October 2, 2016 – 20th Sunday after Pentecost
Exodus 12:1-13; 13:1-8 and Luke 22:14-20
A promise from God is a statement we can depend on with absolute confidence. People aren’t the same. There are times that we might be untrustworthy. It is a nasty reality, as we all may have experienced, when politicians don’t live up to their promises.
All along through September’s readings we’ve seen how God keeps God’s promises, even when people doubt God’s promises. When Abraham, in his ripe age, experiences that God hasn’t lived up to the promise of children, Abraham finds it necessary to have a child with his wife Sarah’s slave, Hagar.
The promising God had promised that Abraham and Sarah’s descendants would be multiplied as many as the stars and that they would have land and that they would be a blessing. But then the famine came and God preserved them by sending Joseph ahead to Egypt. However, Pharaoh forgets the favour he extends to Joseph and his family, and starts feeling threatened by these people of Israel. He finds comfort in forcing them to do slave labour. They end up being in captivity. Where are God’s promises now? That’s the way the people of Israel must’ve felt.
How often don’t we too feel that God’s promises of freedom from all kinds of forms of captivity seem shattered? The Gospel teaches us that Jesus made us a new creation, new people that can now live in freedom from sin and death.
Then, once again, we too find ourselves oppressed by all kinds of shackles. The social media, such as we find on our little smartphones, Facebook, texting, trying to keep up with the news are merely one form of captivity. We find our bodies deteriorating and realise that sooner or later we might after all not be able to escape death. We feel stuck in many more ways. What happened to God’s promises of freedom and liberation through Jesus’ victory over sin and death? Life on earth sometimes has a way of showing us that we have been taken captive.
This is where the story of the Old Testament illustrates vividly how the Israelites felt trapped in their existence in Egypt. Many stories have been written and filmed of the people of God being set free from captivity. Their narrative is your and my narrative. We too find ourselves in their shoes.
The story of God’s people being delivered from Egypt is one of the most central stories in the entire Bible. It is a self-defining story for God. God says over and over “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” Jews still celebrate Passover, when God spared the their lives through the blood of a lamb.
What is so remarkable is that this imagery is important to Christians as well. Jesus takes the unleavened bread and wine, shares it with his disciples before his death, comparing it to his body and blood. We hear throughout Scripture that Jesus is the Lamb of God and that the blood of that lamb saves us. Therefore when we might be startled at lambs being slaughtered in our Old Testament story, it all comes full circle and makes sense to us. In both the Jewish and Christian traditions, God has proven faithful to God’s promises to humankind.
We celebrate this new life when we celebrate Easter, and we also do it every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
For Israel the celebration of Passover is a time to tell their children of God who delivered their forefathers from bondage in Egypt. Passover is commemorated as an antidote to nostalgia when the Israelites long to go back to Egypt and to enjoy the life back in Egypt where they had leeks, onions and fish. When they go through Passover, they once again remember that they are a liberated people. It is also an antidote to cruelty because they remember how cruel Pharaoh and the Egyptians had been to their forefathers and subsequently not to show that same cruelty to anyone they encounter.
Let’s celebrate the parallel to Passover, knowing that the life of captivity isn’t one we really want to return to, and knowing that we are called to show compassion to anyone who experiences some form of oppression.
God’s promises last forever, and God’s New Reality is here already. Let us make this New Reality, God’s kingdom, real, wherever we go, right into our neighbourhoods and also into all our efforts to alleviate other human beings experiencing dire circumstances. We are called to be bearers of the light that Jesus Christ brought to the world. Amen
Copyright 2016 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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