2016-10-02 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
PRESENT PASSOVER PROMISES
Exodus 12, 13, selected verses
When did you first realize that the Bible isn’t neat & tidy?
Or contradicted itself?
Or wasn’t a magic answers book?
If you’ve been here at FBC over the past 8 years or so, we tell the Bible story as a messy one.
“I love to tell the story,
it’s sometimes strange and gory,
that wondrous, old, old story,
of Jesus and his jewish heritage of sin, folly, dysfunctional family-hood, deceit, thievery, murder and that woman (Jael) who took a hammer and tent peg and crushed Sisera’s head – – she shattered and pierced his temple (Judges 5:26).”
Today, we get to the part of the story where God appears to get violent. He kills the first born son of every family (and animal family) in Egypt!
[ draw attention to Peter Enns quote ]
“So seeing God portrayed as a violent, tribal warrior is not how God is, but how he was understood to be by the ancient Israelites…”
So….how do we hold this God in tension…because there are many more wars and killing to come…and if we are unable to make sense of this, it might be very distracting.
-God is Holy and Just…that’s just the way it is
-God is just…and this is an attempt to make Pharaoh “heel”. . . Pharoah is a creation killer (he does his own attempt of taking out all the firstborn of Hebrews in Ex.1) and since he is “anti-creational”, he, in the end, has an “anti-creational” act take away his firstborn…is this poetic justice?
-These stories are more about how Israel remembered God VS how God really is
-These are stories about how God and God’s people found their way through faith & folly, and yes, it’s complicated…and messy, and sometimes people die along the way…but that’s not God’s heart’s desire for the world, but it is the “way of the world” in the midst of a creation that is influenced by the Evil one…and yes, by God’s work, and our work in the world, we will someday be “all made new” by a God who is making all things new.
-“God is a bit bloodthirsty for our 21st century tastes”… the challenge in this reading and other violent biblical texts is to snub our noses and think we are too sophisticated… but we too, live in a violent age and we share complicity in the tangled web of connection that leads to violence/oppression.
[to be real, and to be honest: no human community exists without violence or bloodshed]
Our reading of this and every blood-soaked biblical text may be best done with a humble spirit / sorrow / penitence.
-The Jewish Passover tradition acknowledges this posture of sorrow and humility… a Jewish writer reflects on the first Passover and says: “Even the evildoers of Egypt were human, and God will not tolerate the celebration of human suffering, no matter how deserving the sufferers.” For this reason, at our Passover seders (remembrance meals), we remove one drop of wine from our glass as we name the 10 plagues, reducing our joy in acknowledgment that our freedom was won at the cost of great suffering of others.
Q & A time?
So…Back to our Moses story…
*** Liberation is the point…and God will do incredible things to undo us…to deconstruct the way we see the world…in order to re-imagine a new world…a new way…and the good news is that God uses un-spectacular people to get God’s work done!
God has a penchant for 80 year olds! Last time we were talking about an octogenarian it was dear old Abram, who became Father to Isaac when he was almost 90.
Well, now it’s a 1000 years later…it’s 1250 BCE…Abraham and Sarai descendants have been fruitful and multiplied…and are filling the land…but it does not come with welcome and celebration…there is a Pharoah in the land who “does not know Joseph.” And thus the people of God (Israel) have been enslaved and oppressed for 400 years.
Imagine that….400 years of slavery!
These people could not imagine a life any other way.
And thus God…the protagonist of the story…raises up another leader who will “prod” on with the promise.
Moses. An 80-year old shepherd…who comes not with shield and an archer’s bow…but a wooden staff.
Moses is an unlikely hero…but he steps forth, in the power of name of YHWH, he enters into a showdown…Moses & YHWH versus Pharoah & the Egyptian God Ra.
A million spectators sitting on the edge of their seats…
10 rounds in the ring…ding ding!
Death (knockout punch!)
The 10 plagues dismantle Pharoah’s control and sovereignty over land, people, and their souls…and YHWH claims his place and Saviour and Lord.
Pharoah cries out in defeat…in the darkness he screams at Moses…
“Rise up, go away from my people, you and the Israelites!
Go, worship the LORD, as you said.
Take your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be gone.”
And hundreds of thousands of Israelites begin their journey out of Egypt, out of their land of captivity, and they move east towards the promised land.
