This month, our series journeys through the story of Moses and the Israelites in Egypt. Through this story, we will explore several elements of creation.
As a human on this beautiful Earth alongside other humans that I cherish, I have a difficult history with death. I have been touched by death and I have been changed by death. And yet as a Pastor, I am reminded that death is not an ending and is in fact an opportunity for celebration.
Even so, there is no denying the profound affect that death has on us all. When we experience the death of a family member, pet, dear friend, acquaintance, and even stranger, we usually will enter into experiences of grief. This is natural and good, because – regardless of the ways we understand death – our souls and our psyches require that we acknowledge a very real change in relationship.
Even loss at a distance affects us. Consider the ways we may have grieved at the loss of life in terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and other accidents. And consider the stories of death in our sacred texts.
1The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2“This month will be the first month; it will be the first month of the year for you. 3Tell the whole Israelite community: On the tenth day of this month they must take a lamb for each household, a lamb per house. 4If a household is too small for a lamb, it should share one with a neighbor nearby. You should divide the lamb in proportion to the number of people who will be eating it. 5Your lamb should be a flawless year-old male. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.
6You should keep close watch over it until the fourteenth day of this month. At twilight on that day, the whole assembled Israelite community should slaughter their lambs. 7They should take some of the blood and smear it on the two doorposts and on the beam over the door of the houses in which they are eating. 8That same night they should eat the meat roasted over the fire. They should eat it along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9Don’t eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over fire with its head, legs, and internal organs. 10Don’t let any of it remain until morning, and burn any of it left over in the morning.
11This is how you should eat it. You should be dressed, with your sandals on your feet and your walking stick in your hand. You should eat the meal in a hurry. It is the Passover of the Lord. 12I’ll pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I’ll strike down every oldest child in the land of Egypt, both humans and animals. I’ll impose judgments on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13The blood will be your sign on the houses where you live. Whenever I see the blood, I’ll pass over you. No plague will destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
14“This day will be a day of remembering for you. You will observe it as a festival to the Lord. You will observe it in every generation as a regulation for all time
Consider these questions:
- Think about ways that you have experienced the loss of someone close to you. And also consider ways that you have experienced the loss of persons with whom you are not close. How are these experiences the same? How do they differ?
- What can be celebrated as you look back on these experiences?
- What can be learned?
POST-SERMON UPDATE ON 9/5
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found by clicking this link (will open in a new tab).
I shared in worship yesterday that I have had a challenging and fluctuating relationship with the concept of death. And yet when we read the story of the Passover in context with the plagues, it becomes possible to see death differently.
While our Jewish siblings honor the annual Passover Seder with an acknowledgment of pain and loss, there is surely an element of hope. The people led from Egypt by Moses were freed from slavery and violent oppression, and offered new hope in a Promised Land. We who claim faith in Jesus Christ are led from slavery to sin and death, and offered new hope in a promised resurrection.
So we must remember the saying that has been fulfilled: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)
Consider these questions:
- Consider the exploration of the 10 plagues of Egypt during the sermon. How did the various approaches to this story affect your understanding? Were you challenged? Which approach do you prefer?
- How does the story of Passover – and even the various ways we explored the 10 plagues of Egypt – inform your understanding of the Passover Seder today?
- Where do you see room for hope in this story? Where do you see room for hope in the recent hurricanes and wildfires? Where do you see room for hope in your personal life?
We don’t always get advance notice of death. When we do, those who heed the warnings can hope to be passed over. This week it’s about evacuating in advance of Hurricane Irma. I pray that people will heed the warnings, and trust in God’s care.