September 5, 2021
Order of Worship:
Last week in our series Exodus: Journey to Deliverance, we read about Pharaoh’s hardened heart and God’s power in the plagues. In this week’s lesson, we have the final plague – a night that will be remembered “throughout all generations.” May the Spirit open our hearts to the lessons of the Word:
Exodus 12:1-14, 28-32
- The instructions in this passage about the Passover lamb precede the detailed commands concerning sacrifices that we will find later in the Torah (Leviticus 1-7). For generations of Temple worship, the system of sacrifices offered by the priests on behalf of the people was a cornerstone of the Jewish faith and one of the primary ways the people interacted with God. Of course, Christians claim that Christ’s death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice – the fulfilment of what first begins here with the Passover lamb. There were different kinds of sacrifices in the Temple system –for penitence, gratitude, purification, and petition, to name a few! – rather like the many different kinds of prayers we offer today; how many different ways did you talk to God today? What does the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God, mean to your faith? How are we called to live ‘sacrificially’ as Christians in service to God and others?
- The lamb’s blood is important in this story. Blood was used to mark the doorposts, not only because it was a simple way to color something, but because it is a symbol of life in scripture (Leviticus 17:11). For as much as humanity has evolved as a species away from religious beliefs that require blood sacrifices and ritual, Christianity remains closely tied to our ancient roots in this way. How many hymns can you think of that talk about the blood of Jesus? Are you ever bothered by discussions of or the sight of blood? How is blood still a life-giving force today; have you ever donated blood?
- “The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live.” It’s interesting that we often talk about the blood being a sign for God (so that the Destroyer will pass over the house – more on that in a moment), but of course God already knows which houses belong to which people. Verse 13 makes clear that the blood is a sign “for you” – the Israelites themselves. It’s a recognition of their belonging to this new people God is calling, a visible sign that they are part of the community. What symbols do we use to show we belong to a particular community (team logos, flags, school colors)? The symbol Christians use to show we are part of the people of God is invisible – the water of our baptism; how are we called to show the world our affiliation and allegiance?
- We call this event the Passover – from the verses that say God is “passing over” the land – but in Hebrew the verb is Pesach (פֶּסַח). As with most Hebrew words, the meaning is broader than the way we often translate it into English. Pesach does mean ‘pass over,’ but it also means ‘to protect’ and ‘to have compassion for.’ How do these meanings help enhance your understanding of the story?
- “This day shall be a remembrance for you; you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance” (verse 14). Pesach is indeed celebrated each year by Jewish families around the world. They remember this night by eating the Seder meal – full of liturgy and symbolism to bring this story to life and allow those who gather to feel fully connected to their history in the present moment. God’s liberation happens again as the dinner re-enacts the people’s deliverance from slavery. This is very like our Communion; a living meal where we profess that Jesus is our host, present with us as we proclaim his death and resurrection once again. What brings the sacrament ‘alive’ to you – the liturgy, the bread and wine, the setting, the congregation? How and why do we affirm that the sacrament tells the story of our faith as much as the peaching of the Word does?
In some ways, this is the climax of the Exodus story. The people are finally free and Pharaoh has told them to “Go!” But, the journey is just beginning. Now they will begin to discover what it means to be ‘marked by the blood’ as the children of God. I pray that the Spirit blesses each of you on the journey of ever deeper discipleship.
Shalom to you all,
Pastor Maggie Rust