Blogging Towards Sunday, October 21st
Passover: it’s the beginning of months, the religious festival that marks time from the freedom of Israel from slavery, it’s the celebration of the experience of God’s redemptive action – it turns the past into a celebration of the future. As Christians we don’t necessarily follow, observe or celebrate Passover – and yet it’s more than just history, more than just the cultural background of the world of Jesus. It’s also an invitation to us as seekers of God, followers of the teachings of Jesus, and practitioners seeking our center in the Spirit. Passover is an invitation for all those who follow God to live with a new sense of time, a new sense of social relationships and identity, and to have a new relationship to the past and the future.
Today’s passage (and the larger body of this text/story in Exodus 11:1-13:16) wrestles with several theological themes:
TIME: how do we understand time as followers of God? Is time a circle or cycle from which we can never escape our destiny? Is time something that we choose and create based on our choices? Are we victims or time or are we in the driver’s seat? In Pharaoh’s Egypt one day is an endless repletion of wearisome toil that seems to go on forever. Past and Future are just limitless extensions of an intolerable present. Yahweh invites this people to celebrate Passover as a beginning of something new, which is the redemption of something from the past. It points forward towards hope, not in circles towards an inescapable past. How do you live that?
COMMUNITY | CONGREGATION: The Exodus story, ritual and history marks a new way of defining the Israelite identity. It’s not just a tribe of people who share a common ancestor, or who are circumcised. There is a connection between all those who eat the Passover meal, celebrating the redemptive activity of God in the world. By extension as Christians we believe that Baptism (a cleansing ritual which marks our identity as having died and risen with Christ [See Romans 6]) and Communion (an eating ritual in which our participation marks us as desiring belonging to Christ and the new community of the body of Christ gathered in the experience of our salvation in Christ) are similar. They both tell a story, and shape our story, they define the people of God, and open the door to others, they both free us to move towards God’s future by first pointing us to the past. How do you experience the sacraments (Baptism and Communion) in that way? How do you see them related to the Passover?
PASSOVER: the name literally comes from the verb Pesach: “to pass over” found in Exodus 12. But what kind of a God would Passover the Israelites but strike down the, seemingly innocent, first born children and even the livestock, of the Egyptians? How do you react to that? If the blood on the lintel is a sign that the family therein wants to be included with the circle of those God is saving, is it fair that the Egyptians didn’t know to paint the blood on the doorposts?
YEAST: It’s the celebration of both the Passover Lamb and the unleavened bread. The text can make it seem like two different holidays. What’s so special about not eating bread with yeast? Why is it important – or how is it – for latter generations? Yeast can take forever to act, but then rise quite quickly. It’s a bit like God’s deliverance which sometimes seems as if it will never come, and then comes so quickly that we’re not prepared for it. Leaven is actually old fermented dough. So to make new bread you use some of the old bread. If Exodus is about God creating a new people, then why would eating unleavened bread be so important and significant? What do the Israelites need to leave behind before they get to receive freedom, let alone get to the promised land?
Curiously Jesus also talks about yeast in his parables of the leaven (Luke 13:20-21 and Matthew 13:33). There Jesus says that the yeast is powerful because it works through all the dough transforming it into something new. Are these two teachings about yeast contradictory, or are they getting at the same thing? How do you hear them?
The story is told in a curious way. It’s the 10th plague recounted in 11:1-10 and also in 12:29-36. In between the foretelling of the event and the happening of it there is a long section of teaching on the observance and the importance of the Passover feast in 12:1-28.
Questions for wondering and exploring:
1. What troubles you and/or encourages you in this text? Why?
2. How do you need to mark that your life as a Christian, that you live with a different sense of time and a different sense of social relationships? How might that be revolutionary and grace-giving in our technological focused society in which we are all alone together?
3. From what old “yeasts” do you need to be freed in order to move towards the Promised Land that God wants for you? From what old “yeasts” do we need to be freed as a congregation?
4. Passover, Baptism and Communion are about experiencing something. It’s not just hearing a story of God’s past faithfulness, but experiencing it in the retelling of it so that we too participate. How is that important? How is it relevant to the ways in which we share faith with others, with our children? Which comes first the experience of God’s love or the knowledge of it? Does that even matter? How?