Year A, Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 10, 2023
Year A: Exodus 12:1-14; Psalm 149; Romans 13:8-14; Matthew 18:15-20
Normally, I do not preach on the Hebrew Scripture, but today is an exception. This scripture gives us an account of the Passover. The greatest celebration of the Jewish people. It celebrates their liberation from enslavement in Egypt.
Last week’s Exodus reading told us of God meeting Moses in the burning bush and sending him back to Egypt. If you remember in the Joseph saga, Joseph was sold by his brothers and ends up in Egypt. I am not going to recount all that happened to him before Pharoah appoints him his right-hand man. Because of a famine in Israel, Joseph is reunited with his family and the Hebrew people flourish in Egypt. Joseph died as did Pharoah. Another Pharoah comes into power. Moses is born and raised by Pharoah’s daughter. He becomes one of Pharoah’s right-hand men. The Hebrew people have become enslaved and are being treated harshly. One day Moses observes an Egyptian beating one of the Hebrew men and Moses kills the Egyptian. He thought no one saw him do so, but there were witnesses and Pharoah is out to kill him so he flees Egypt, gets a wife, and works for his father-in-law, tending the flock and minding his own business, when he encounters God who sends him back to Egypt.
Now that is probably the last place Moses wants to go. He is a wanted man, but he does as God has commanded him. According to the Scripture account – along with his brother, Aaron, Moses goes to the current Pharoah and asks for the liberation of the Hebrew people. The Pharoah refuses. So, a series of plagues came upon Egypt. After each, Moses and Aaron ask the Pharoah to let their people go. Pharoah refuses. Our lesson today takes place before the final plague.
God directs Moses and Aaron to tell the Jews to prepare a sacred meal. There are almost cookbook directions as to how the meal is to be prepared, and eaten, and even what to do with the leftovers. In addition, they are told how to dress for this meal. They are to eat this meal in haste and be prepared to leave on a minute’s notice. In addition, they are told to take some of the blood from the slain lamb and put it on the framing of the door and over the top of the door of their houses so that they will be spared when death comes to the firstborn in Egypt. The blood will be a sign to leave their homes untouched as God passes over them. But the firstborn in Egypt of humans and animals will die. We know that when this happens Pharoah relents and lets the Jews leave.
Now, I have a problem with reading this lesson literally. Especially with God killing the firstborn of Egypt. I can’t believe in a God who created this world and everything in it who would purposely kill beings that he created, loved, and called good.
This story was not written as it happened. It is the result of centuries of stories, traditions, and legends from a variety of traditions being handed down from one generation and community to another. Finally, they were compiled and put in written form in the 5th century BCE. Current scholars believe that most of the book of Exodus should be read as myth. It was written by folks who saw God at work in the freeing of God’s chosen from enslavement in Egypt.
The Passover event is something that the Jews have celebrated for centuries. It commemorates the salvation, freeing, and liberation of the Hebrews from enslavement in Egypt. It is celebrated annually paralleling our Christian time of experiencing Lent and Easter. The Passover meal was the final meal Jesus celebrated with his friends. In it, he gave new meaning to the bread and wine of the meal. They were to symbolize his flesh and blood given to us for the forgiveness of sins, and a way for us to remember him as we gather and eat bread and drink wine. We as Christians say that Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Jesus is the Lamb of God that was slain for us. His death and resurrection are our salvation events. His flesh and blood are for us a sacred meal. A meal we celebrate each Sunday as we come to this table and partake of the gifts of God for the people of God. Amen.