Welcome to Holy Week, better known this year as Holy Moly! Week, for it seems we have a little somethin’ somethin’ for everyone. For Jews, Happy Passover! For Christians, it began with Palm Sunday, hung around for Maundy Thursday (which, to be honest with you, I can never say without hearing the Italian accent of Apollonia Vitelli, Michael Corleone’s first wife, in The Godfather, as she’s learning English – “Maundy, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, Saturday” – KABOOM!!), moved on to Good Friday, and ends, finally, on that great, gettin’ up mornin’, Easter. And as a special treat this year, in order to complete the Holy Moly! trifecta, Friday also happens to be Earth Day, so get your granola-loving behinds outside, pick up some trash and hug a tree, why don’t you? (Just between you and me, of the three, I believe God loves Earth Day best. KABOOM!! Did I just lose all of my evangelical readers?) If only we could convince the Muslims to get in on all the fun and move Ramadan up a few months. (Another personal aside: I’ve always thought that in order to make all the fasting easier to endure, Ramadan should incorporate the songs of those old doo wop groups, like Sha Na Na, and change its name to Ramadamadingdong. But that’s just me.)
In honor of all this holy moliness, I thought perhaps it was time we heard once again from Judson Sunday School’s philosopher-in-residence, and winner of the first annual “Oldest Soul” award, six-year-old Sebastien Railla-Duncombe. You remember Sebastien from this past January, don’t you? ME: “Happy New Year, Sebby!” Sebastien: “There’s nothing ‘happy’ about ‘Happy New Year.’ It only means you’re a year closer to death.”
A few weeks ago I was teaching a lesson on “willpower” to my elementary Sunday School class. I began by asking the kids to draw a picture of themselves as a superhero: “If you could be a superhero, who would you be and what would your super power be?” This led to a discussion on willpower, which I told the kids resides inside each one of us, and which we draw upon to overcome the obstacles we face in life. I further pointed out that even superheroes have obstacles they must overcome. (See Superman – kryptonite; Spiderman – Julie Taymor; the Grand Poobah - doughnuts). Our featured story for this lesson was about Harriet Tubman, who overcame tremendous obstacles in her life and was able to free herself and many others from slavery; obstacles such as, well, um, slavery, naturally; being a woman in the 1800’s; her lack of education; being physically handicapped (she was hit in the head by something – I forget what); the constant danger she faced; and the lack of modern technology (it’s not like the slaves were communicating via Twitter and driving up the ol’ underground railroad on mopeds). I then asked members of the class to name some obstacles they face in each of their lives today and we talked about everything from being shy, to difficult subjects in school, piano recitals, athletic competitions, school bullies, and even the scarier aspects of living in New York City. Finally, a very thoughtful Sebastien raised his hand and said, “Andy, my obstacle is hummus.” Not exactly the answer I was looking for, and yet, what can you say? When a man knows his obstacles, he knows his obstacles.
This past Sunday, I found myself thinking about that word – obstacle, not hummus – when the kids and I were reading the Passover story together. It can be awfully difficult for a bunch of 7 and 8 year olds, or 78 year olds, for that matter, to focus on the goodness of God in the face of one nasty plague after another: water to blood, frogs, gnats, locusts, etc. By the time we got to the part of the story where the Israelites smeared blood over their doorposts so God would know which children He shouldn’t kill (Ugh!), well, let’s just say your kids were looking a little peaked. What I probably should have done is just played them this song by singer-songwriter Sean Altman, who performs under the name Jewmongous: “They Tried To Kill Us (We Survived, Let’s Eat).” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34atu3WGUgc Among Mr. Altman’s listing of the 10 plagues: blood, boils, dandruff, acne, backne, indigestion, sciatica, and cataracts. As I look toward this Sunday’s Easter story, I can’t help but wonder if your children’s reaction might be along the same line as my seven year old niece, Willa, when she asked her mother how one goes about getting a driver’s license. Once told, Willa responded in her best you have got to be kidding me voice: “A written test and a driving test!” Some things – like Passover, Easter or even getting your driver’s license – can be a bit bewildering for children (and Grand Poobahs). Here’s hoping the stories and legends of our religious past will not become obstacles in the path of our children’s growing understanding of faith.
However, there is nothing bewildering about Easter eggs filled with jelly beans and chocolate. We believe! I hope your children will be with us this Sunday for our annual Easter Egg Hunt. As for you adults, let’s face it: even progressive Christianity (is that what we are?) comes with no guarantees. The closest any of us may get to experiencing heaven is enjoying the almond, chocolate and plain croissants from Patisserie Claude, which you can do by joining us for our Sunday School Coffee Hour immediately following the service on Sunday,May 1st. Just grab a cup of joe from the meeting room pot and come join us. We’ll provide childcare in order that you and your fellow long-suffering parents can introduce yourselves to one another, even with mouths full of almond and chocolate paste.
It beats hummus, right Sebastien?!
Happy Holy Moly! Week!