A sermon for Proper 18, 13 after Pentecost
Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 149, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20
We know this story, so well, we know it better than we think we do. It’s gotten woven into our DNA, it’s a part of who we are, a part of how we are, who we are. For many of us, when we miss our regular participation in this story, our worship feels incomplete, our week feels incomplete.
Our Jewish kith and kin know this story as the first Passover, which they celebrate every year. We know it as root story within the story of the Last Supper, which we celebrate on most weeks. Liturgist will correct me, yes, we celebrate in our Eucharistic feast; however, we also remember, in fact we re-enact, Jesus at table with his disciples, and our Jewish kith and kin as they stand girded, staff in hand, sandals on their feet ready to move from slavery to freedom; ready to move into a new life.
Last week, we were taking our sandals off, wiggling our toes in ʾadāmâ receiving the invitation to participate in forming our own future. This morning the soles of our sandals shuffle uneasily, as we await the time to act and begin participating in bringing that future into being. Last week was a time for reflection, that deep – deep quiet in which frenetic frenzies fade and the ethereal presence of God is reveled. Today it’s time to move; today time to do something. But, before we pack up and head out, there are some little details we should be sure of.
The first is about the sign of blood, marking the houses of the Israelites. Verse 13 says: The blood shall be a sign for you … The blood does not tell God whose house is whose, God knows that. In itself it is not protection from evil or harm it is a sign for Israel, a reminder that God is faithful. (Fretheim) It’s helpful to remember that in the day blood is life; it doesn’t sustain life, it isn’t the source of life, but is life; that’s why Jews do not eat animals with its blood in it. (Butler Blood) The life of creation is given so that Israel’s life will be spared. (Fretheim)
The whole congregation, every household is to sacrifice a lamb. Lambs are very expensive (Brueggemann) so if a family too small, they are to share with a neighbor. Verse 4 is explicit, every family is to be included, no one is to be left out. This is one of the early biblical signs of God’s radical inclusivity.
The instructions are detailed, down to the time the liturgy begins, twilight. This is not the result of some master logistics scheming. Twilight is the time between light and dark, it is the time of transition. In order for Israel to get to their future, they must let go of their past. (Portier-Young)
The menu and cooking instructions are woven with meaning: they eat bitter herbs a reminder of sorrow and suffering; and flat bread, a sign of haste and readiness; finally they roast the lambs, they cannot eat it raw, because they do not consume blood, they cannot boil it, because the waters of Egypt have been a source of death. (Portier-Young) Finally there is a vital urgency here; when we lose our sense of urgency we are at risk of being at home, with the forces of empire. For the Israelites in Egypt its Pharaoh for the Jews in Jesus day its Rome, for us, it’s harder to see, because we so much closer to being at home.
Last week I said things are not as they were, that we are invited to shape our own future, and I had no idea what all that entails. I still don’t. What I do know, is that is or should be a sense of urgency, not because of some pending doom, but because of some mission imperative. God did not save the Israelites, because they were some pure people, but because from the calling of Abraham they had a mission imperative, to a blessing to all nations in sharing the presence of God. Our mission imperative is exactly the same, to proclaim the presence of God, right here, right now. How we go about it, will be very different because our time is very different, our circumstance is very different. But our story is the same, it’s the story we enact as we make Eucharist; we see creation’s blood shed for our salvation we receive and offer God’s radical inclusiveness we are being transformed as we let go of what was to find what is, we remember: the bitterness of life, the need for haste and preparation, and that death does not have the last word. Most importantly as Israel left for an unknowable journey, to some vague destination they did not travel alone.
As we discern our journey to come, to some yet to be disclosed manner of mission we are not alone. From before Ur, into and out of Egypt, into and out of Babylon, onto and off of Calvary God has always been with God’s people, God is here this day, and will be forever.
Brueggemann, Walter. The New Intrepreter’s Bible. Ed. Leander E Keck. Vol. Exodus. Abbingdon Press, 2003.
Butler, Trent. Holman Bible Dicitionary. Holman bible Publishers, n.d. e.
Fretheim, Terence E. Interpretation A BIBLE COMMENTARY FOR TEACHING AND PREACHING. Ed. Patrick D Miller, Jr. and Paul J. Achtemeier. Vol. Exodus. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1991.
Portier-Young, Anathea. “Commentary on Exodus 3:1-15.” 7 9 2014. workingpreacher.org. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2136>.