Dear island friends and visitors
Jesus Christ yesterday, today and forever! This all-encompassing declaration is what we believe, what we teach and what we proclaim. Jesus was never a onetime occurrence. His death was never the end of his story. The memory of Him was never a flash in the pan or fifteen minutes of fame or fake news for the minute. In fact, the Jesus we know and preach is as good as yesterday, as real as today and as promising as tomorrow! In fact, the facts are stubborn things and have endured the most brutal scrutiny going on two thousand years. The most brilliant of minds and the cruelest of humanity have tried every known device to squash the Name and the Way. But, when the dust clears, there is Jesus still standing, beautifully whole, forgiving and loving even his detractors. That’s what some would call staying power.
However, if we celebrate this Easter like we celebrated last Easter, we are missing the point. It would mean nothing has changed and, in human life, when we do not change we regress. Jesus is never static, He is always up-to-date. He is ever new! Jesus is not the curator at the Christian museum. He is life alive beckoning us to live life to the full. The forty days of Lent are designed to help us change and to improve our behaviors based on enriched attitudes informed by Jesus Christ’s attitudes and behavior. Put more directly, this Easter we are either more like Jesus or we have wasted not only a season but a life.
Jesus literally wants His life to be imitated, His ways followed, His words forming our vocabulary. Jesus knows our happiness and true freedom is a life lived like His here on earth and into eternity. To want less or to settle for less is to miss the point and the life.
As we plod through the Pandemic, we mourn the dead, pray for the recovering and thank the millions who are putting their lives on the line to be “Christ like” by making the stranger, their brother or sister.
Happy Easter! May the Risen Jesus be the joy in your homes and the love in your families.
Rev. Joseph Protano, Pastor
St. Andrew Catholic Church
A Passover message
Passover began at sundown, Wednesday, April 8 and ends the evening of Thursday, April 16.
Rather than a homily I give you a praiseworthy message on what Passover (Pesach) means:
Long ago, at this season, a people set out on a journey. On such a night as this, Israel went forth from degradation to joy. We give thanks for the liberations of days gone by. And we pray for all who are still bound. Eternal God, may all who hunger come to rejoice in a new Passover. Let all the human family sit at your table, drink the wine of deliverance, eat the bread of freedom.
From the Gates of Freedom Haggadah, 2020:
What Passover Means
Freedom from bondage, freedom from hunger, freedom from hatred, freedom to think, freedom to teach, freedom to love, freedom to hope,
and freedom from oppression, and freedom from want, and freedom from fear,
and freedom to speak, and freedom to learn, and freedom to share, and freedom to rejoice,
soon, in our days, amen.
Chag Sameach Peasach,
Cantor Elliot Taubman
An Easter story
“Let’s sing a new song to the Lord, for he has done marvelous things.”
I want to share with you a story that I read in “Embracing the Spirit” edited by Emilie Townes. Mary M. Townes included this story in a commencement speech at North Carolina Central University. This story has also been performed on other occasions to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. I am retelling that story here. I loved the imagery and I think the message that this story conveys is important for us to hear today. It is a wonderful Easter message at a time that feels like a very long Good Friday.
Now in the play the children dance out the journey of struggle, survival, despair, and hope as they moved towards the promised land, a fertile land which held promise and opportunity for all. They moved in their journey through periods of doubt and disbelief. At times they seemed to be lost; they were on unfamiliar ground and the road seemed uncharted.
They told stories while on the journey. The stories reminded them of who they were, of the power that surrounded them and the reason they were traveling. After what appeared to be a long and tiresome journey, they finally caught a glimpse of the “promised land.” However, as they came closer to the land of their dreams, they realized that a chasm separated them from the promised land. It was clear that if they were to reach the promised land, they had to cross the chasm.
The more they looked at the chasm, the more anxious and fearful they became. They knew the danger. They needed a word of hope. And so, they regrouped. They retold the story, and the story gave them identity, purpose, and power. Suddenly, in act of faith, one of them positioned herself, took the risk, and leaped into the air. As the child leaped, she reached forward toward the promised land and she reached back in an act of solidarity and empowerment to grasp the hand of a brother to take with her. This act of solidarity continued as the stage exploded with a human chain leaping over the chasm to the promised land. It was a triumphant moment in the play.
Then suddenly the joy was interrupted. A crisis occurred. The last person prepared for the leap, she put down her baby in order to get a firmer grip on her before they moved across the chasm. However, the momentum of the human chain reached her before she was ready. Her hand was grasped, and before she could grasp her child, she was taken over the chasm. The child was left – alone – on the other side.
