For one Denver pastor, “Next year in Jerusalem” is too long to wait

'Could next year maybe come tomorrow? I’m ready for Jerusalem now.'

Even for the most faithful, hope is harder to muster this year, Rev. Reginald C. Holmes writes. (Flickr photo by Omran Jamal)
Even for the most faithful, hope is harder to muster this year, Rev. Reginald C. Holmes writes. (Flickr photo by Omran Jamal)

The Rev. Reginald C. Holmes is co-pastor at New Covenant Christian Church / Alpha Omega Ministries in Denver. His partner there, the Rev. Terrance Hughes, has been hospitalized for a month with COVID-19. Holmes — a former Colorado Independent board member and friend — and his daughter Carlen join my family at our Passover seder each year. This year, we gathered over Zoom. Because we tweaked our service this year to address themes related to the COVID-19 crisis, I asked him to speak about concepts of patience and hope embodied in the phrase “Next Year in Jerusalem,” which traditionally is spoken at the end of a seder. The following are his words. They left us so moved, we asked him if we could share them with you. — Susan Greene

“Next year in Jerusalem”

I am tempted to add punctuation to that phrase. A period. A question mark. An exclamation point. But that would not be grammatically correct because there is no verb there, and my daughter Carlen and most students would recognize it and call me on it. “It’s not a sentence,” they’d say. Perhaps a colon or semi-colon would be more hopeful. Either would indicate the promise of something to follow. 

Does it matter why or that we know something will follow? Whatever punctuation you might choose, it would no doubt change later. That’s inherent in “next year.” But Carlen and I join the chorus of believers and lovers of God everywhere who proclaim, “Next year in Jerusalem” with Jews all over the earth. In the midst of all we are going through, the pain of pandemic and the volatility of this virus, we come with an assured absurd audacity believing in the promise of a future for all the children of the Most High God. We all have been anointed with hope to proclaim a future for ourselves, our children, and our children’s children. 

For friends and neighbors, for every COVID sufferer among us, we believe there will be a “Next year in Jerusalem.” For every family touched by death, we proclaim peace. For every medical worker laying down their life, for every frontline responder taking the first barrage, for every caged child and family separated by bigotry on the border, for the child without enough to eat because there is no school, for the elderly person who was living social distancing long before this virus, and for all who mourn and hope, laugh and cry, we proclaim a future for you: “Next year in Jerusalem.” 

We assume there will be a “Next year in Jerusalem.” But will there be? Are we sure? It is a battle to believe. We fight the war of worry. My God, I’m trying hard to believe “Next year in Denver.” Homelessness. Gentrification. Unemployment. And now the National Guard. Jerusalem seems so far away. 

Next year seems so long ahead. When is next year? I’m holding on to patience, but my hand is slipping fast, ain’t got much rope. Could next year maybe come tomorrow? I’m ready for “Jerusalem” now. It is what the Apostle John longed for on the island of Patmos. He longed for a New Heaven and a New Earth. He saw a New Jerusalem where there was no more dying and lying there. It was “where the wicked will cease from troubling and the weary will be at rest.” It’s just so hard, this waiting, this patience. Some people can afford to wait. Some people can’t. They’ve been waiting a long time already. 

When is next year? Will Jerusalem be opened then? How do we know? Will the virus be gone next year? Don’t make fun of my questions. The rabbis have reminded us: “In Judaism, to be without questions is not a sign of faith, but a lack of depth.”

“Next year in Jerusalem.” I’ll be there. How about we all bring the verbs and next year just might punctuate itself. What choice do we have? “Next year in Jerusalem…” 

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