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Passover

. 4 min read
Maundy Thursday 2015/04/02
Mountain Top, at The Presbyterian Church
Message,
Exodus 12.1-14
I
chose this passage from the readings for the day for several reasons.
·        
In worship at Christ Church, we’ve been
examining the cycle of covenants in the Hebrew Scriptures, and this is a
logical extension of that focus.
·        
The historical context of the Passion of Jesus
was Passover. Jesus and his disciples were celebrating the Passover meal, 1500
years after Moses, on the night he was arrested.
·        
The theological theme of Passover is taken up by
the Hebrew prophets to refer to God’s “new thing” of deliverance from exile
(Isaiah 43.19) and by the New Testament to refer to Christ as “our Passover”,
the one whose blood saves us from the wrath of God. “Our Paschal Lamb, Christ
has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5.7). “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes
away the sins of the world” (John 1.29).
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 told you I have a trouble-maker in me. But, please,
don’t take a selfie while receiving the Eucharist.)

The
passage is full of references to time. Passover marks the beginning of the
year, the first month (2), because it is for Israel a new beginning. It is a perpetual
day of remembrance (14) – even before it has happened – an indication that
memory and hope are not as separate as we may think, that memory can imagine a
future, that hope can remember a past, that as human beings limited to time we
are also anchored in eternity. The lamb is to be slaughtered at twilight (6)
and eaten hurriedly (11); any that remains is to be burnt in the morning (10).
      And, if we continued reading the entire
chapter, which includes the original Passover event and Israel leaving Egypt,
we see even more references to time: a seven-day feast (15), the LORD striking
down the firstborn of Egypt at midnight (29), a hasty departure from Egypt
(33), the 430 years Israel lived in Egypt (40-41), and a night of vigil (42).
      We are dealing with history. But if all we
consider is the history we are left with an inspiring story. The Passover feast
was to be an annual observance so that the meaning, the theology, of the
historical event would not be forgotten. Every year we celebrate Holy Week,
every time we celebrate the Eucharist, we do so in order to remember the
meaning of these historical events, so that the meaning of this story will form
and shape us. We set our calendars around these events in order to organize our
life around these truths.
Tonight,
I invite us to focus on two of these truths, which, despite beginning with the
Hebrew Scriptures, I’ll express in New Testament terms:
      Our sin is taken away
      We are sent on a mission
Our
sin is taken away:
      Peter, “You shall never wash my feet!”
(John 13.6-9)
            Intimate, personal, not willing to
be touched in this way
            Humiliating, exposes our pride
            Forceful, “take away”
      Passover – “When I see the blood, I shall
pass over you” (13)
            Leave Egypt behind
            It is only good news to sinners and
slaves
We
are sent on a mission
      Objection #1: What does mission have to do
with the Passover story?
·        
“A mixed crowd also went up with them” (38, a
reference to a lack of ethnic purity, Brueggemann, 781)
·        
“If an alien who resides with you wants to
celebrate the Passover to the Lord…” (48)
·        
“There shall be one law for the native and for
the alien who resides among you” (49)
      Objection #2: What does mission have to do
with liberation?
·        
We are not liberated because we are special or
sinless.
·        
When God liberates, it is not to put the
oppressed in the seat of the oppressors, but to leverage that blessing so that
the entire human race is called to walk in the light of the Lord (Moltmann)
·        
There is a time in every freedom story when the
slaves must participate in their own deliverance.
MLK,
after his house was bombed in Montgomery during the protest, when a large and
angry crowd gathered: “We must meet violence with nonviolence. Remember the
words of Jesus: ‘He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.’ We must
love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us” (Stride, 128)
Just as Passover kicked off a journey for Israel, so the Eucharist and Holy
Week kick off a journey for the church. It is a journey that leaves Egypt
behind for good. It is a journey that leaves our cherished sins behind – our
pride, our envy, our hatred, our laziness, our anger, our lust. The Lamb of God
takes away the sin of the world, if we permit him to wash our feet. It is a
journey that we share with unexpected brothers and sisters, a “mixed” multitude
of sinners and slaves. This journey calls us to welcome and include folks that
we would never have recognized before and, as we have been invited on this
journey by Jesus, we hear his demand that we invite others as well.
  
Resources:
Walter
Brueggemann. New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol
I,
Exodus.
Jurgen
Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the
Spirit

Martin
Luther King, Jr. Stride Towards Freedom:
The Montgomery Story