Now we know that their “escape” is not over…there is more drama to come…but we pause here because the Lord commands Moses to begin a ritual of remembrance…and so Moses says to the people:
“Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, because the LORD brought you out by the strength of his hand.” (13:3)
“A new observance I declare…a festival of the LORD, a feast of unleavened bread…You shall tell your child on this feast day: ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ It shall serve for you as a sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that the teaching of the LORD may be on your lips; for with a strong hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt.”
– – And so the Passover feast began for the people of God…and this feast continues to be celebrated through us, the “new” people of God…through our time at the Lord’s table.
So…as we continue to make our way to the table, and connect the dots of God’s story in the past and how it plays out in the present…
LIBERATION is still the name of the game.
God is working out salvation in all of us…
But here is still so much that oppresses us…that hems us in…that distracts us from the “way of life”…
Q: How might our imaginations need to be de-constructed and reformed?
Eugene Peterson, puts it this way…
In the Exodus story, in order for the Israelites to continue in the “salvation life” they require a disciplined and chastened imagination, free of the dirt and stink and abuse in which they had lived for so long…
Free to hear the word of grace and forgiveness,
to recognize the world of providence and blessing,
to live a life of free obedience and joyful worship.
PAUSE: Where might God, by the loving presence of the Holy Spirit (the one who comes alongside), be seeking to “chasten” [prune?] our imaginations…to free us of the dirt, stink and abuse that so often clouds out/crowds out the voice of God…
Lord…free us up to hear your words of grace & forgiveness.
Free us up to recognize your world of providence & blessing.
Free us up to live a life of free obedience and joyful worship.
Let us read the Passover Litany that’s found in our bulletins.
This is a practical way for us to immerse ourselves in the drama of the story…to acknowledge our connection to this Jewish feast and recognize that we too, are in places of oppression and captivity – – the ways of Pharoah still rule our age…and God longs for & is working for our release…God beckons us to freedom…and God tells us to eat our meal, put on our travelling clothes, fear not, trust in…and journey out…together…as the people of God, destined to be a blessing unto all the earth.
We share in the Litany and point ourselves towards the Table…
A Passover Litany for the People of God (Then & Now)
Narrator: The people are hungry.
Congregation: We are hungry for deliverance.
N: The people are hungry for justice.
Congregation: We are hungry for peace.
N: And God said…
YHWH: Take a lamb, and cook it, and eat it.
Congregation: Everyone, in their own house. At the same time.
YHWH: At sunset. Cook the lamb over the fire, and eat it.
Congregation: But we are still hungry.
N: The people said, we are hungry for our own land.
Congregation: We are hungry for a new beginning.
YHWH: Here is your new beginning. Eat your meal, put on your traveling clothes, and be on your way.
Congregation: But where can we go? Where can we hide from our persecutors?
YHWH: Leave that to me. You do what I ask you to do, tonight at sunset.
YHWH: Always together.
Congregation: But we are afraid.
YHWH: Do not fear. You will be saved.
Congregation: But we have suffered much, for such a long time.
YHWH: Your deliverance is here.
Congregation: But how can we trust you?
YHWH: I have always been worthy of your trust. You are my people, and I love you.
Congregation: All right, Lord, we will do as you ask. We will cook and eat the lamb, together, at sunset.
YHWH: Then you may leave your houses without fear.
Congregation: But Lord, we have been so afraid for so long. Where are you leading us?
YHWH: I am leading you out of this land where you have been persecuted. It will be a long journey, very long, but I will provide for you.
Congregation: For all of us?
YHWH: Every one of you. But you have to keep trusting me.
Congregation: We do. We do trust you!
YHWH: So eat this meal of salvation and celebration. Take strength for the journey.
Congregation: But where are we going, Lord?
YHWH: Do not worry about your future. I promise you a future of joy and abundance in your own land.
Congregation: We believe you. We trust you.
YHWH: I will take care of your enemies in Egypt. No harm will come to you anymore.
Congregation: We believe you. We trust you!
YHWH: It is time for your new lives to begin. I will lead you to a land of milk and honey. No more will you be slaves. You will be free.
Congregation: Thank you, Lord!
YHWH: And every year you will eat this meal of lamb and unleavened bread, and you will remember.
Congregation: We promise to remember. Let us go out now, together.
YHWH: Always together as my people.
Congregation: We are ready to go.
YHWH: I will bless your journey.
Congregation: Sunset is coming, Lord bless us and keep us.