“Dayenu – It would
have been enough.”
Easter VI – May 5,
2013 – All Saint’s Rehoboth Beach, DE
(the Rev’d Dr.)
You may not know this, but today we are suffering from an
embarrassment of riches. The
calendar is absolutely flush with occasions and reasons for somebody somewhere
to celebrate something.
Of course, today is the Fifth of May, known in some circles as Cinco de Mayo – or El Dia de la
Batilla de Puebla. Just to be clear, it’s
not Mexican Independence Day. It’s the day in celebration of the Mexican
army’s unlikely victory over France at the Battle of Puebla.
Cinco de Mayo originated with
Mexican-American communities in the American West as a way to commemorate the
cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil
War, and today the date is observed in the United States as a celebration of
Mexican heritage and pride. (So, meet you after church at Dos Locos for some
margaritas and fajitas).
Today is also the sacred Pasha. Our Orthodox Christian
sisters and brothers are celebrating Orthodox Easter. Kristos anesti! Alithos anesti! Or, you could just have a nice glass of retsina wine with your lunch and say, "Ooo-pa!" after you drink it.)
If that wasn’t enough, today at sundown is the 41st
day of the Jewish observance of Counting the Omer – a mitzvah (or
“commandment”) which is a verbal counting of the 49 days between the Feast of
the Passover and Shavuot.
The idea of the Counting of the Omer – a measure of barley
grain which is given as a gift to the Temple every day for 49 days – is based
on the belief that the Hebrew people were released from slavery in Egypt so
that they could receive the gift of the Torah on Mount Sinai on the 50th
Day after Passover – which is the Festival of Shavuot.
Baruch Atah Ado- nai, Elo- heinu Melech Ha-Olam, Asher
Kid'shanu B'Mitzvosav (or B'Mitzvotav), V'tzi-vanu al Sefiras (or Sefirat)
Blessed are You, Ado- nai our G-d, Sovereign of the
Universe, Who has Sanctified us with Your Commandments, and has Commanded us
regarding the Counting of the Omer.
Shavout is a bit like our Pentecost, which we will celebrate
on Sunday, May 19th. Pentecost marks 50 Days after the Resurrection of Jesus
when we were given the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate.
As the Torah was given to the Hebrew people who were newly
released from slavery so they might receive guidance to build a new nation, so
Christians believe Christ was crucified, died and was risen (Our Passover from
the bondage of sin into freedom and liberation) so we could be given the gift
of the Holy Spirit to help us follow the teachings of Rabbi Jesus so that we
might change and transform the world.
I’m reminded of the song Jews sing on the Passover – Dayenu
– which is Hebrew for “It would have been sufficient” – or, enough. The song has 15 verses which recount
the many blessings God has bestowed on the Hebrew people: It begins with: “If
God had brought us out of Egypt,” and continues with “If God had split the sea
for us”, and ends with, “If God had given us the Torah”. After each verse, the congregation
sings, “Dayenu” (It would have been enough) – but no! God did more!
Singer songwriter, Ben Kwill describes Dayenu as “When
something good happens to you and then another good thing happens to you. What
you had in the first place would have been enough, if nothing else happens to
you. It's all about counting your blessings and staying grounded."
Those of you who are of Mediterranean heritage - or, those of you who know us well and love us still - know God's abundance through an association with food. In my Portuguese household, there was no greater manifestation of God's abundance than a table over flowing with food. While some kids grew up on three course meals, our standard was six courses.
A typical conversation with my grandmother went something like this:
Whattsa matta? You hungry?
No, I'm just tired.
Tired? You not tired. You hungry. You need food. Food is fuel. You need fuel.
No, really, I'm just tired.
Okay, I fix you a bowl of soup.
No, really, I'm just tired.
Okay, I fix you a sandwich.
Honest, I'm so tired I can't eat a thing.
Okay, half a sandwich? Maybe a piece of fruit?
Alright! Alright! I'll have a piece of fruit!
