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Exodus and the Sacraments: Table, 1

. 5 min read

12-13
August 2017, Christ Mountain Top
Call
to Worship, Psalm 149
Children,
John 1.19-37
Message,
Exodus 12.1-29
Intro
to this series of messages:
      4 passages in Exodus that are the basis for
extensive NT reflection on the sacraments – Table, Font, Table, Font
      2 are part of the exodus proper
(deliverance from Egypt)
      2 are part of the wilderness experience
Admittedly,
we will be reading these Exodus passages through the lens of the NT, not the
way our Jewish friends read these passages.
I
love the detail of the passage. The directions for the meal itself tell you
everything from how to cook the lamb to what to wear at the meal. I love that
we are told to “eat it hurriedly” (Exodus 12.11). My mother, a modern day “Miss
Manners”, would be repulsed! And, the trouble-maker in me wonders what it would
look like if, rather than the stately process most churches have evolved to
serve communion, everyone rushed through it. I love that we are told to eat
with our staff in our hand. What is the modern equivalent? Our car keys? Our
cell phones? Our purses?

I
love the layers of meaning. The Passover lamb is tied into the language of
Hebrew sacrifice. The unleavened bread becomes a metaphor for purity, much as
the Ramadan fast functions for our Muslim neighbors and the Lenten fast
functions for Christians who observe the traditional liturgical year. God’s
judgment is described as being upon “the gods of Egypt” although it is the
firstborn children that die. The death of the firstborn has hundreds of rich
parallels throughout the Scripture, including the reference to Jesus as God’s
firstborn. This event is turned into a feast and a story, both of which are
designed to teach children. Here we find that Israel’s mission in the world is
assumed, though not described in detail, in the “mixed group” of persons who
accompany them as they leave Egypt and in the references to integrating aliens
into their religious community in future Passover celebrations. There is SO
MUCH here, so many places to linger, so many expressions to savor – a meld of
lusciousness.
Passover
is when Jesus was lost by his parents, to be found by them teaching the
teachers and embracing his mission from the Father (Luke 2). Passover is when
Jesus cleansed the temple (John 2). Passover is when Jesus fed the thousands
(John 6). Passover is when Jesus was anointed by Mary for his burial (John 12).
Passover is when Jesus eats with his disciples for the last time (Matthew 26,
Mark 14, Luke 22). Jesus is described as our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5.7),
as the Lamb of God (John 1.29, 36), and as the Lamb Slaughtered (Revelation
5.6, 7.10 7.17, 14.4, 15.3, 19.9, 21.22, 21.23, 22.1, 22.3). In the Revelation
to John, the heavenly choir is singing the song of Moses and the song of the
Lamb.
I
want to focus on one thing in this passage: The way it undermines our desire to
be exceptional, to be better, to be superior. Yes, we are called and chosen.
Yes, we are redeemed. But that does not make us better than anyone else.
Perceived
exceptionality
      American exceptionalism
      The
Secret of My Success
            “We are not like other men”
Even
in the religious world
Pope
Gregory the Great, writing on pastoral care and leadership:
A
man does not love the sacred office, nor does he even understand it, if by craving
a position of spiritual leadership he is nourished by the thought of
subordinating others, rejoices at being praised, elates his heart by honor, or
exalts in the abundance of his affluence. . . . When the mind thinks to
appropriate the pinnacle of humility for its own benefit, it inwardly changes
what it outwardly desires.
            The
Book of Pastoral Rule,
Part 1,
§8, p
41
Emperor’s
New Clothes (Hans Christian Anderson)
      Pride, craving to be exceptional
John
the Baptizer: He must increase, I must decrease (John 3.30)
When
we are delivered from our slavery, when God intervenes so dramatically to
rescue us, it is easy to conclude that we are the reason why, that we are
morally superior, ethically or ethnically pure. After all, we are the “chosen”
people. And we are.
      We are chosen, but we are not exceptional.
We are not, in ourselves, particularly holy or good. We are not chosen because
God likes us better than other folks. Israel’s firstborn were delivered from
death not because they were better than Egypt’s firstborn. They were delivered
from death because of the blood of a lamb.
      Israel’s prophets were quick to point out
that we are chosen, not because we are better. We are chosen because God wanted
to liberate slaves and thereby bring honor and glory to God’s name. If we turn
our good fortune into an opportunity to oppress, we might find ourselves on the
other side of God’s sovereign choice.
Ezekiel
20:5-9
 Thus says the Lord
GOD: On the day when I chose Israel, I swore to the offspring of the house of
Jacob– making myself known to them in the land of Egypt– I swore to them,
saying, I am the LORD your God.  6
On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt
into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and
honey, the most glorious of all lands.  7
And I said to them, Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every
one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the LORD
your God.  8 But they rebelled
against me and would not listen to me; not one of them cast away the detestable
things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I
thought I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in
the midst of the land of Egypt.  9
But I acted for the sake of my name ….
Prayer of Humble Access
We
do not presume to come to this thy table,
      O merciful Lord,
      trusting in our own righteousness,
      but in thy manifold and great mercies.
We
are not worthy
      so much as to gather up the crumbs under
thy table.
But
thou art the same Lord,
      whose property is always to have mercy.
Grant
us, therefore, gracious Lord,
      so to partake of this Sacrament of thy Son
Jesus Christ,
      that we may walk in newness of life,
      may grow into his likeness,
      and may evermore dwell in him, and he in
us.  Amen.

When
we eat together, the differences between us, the hierarchy that divides us,
disappears. When we eat together at the Lord’s table, all our human
stratification – straight out of middle school – is eliminated. When we share
together in the body and the blood, we are united as sinners, justified by the
blood of Christ, and we are united as saints, made holy by the gift of the
Spirit. And there is no room at that table for pride.