Tonight is the beginning of the Jewish Passover. Jews around the world gather in homes and halls to share in the Seder Meal as they have for thousands of years. The significance of the food and the customs of the Seder unfold in response to a central question that is asked by the youngest person present. "Why is this night different from all other nights?" The story that is told in response to that question is the story of how God delivered the Covenant People from slavery in Egypt. It is the story that is succinctly summarized in Deuteronomy: "The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey"(Deut. 26:8,9).
The story is told every year so that it will be passed from generation to generation and always be remembered. It is because of that story that Jesus and his companions went up to Jerusalem. They were there to celebrate that story, Passover. For Christians, that story is central to why this week is different from all other weeks - why this week is Holy. During those final days, Jesus the Christ becomes the Passover. The ancient story of God's deliverance of a People takes on flesh and becomes the story of God's deliverance of all people for all eternity.
"Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth"(I Cor. 5:7,8).
So, we Christians gather during Holy Week to remember God's saving acts throughout history, especially in Jesus Christ. We use the word remember in a particular way when speaking of these things. The Greek word is anamnesis. It does not mean simply to remember a piece of information, like who was President of the United States at a certain time. Instead, it means to bring the reality and significance of something that happened in the past into the present so that we will never not be able to remember it.
Each generation of us is responsible for sharing that story with succeeding generations. That's what this week is about. Not that we only tell the story once a year, but that we never forget how the story has changed everything and shapes our lives every other week of the year. It is the central story of our lives. It is the sacred story of a God who is head over heals in love with his creation and especially God's human children, made in God's image.
On her Facebook page, Episcopal theologian Diana Butler Bass recently shared this example of why we must never stop telling the story. "After a long day of flying, I went to the hotel lounge for a glass of local red wine. There, I got in a conversation with a woman, who is about my age, who never heard of Passion Week and asked me to explain Palm Sunday and Easter to her. I told her the story of Jesus' triumphal entry to Jerusalem, of his betrayal, death, and resurrection. About how human it is; how our betrayals turn into our rebirth. She got tears in her eyes. 'That's so beautiful,' she said. 'How come no one has ever told me this before?'"
It is a beautiful story. It is a life-transforming story. It is THE STORY. In Holy Week, we Christians gather to hear it anew so that we can tell it to others, just as Diana told it to that woman who had never heard it before. And, to borrow a phrase from St. Francis, in telling the story, we can use words if necessary.
I'll see you in Church!