Tonight is one of my favorite evenings in the whole church calendar.
"This is the night, when you brought our fathers, the children of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea on dry land..."
I was assigned to do the reading from Exodus for our Easter Vigil. As I was looking it over, I was hit with the line "But Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again."
I was thinking about what our ancestors were experiencing. This must have seemed so hopeless to them, to try to escape from Egypt. And they were putting their trust in this guy Moses. Could they really trust him, especially against such a powerhouse as Pharoah (and his horses, and chariots and chariot drivers)?! And, as the story goes, God was with Moses and gave him what was needed to get the Israelites through the Sea of Reeds on dry ground, while sending the waters crashing back down upon the Egyptians. And, indeed, the Egyptians whom they saw that day they would never see again.
I sometimes wonder about the modern day Egyptians. It seems we are never without a someone or a something that is pursuing us or crushing us or trying to beat us down into submission and to a point where we believe the hype and stop trying to gain our freedom. I think of the people who plot and scheme to turn back civil rights that were hard won, be it voting rights or abortion rights or the right to marry or serve in the military. I read a story like the one from Exodus, and I see the tension. And I also see that those who seek God and stay with God are given the path out from under the oppression. It wasn't just handed to the Israelites. First, they had to trust and have faith that Moses wasn't leading them astray. And then they had to act, to move, and to go forward with the walls of water parting on their left and on their right. Similarly, if we are going to come to that place where we maintain our hard fought rights under the law, we must trust that we are not alone in this fight and find our allies, our Moses. Then we must go forward... even in our fear that maybe we're being marched into the sea rather than through it.
This is the night to let fear remain in the grave, and let faith and hope prevail. This is the night where we reclaim the rights of our full citizenship. This is the night where Christ's victory over death is a sign to us that we, too, can be victorious over the attempts to keep us down.
Let that light shine in our hearts, rejoice and be glad in it!