Monday, April 14, 2014

Pesach Meets Monday in Holy Week 2014

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. 22The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. 23The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. 24At the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. 25He clogged* their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, ‘Let us flee from the Israelites, for the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.’

The Pursuers DrownedThen the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.’ 27So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the Lord tossed the Egyptians into the sea. 28The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. 29But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. (Exodus 14:21-29)

At tables in Jewish homes this evening, families and friends are gathered to remember the deliverance of the Israelites out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt.  There will be ritual remembrances of having to leave quickly before their bread could rise, dipping parsley into salt water, a symbol of the tears shed by the Israelites and eating bitter herbs to recall the hardships endured under the Pharaoh who did not know their ancestor Joseph.

Did the escape from Egypt happen exactly as outlined in the Book of Exodus?  Not likely.  But Jews still tell this story because it isn’t so important whether it literally happened.  Its ultimate lesson is still the same: oppressed people will be made free and those who wield power unjustly will be toppled.  

We incorporate the Exodus story into our Easter Vigil as a reminder that we, too, were part of that history.  And while our stories diverged and traveled in different parallel paths, we both are striving to live our lives in the freedom that comes from the justice and mercy of God.  

The life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ is the Christian’s deliverance from a different kind of slavery.  Not one in which we are fleeing a tyrant who forced hard labor of making bricks with less straw and longer work hours.  In Christ, we are graced with a freedom of our hearts, minds and bodies which can become enslaved to many other “gods”: money, status, power, or a belief that God’s love has limits. 

At the table, on this first night of Passover, the question is always posed to the youngest at the table,“How is this night different than other nights?”  This is how they begin the examination of their struggle for freedom from Pharoah, and recognizing that even in today’s world, they must still commit to the work of liberation for all.  We, in Christianity, might ask ourselves this same question, “How is this Week different than other weeks?” as we embark on this journey toward the cross of Good Friday, and the hope of the Resurrection on Sunday. 

“How will this Holy Week change me?” 

“How am I still living as a slave to old habits, patterns of thought, beliefs that no longer serve as helpful in my coming to know God through Christ?”

“How do my actions present a stumbling block to others in knowing God?” 

“How can I allow myself to experience spiritual freedom that comes through Christ?”

Almighty God, whose dear Son went not up to joy but
first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he
was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way
of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and
peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.
(this was the closing worship reflection I offered at the Education for Ministry group this evening.)

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