My Portuguese grandmother - like many Italian or Spanish or French or Jewish grandmothers - could never have been accused of being minimalist. When my grandmother heard the expression, "Less is more," she snickered and said, "Less...is...LESS!"
"Ah," but she said, "more is from God."
Jesus' ministry prior to his crucifixion was powerful,
astonishing, and liberating. When I pause to take in all that meant, I want to
say, "It would have been enough." But it was more. There was more.
Everything sinful about humankind put Jesus on a Roman cross, and even as he
suffered that, he was speaking words of forgiveness and blessing.
It would have
been enough. But wait! There's more!
The glory of the Easter season is that this wasn't the
end, or anywhere near it. The God of Israel raised Jesus from the dead and set
him at God's right hand; we know now that the Jesus who showed us such
immeasurable love and forgiveness is the one who will judge us -- and if that
isn't a liberating word, I don't know what is.
It would have been enough.But wait! There's more!
Yes, there's more, astonishing, miraculous,
immeasurable abundance of blessings to come. Jesus is sending the Advocate, the
Holy Spirit, as an ongoing presence to teach us all things. No human being
could be such a tutor, but God's Spirit walking with us is, teaching us both to
recognize how Jesus gives -- not "as the world," but with limitless
generosity, limitless love, and with limitless blessings to impart -- and to
empower us to give more and more as Jesus does.
Today’s readings give us a glimpse into how the early church
responded to the incredible power of the Holy Spirit, present and at work in
Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth -- the imperial color, rare
and very expensive -- may have thought she was rich before she knew Jesus. God
opens her heart, and she knows how rich she really is and what it's for; she
"prevails upon" her brothers and sisters in Christ to enjoy her
Jesus' Revelation to John gives a vision of the holy city of
God's redemption. By conventional reckonings, it would be the poorest of cities
-- no temple, no gates keeping invaders out, no aqueducts, no lamps. It is the
poorest of cities by conventional measures because those measures are utterly
irrelevant in the economy of God's kingdom. God's presence and God's light are
everywhere; people bring in not weapons but glory and honor; the very water of
life flows from God's throne and from the Lamb through the city.
That's the dynamic of abundance we are called to take in this
Sunday, and every day in the life God gives us. When Jesus says, "those
who love me will keep my word," it's not a whiny attempt to guilt people
into doing something that they ought to do because there's no joy in the task
to motivate them. He is expressing that dynamic of God's abundance: not,
"those who love me ought to keep my word, or I'll be really cross and
you'll feel even worse," but a declarative statement of how it is to live
in Christ: when we love Jesus, we DO keep his word -- and it's worth underscoring
that his word, especially in John, is to love one another.
It is, of course more than that -- much more. But the
"more" isn't the 'catch' of what otherwise would be an appealing
offer; it's the "more" of God's abundance.
When I count my blessings it is a bit like counting a
measure of barley – an omer – which I bring to the temple in my soul.
Sometimes, as I look over all that has happened in my life, I learn that some
of my blessings were sometimes curses and some of what I thought were curses are really blessings in disguise
And all of it would be enough but, you know what? In the mystery that is God’s
economy, there is always more.
It's such a gift that I can't help but feel so deeply grateful, and I
can't help but pray to be an instrument of that grace I experience. And the love. The peace. The freedom. The power.
It sometimes seems too much – but Jesus promises that we
will have an Advocate to help us on the journey.
So, as you go into this day, I hope you enjoy the abundance
of this day, the Fifth of May, Cinco de Mayo, the El Dia de la Batilla de Puebla
Let us also share the joy of Easter with our Orthodox
sisters and brothers: Kristos anesti! Alithos anesti!
May we count our blessings as our Jewish friends count the
omer: Baruch Atah Ado- nai,
Elo- heinu Melech Ha-Olam
And, may we prepare our hearts for the gift of the Holy
Spirit, the Advocate, who will remind us of everything Jesus taught us.
All that would have been enough, but there is more.
Or, as my grandmother would say: Less is less. But, more is of God.