One of the laws Christians share with their Jewish brothers and sisters has to do with keeping kosher. Kosher means pure, or clean, and for the founder of Christianity, the term applied as much to the bodies into which we feed food as to the containers in which we store it. Since Easter and Passover were celebrated at the same time this year, as we approach the sixth Sunday of Easter, let’s remember that all humans were designed as earthen vessels for housing the Holy Spirit of God, and therefore, must be kept kosher. “Earthen Vessels” is also a beautiful hymn that summarizes every Christian’s role–no matter how insignificant and powerless they are–in bringing God to our fellow human beings:
According to Kosher laws, earthenware can’t be used to store food unless it is glazed and prepared properly. Neither should human earthenware contain the bread of life without being purified. This Sunday’s first reading from Acts (Acts 8:5-8, 14-17) details the first preparations Christ’s disciples were making in those early days of the Church to help new vessels get fired up:
Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing. For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people.
But as Peter implies in Sunday’s second reading (1 Pt 3:15-18), the preparations that lowly and humble earthen vessels require include trials by fire.
Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.
In short, we earthen vessels were designed to be strong and pure enough to contain and dispense God’s Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Spirit—to all of humanity. That strength comes from following God’s commandments carefully—another trait we share with our Jewish friends. Sunday’s gospel from John (Jn 14:15-21) quotes Jesus as he offers one of his final lessons:
In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.
We earthen vessels are made from sacred raw material: holy ground—the same ground which fueled the burning bush, from which God revealed himself to Moses. We are expected to offer the same revelation to everyone in our lives—by how we live them. Let’s close with another beautiful song—”Holy Ground“—performed by the Klezmatics and written by Woody Guthrie, the great folk artist who adopted Jewish tradition to live up to that great expectation of life.