The child became fearful and anxious. A chasm separated her from her mother, her people, her hope, her future. She wandered in her anxiety toward the edge of the chasm. However, the community called to her. They called her by name. They told her the story. They encouraged her to leap. We all watched as the child gathered courage and confidence and was empowered by the community. Keeping her eyes on the promised land, she leaped into the air over the chasm and into the arms of the waiting community.
Now there was an old man sitting in the audience. Suddenly it was no longer a play for him. It was real. He rushed to the stage, picked up the child, held her high in the air, and proclaimed with the voice of wisdom and vision. “Thank God almighty! Even our children know how to fly!”
They retold the story, and the story gave them identity, purpose, and power. This Easter Day, know that we can make it over that chasm. There will be a new day, a new beginning. A day when we can catch our breaths and allow our level of anxiety to evaporate like a puddle of water on a hot summer day.
At this time, we cannot gather as a community, but we can retell the story, the story that gives us our identity, purpose and power — the power to cross the chasm that can too easily separate us from each other and God. We need to retell the resurrection story so to remember who we are. The story reminds us that we are children of God, children of the resurrection - that is our identity. As children of the resurrection, Christ’s own, our purpose is to live life witnessing in word and action the love of God for all humanity – because we know the danger for those who forget.
There is a world of people outside our doors that need a word of hope. As children of the resurrection, our purpose is to bring that word to them, the word that has the power for them to cross the chasm that separates them from one another and God.
So, let’s sing a new song to the Lord, for he has done marvelous things and by the power and grace of God, he will do extraordinary things every time we remember who we are — and thank God almighty! We now know how to fly! Blessings.
The Rev. Eletha Buote-Greig
Easter This Year
In a time when fears, doubts and uncertainty assail us, it’s good to remember that some things remain unchanged. In physics, the speed of light, the electronic charge, and Planck’s constant are all fairly reliable numbers. But even the value of Pi is an approximation. Perhaps the ‘spiritual constants’ in our lives are the most reliable of all. In the Hebrew Bible, God is described as a rock, a fortress and a refuge. In the New Testament Jesus is described as a cornerstone, the foundational building block upon which the church stands. The writer of the book of Hebrews says, “Jesus Christ is the same – yesterday, today, and forever.” [Hebrews 13:8] And a central tenant of Islam is ‘Allahu Akbar’ – God is Great! The hope of many faith traditions is that God is good, that God cares for us, that God’s love endures forever, and that God is big enough to see us through anything that life can throw at us. The object of our faith, the character of God, is an immutable constant in which we can place our trust when everything else around us is shifting like sand with the tides. I pray that we may all rely more completely on the God of our understanding during these troubled times, and that we may open up our lives to trust in the providential care of the Almighty One.
The ways that we observe Easter this year will be different, yet the essence of our celebration will remain the same. There will be no Easter Egg Hunts, and no church sanctuaries filled with people. What will remain constant is the hope of Easter — the hope of God’s sustaining presence in this life, and the hope beyond disease and death in the life to come. This is the good news that the church can proclaim right now. The ways that we do this will be very different during this crisis. Here are a few innovative ways to express your faith this Easter:
Participate in an virtual worship service online- many churches, including those on Block Island are offering these right now. Harbor Church will celebrate Easter on Facebook live at 10am.
Drive up for a Drive-In Sunrise Celebration – Watch the sun rise on Easter morning (6:11 a.m.) on the hill at Sullivan House. Cars will be spaced out at appropriate social distance with windows up. Carrie and I will conduct a brief service of music and reflection with audio provided via FM radio.
Do something special with your children on Easter – Harbor Church will be sending out “Easter Jam for Families” information on the BIBB. This is a free resource of downloadable videos, music, and printable activity sheets that you can do together at home.
Maintain your spiritual well-being as well as your physical health – there are many online resources for this: daily devotional readings, RSS feeds and inspirational videos and pictures. I’ll be posting a ‘Virtual Prayer Ride around Block Island’ today on YouTube. Join me as I tour the island by bicycle and pray for our community and our world. Visit harborchurchblockisland.org for links to these and others.
Our Easter will be different this year, but I pray that you will find ways to celebrate the fullness of this holiday in creative and inspiring ways, especially during the current crisis. May God bless you with the faith to trust in God’s goodness, love and care. Have a Happy Easter!
Pastor Peter Preiser