This year three of the holiest religious observances all fall in April and May.
Our Jewish neighbors observed Passover on April 20. Christians observed Easter on April 21. Muslims begin the observance of Ramadan on May 6.
It is circumstantial that all three religious bodies celebrate high holy days at the same time this year. Often the Jewish Passover is months after the Christian celebration of Passover and Easter. Ramadan rolls throughout the calendar year and can be observed in the late summer and fall just as easily as it is occurring in May this year.
The Jewish Passover celebrates the story of God’s liberation of the Jewish community from slavery and eventually returned them to a land that they could live freely, and worship without fear.
The Muslim Ramadan is one of the “Five Pillars of Faith.” It is a discipline of fasting during the day and lasts for an entire month. The fast is significant because it includes fluid as well as food. The intent is to free Muslims for more prayer time and focus on divine activity in their lives.
Christians celebrated Easter on April 21, but the season of Easter continues through the month of May. Throughout the month, Scripture reminds us that after the resurrection Jesus appeared to individuals on the road to Emmaus, groups of disciples gathered in fear, (doubting Thomas) and large groups (500) all seeing him at once.
For us the Easter Season culminates with Jesus breathing the gift of the Holy Spirit onto believers, promising them (us) that God’s Spirit will abide with us, in us, around us, and be shared through us. The Holy Spirit guides and directs believers of all traditions as they seek to live faithfully in the world.
This gift of the Spirit is celebrated on Pentecost. The Easter season, spring, is a season of light and new life as farmers get into the fields and as people plant flowers and vegetables for summer enjoyment and harvest.
During the Easter season, many congregations will confirm youth and we all honor our mothers on Mother’s Day. I regularly have folks remind me that they will meet God in the boat on opening fishing, and graduation is a joyous milestone for families.
We all catch a breath of relief as we celebrate the Memorial Day weekend – thankful for all the men and women that have served our country through military service. Memorial Day weekend is the turning point between a busy school year and the promise of summer routines.
Ritual for all three religious bodies helps believers understand who they are, what they believe and how to best
express their faith. Ritual helps believers to recite prayers, recall familiar scripture or sing beloved music when faith needs to be bolstered. Ritual allows believers to “know by heart” the responses in worship and it gratefully, gracefully comes to us in the dark hours of our lives.
Ritual whether it is religious, or practical (as one prepares to get in the field, or put in the garden) gives shape and form because it is familiar. Ritual structures holiday/holy day worships, routines and expectations. It creates the framework that focuses what we do and how we draw meaning from these experiences.
As we move through the month of May let us give thanks for the opportunities that we have to celebrate our faith, our moms, our graduates, our freedom and being outside in nature. God has blessed us through the world around us and the faith within us.
Let us be ever mindful of the ways that Easter season and rituals all give hope, shape and meaning to the way in which we live. We are an Easter people that are neighbors to faithful people of many religions and faiths. Let us all find comfort in our sacred traditions and rituals.
Julie Beck is the pastor at Braham Evangelical Lutheran Church