31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
October 2, 2016
Exodus 12:1-13, 13:1-8
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Get your shoes on, your cloak tucked up into your belt, and your traveling staff at the ready; get set, to eat the Passover lamb; annnd run.
It sounds more like one of those alternative 5k runs that people are doing these days than a holy meal, but these are God’s instructions to the Israelites for the first Passover.
Take a lamb for each family or for neighboring families if the families are too small. Just make sure to include all the members of the community, and then together, as a whole congregation, sacrifice the lamb, and mark the doorposts of your homes with its blood. Quickly, roast the lamb over fire; prepare bread that has no yeast and thus does not need time to rise; And eat in a hurry.
Talk about dine and dash. With good reason though. The Israelites needed to be prepared for the Passover of the Lord; to be prepared to leave Egypt in a hurry; to be prepared to be freed from Egyptian slavery.
While modern Passover meals are not eaten in such haste, they do remember this first annual Passover. Year after year, those gathered around the Passover table share in the same meal and tell the story of how God freed God’s people from captivity.
Annual traditions are wonderful. Annual traditions are important in our lives. They bring us comfort and consistency in a life and world that do not offer enough comfort and consistency. There is something really powerful about stuffing made according to an old family recipe. It is often a balm to the soul to see the same china plates setting the table year after year after year. It is with a sense of expectation and a feeling of belonging that we look forward to going to annual fairs like the Mum & Apple Harvest Festivals and Big E, eating the same comfort food, doing the same activities, and of course watching the parade.
Annual traditions are wonderful. They bring comfort in their consistency.
But the Passover meal and Communion are not just comforting traditions like a favorite meal on your birthday. They are acts of love and justice.
In these meals of remembrance, yes, we remember God loves us; yes, God binds us together as a community of faith; and God sets us free.
Through the Passover, God set the Israelites free from the Egyptians, free from the powerful and wealthy who oppressed them for economic and political gain.
Generations later, when Jesus spoke in the midst of the Passover meal, his disciples must have hoped he was going to proclaim that God was coming to set them free from the Romans, but God’s plan was so much bigger than that. Through the body and blood of Jesus, God has set us free from all people and all powers that wish to enslave us. Even death has lost its sting.
We are free because we have been bought and paid for with the body of Jesus, with the blood of the Lamb.
For every people who has ever been enslaved, it has been good, good news to hear that no one could really own them, no one could chain their souls, because God owned them, and through the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, God came to set them free.
That message doesn’t resonate as well for us in the United States and the progressive Christian church.
We are free.
We – are? – free?, right?
Yes! We are free……..except heroin and prescription drug use are becoming rampant in our country, rampant in our city. This year alone, I’ve done funerals for two people who were enslaved to heroin.
In the United States of America, we are free…..except that hate and fear seem to reign over our lives like a tyrant king.
And their kingdom justifies killing police officers. It rationalizes shooting before asking questions at traffic stops. It legitimizes racism and sexism, homophobia and prejudice against those who are differently abled. Hate and fear are puppet masters pulling the strings that lead to violence, hate crimes, and hate speech.
And so many people in our country are enslaved to economic injustice. Despite our labor laws to protect workers, there are still so many people who work for profitable companies but the worker is not being paid a living wage. There are companies that still make workers clock out and work so they won’t be paid overtime and companies that punish workers for filing for worker’s compensation.
Too many people in our country suffer under economic injustice, and there are whole communities that suffer, too– simply look at Flint, Michigan. Still no clean water – and all because it was going to save the government money.
Every day, there are thousands of people in our country who suffer great injustice at the hands of people who want to use them to make more money, have more power – just like the Egyptians did to the Israelites thousands of years ago.
Every day, something or someone is trying to enslave us, too.
So we come to this table.
We come to this table to be reminded of God’s unconditional love for us. We come to this table to be reminded that we are called, with our brothers and sisters all over the world, to be united in ministry, united in community, united as one body in Jesus Christ.
And we come to this table to hear, touch, smell, and taste the good news that Christ’s body has been given for us; Christ’s blood has been shed for us – all that we might be free.
Free. Free from fear and hate. Free from addiction. Free from injustice and oppression. Free from everything that keeps us from God’s love and the love of our neighbor. Free from everything that keeps us from living this life abundantly.
We come to this table to hear, touch, smell, and taste the good news that through the love of Jesus, God sets us free.
Come people of God, come to this table and experience the good news of Jesus Christ, participate in this act of love and justice and be set free.