nightmares of the Holocaust. They speak about the hard won freedoms of democracy. They lift up the struggles for freedom from oppression by all people. They remember that black lives matter; that refugees from war-torn countries need safe places to live and work that is meaningful. They affirm the worth and dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and promote civil rights for all.
Despite the plagues and hardships remembered in the Passover Haggadah, it is ultimately a ritual of hope. Liberation is costly, but it brings us to the Promised Land. “Let us be united, let us be filled with hope, let us be those who respect one another” (Desmond Tutu). We can and we will overcome and be free.
~ Charlotte Lehmann
Mark Your Calendars – Events of Interest to Families
- “Pariah,” film showing, 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27th – a Forty to None Day event. The film, “Pariah” will be shown this evening with a discussion of issues related to LGBT youth homelessness following the movie. According to True Colors, “approximately 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), yet LGBT young people make up less than 7% of the general youth population.” The goal of True Colors is to reduce the disproportionate percentage from 40% to none (truecolorsfund.org/40tononeday/).
- Stand Up Campaign, 1-4 p.m., Sunday, May 1st at the Belmont Public Library. If you are concerned about the deterioration of public, civil discourse, please join Donna Ruvolo and other concerned citizens for this event.
CRE Volunteer Opportunities for All at FCB
- Sign up to teach in any of the CRE classes on Sunday mornings: tinyurl.com/teachCRE. You will need to have recent background check (done by FCB in the last 2 years) or submit a new one using the form on-line: uubelmont.org/coriandsori/.
- Would your family like to lead the Chalice Lighting during the worship service one Sunday this year? CRE is coordinating this effort to involve families in this element of the worship service on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month. Click to sign-up: tinyurl.com/chalicelighting. You will receive an e-mail reminder.
- Non-parent teacher-volunteers are needed to assist our Childcare Provider, Denise Azar, in the Nursery at 9 and 11 am each Sunday. You can easily sign-up for this volunteer opportunity here: tinyurl.com/sundaynursery. You will receive an e-mail reminder.
Children’s Religious Education Program Registration and Information:
If you haven’t registered your children for CRE, please do so ASAP using the registration link found on the Children’s Religious Education page of the FCB website (www.uubelmont.org/childrens-re/) which allows you to register children from birth through 12thgrade. All children must be registered for CRE.
~ Charlotte Lehmann, Acting Director of Children’s Religious Education
Office hours: Tues-Weds, 10am-6pm. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.