The following is a reflection on Exodus 12:1-14, the Hebrew Bible lesson properly appointed for September 4th, 2011 according to the Revised Common Lectionary. (Proper 18, Year A) On this site there is also
• a reflection on the Gospel Lesson for the same day, and
• a version of the Prayers of the People, based on the lessons of the day.
Can you imagine the logistical nightmare that Moses was handed?
He had to tell the entire nation of Israel that they each had to 1) take a perfect year-old lamb, 2) on the 10th of the month, 3) and slaughter it on the 14th of the month at twilight, 4) roast it with bitter herbs, 5) don’t have any leftovers, 6) and eat with sandals and staff, 7) hurriedly.
Oh, and by-the-way don’t forget to put some of the lamb’s blood on your doorpost—or the angel of death with snuff you out.
I can’t even imagine standing in front of a congregation of 150 people and giving those instructions, and expecting anyone to really take me seriously.
Someone in the church would think they had a better lamb recipe—there’s a great one in the parish cookbook, you know. Someone else always hates to be in a hurry, and prefers to jabber through meals. (We all know who that is…) And, someone would check the calendar on their iPhone and realize that they have a conference call on the 14th at twilight—how’s the 15th work for you?
Low ball estimates for the population of the Israelites, come in around 20-40,000.
That’s a lot of people to get a recipe to. In fact, that’s a lot of lambs being slaughtered at the same time.
Why all the attention to detail? Why the logistical nightmare?
Because this meal is the beginning point of a whole new identity for this community, the People of God.
“This month shall mark for you the beginning of months.”
It’s a whole new beginning, for a people who needed a do-over.
These were the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—they are the children and inheritors of the Promise of God, the Covenant—and they had been reduced to brick-making-slaves.
They needed something to help them begin to break away from everything they knew, and start over. Like a wedding reception. Like a 50th surprise birthday party. Like a baby shower.
Life on the other side of the split sea, on the other side of slavery, would be completely different—and they were going to do it together—and with the help of God.
This meal would begin to form them into a new kind of people, almost like a group process exercise on a high ropes course. And, the fact that God would ask them to have this meal over and over again into perpetuity would solidify their new identity.
Until, of course, the People of God needed another do-over. And so on the night before Jesus died, he sat down at table to have this meal once again, and offered his own Body and Blood.