Exodus – Passover
I am sitting here at dawn on the eastern side of Alice Springs looking out into the Macdonnell ranges.
This is a beautiful but dry and weary land where there is no water. It is only the artesian springs beneath that allow this town to exist.
This journey into the Heart, my 4th, has been marked by the incredible grace of God who is opening so many doors for the ministry of reconciliation through Makingpeasce that I am running to keep pace. What was to be a three week visit is now to be 6 months or more. Owen has joined me.
There is an update report for you all, separate to this sermon. I have briefed Emma, Helen and Tina on some of the journey.
This is a land of captives. Of sovereign people trapped in town camps enslaved by alcohol and domestic violence and poverty. Of heroic people who try to alleviate the suffering, of rednecks and racists who don't give a damn.
16 languages alone are spoken along the river town camps. These people once lived, hunted and worked on their own country. Massacres and removal to outstations have forced them into the cities,rendered them helpless and dependent on welfare, a well meaning intervention system that can only place small bandaids on deep and festering generational wounds.
Many have forgotten where they came from. Children are born with fetal alcohol syndrome daily. Aboriginal people walk with crippled limbs,degenerative diseases, blinded eyes and deaf ears. Police presence is everywhere . Restorative policing practices are sought on the ground, but brutality is common.
Like the hebrews in Egypt our indigenous have been dispossessed by our colonisation. They are outsiders in their own country, aliens, threats to society. And because they are seen that way they are treated that way and because they are treated that way it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
On the surface, deliverance seems as far away for these dear ones as the solutions to the problem are impossible to grasp.
But God weeps. He weeps for this land, he weeps for our unbelief. They say around here that when the creator weeps it becomes a river of life to heal the land. God remains as ever the God of hope healing and deliverance in this place.
When you meet a christian aboriginal person the comparison is so striking in their lives it is breathtaking.
I sat with a christian elder two days ago . He is 79 ,no disease, no addiction and no bitterness despite reciting to me in tears the names of 8 of his ancetors who died from massacres and slavery.
No contempt in those tear filled eyes... just as he says…. forgiveness that only God can give.
“That big one fella up there’ he sees past ,he sees us now, he sees all, he gives us a future’.
In Exodus 12 1-14 God carefully outlines for Moses and Aaron the shape of the future, the heart of which is an act of remembrance. He tells the Israelites that they are to mark time from this moment. The first day of the rest of their lives. And in these instructions we the people of the Easter events can see clearly the blueprint of God's plan to set his beloved Son Jesus upon the altar of sacrifice to rescue us all from brokenness.
I cannot help but be reminded of a ceremonial meal I witnessed at the Aboriginal tent embassy two years ago.
Echidnas or Billa are no longer hunted by Wiradjuri as they are considered too valuable to the ecosystem which is under pressure.
The billa presented for this ceremony had been hit by a car and collected a few moments after its death and kept for the meal. It was considered precious and rare. Its life would not be wasted.
The animal is an insectivore and stores the ant venom in sacs so that it does not get poisoned. It's intestinal tract is full of the grit that is ingested in the process of licking up ants.
The entrails were carefully removed and fed specifically to insectivorous birds such as butcher birds and magpies because only they can handle the ant toxin. Then the echidna was boiled whole for 11/2 hours and the quills removed. Only the males may pull the quills who give them to the women to make jewelry.
The boiled echidna was then whole roasted on the coals.
By sunset after a whole day of ceremony the meal was ready. It was served on a platter and looked like a blackened Christmas pudding. It was then carried to the oldest male elder by the youngest girl in the camp. The elder raised up the meal into the air over and said these words.
We give thanks that you have brought billa to us. We remember a time when we walked together on our land before we were taken. We remember where we came from, our people and our land.
The meat was then distributed carefully and evenly to all the group.
At sunrise the next morning the remains of the meal was carried to the nearest ant’s nest so that the perfect circle was closed, and the ceremony completed according to LORE.
The instructions given to Moses and Aaron for the first passover meal in Exodus Chapter 12 verses 1-14 are equally specific and complete.
One lamb for each household. The importance of families and households in the eyes of Godis recorded here.
If there were too few in a house group to eat a whole lamb you would share your meal in an act of generosity with your neighbours so that exactly the correct amount of meat would be served and nothing would be wasted .
The portions would be divided equally amongst the family groups, so that each would have no more or less than the other.
It would be a perfect lamb without blemish, not some second rate beast, and it must be kept for fourteen days. This meant that they would have come to know the sweet innocence of that lamb for its true value. The blood of the lamb was to be costly.
God's deliverance would be costly.
600,000 men left Egypt on the night of the exodus so that means 100 of thousands of prized lambs or goats were killed to establish a ransom for captive Israel.
Costly indeed .
Contrast this to the sacrifice of Jesus the Lamb of God whose one sacrifice enables God to pass over the sins of everyone who has ever lived!
All would witness the slaughtering. And the blood that would normally be drained away at the altar catchment leaving its stain there would be placed front and center at the threshold of their homes.
‘In their faces’ so to speak,at eye level as they came and went from through their doors. Blood is a symbol of life and death.
The lamb would be roasted whole with bitter herbs. The Israelites would taste the memory of the bitterness of their slavery and captivity. The sweet and succulent meat turned sour in their mouths.
Do not forget what you have been rescued from.
It could not be broken up or boiled down ... recognisable until the end. Jesus passed whole; God and man through the fires of death and hell instead of us.
John 19:36 harkens to Psalm 34:20...
NOT ONE OF HIS BONES WILL BE BROKEN.
I wonder…... do we sometimes shy away from the fullness of the work of Christ's sacrifice.
I wonder… Do we boil down the message to make it easier for ourselves and others to swallow?
I wonder…. Do we say I will take the saviour part of Jesus but not the LORD part?
We need to be united to all of Jesus…. his humanity and his deity.
The meal was to be eaten in haste after the Israelites were packed and girded up for a journey out into the night into the presence of God. One day you and I and all humanity will be required to make that final journey into the presence of God.
Jesus' death and resurrection means that until that day we may to go daily into the presence of God ? Or are we stuck on Pharaoh time. Are we people of the exodus or people of brick and straw?
And then when all had been obeyed the angel of death would pass over them.
The blood signs on the doors were not merely signs of having carried out a list of instructions, They were rather a mark of obedience and trust towards Yahweh.
The Hebrew’s act of obedience was costly because God's deliverance had tarried.
9 Nine plagues had come and gone with only weasel words and hypocritical responses from Pharaoh who reneged on his word.
Pharaoh Ramses ll had long forgotten Joseph the Hebrew Prime minister of Egypt and the blessings that had flowed 400 years ago . There was no knowledge of the Yahweh who demanded ‘let my people go’ amongst the Egyptian Gods. But God is about making himself known for all time. In fact this yahweh was poised re- set time by this symbolic night of passage.
Yahweh delivered the tenth plague and last word in a language that the Egyptian’s knew off by heart. The language of death and the science and religion of how to beat it.
Reminiscent also of the ethnic cleansing of the Hebrew first born of Moses babyhood. And so the cry shifted from Moses’ ‘ let my people go to’ to ….Pharaohs cry .. ‘please we beg you... go and go now!!!
Pharaoh's game was up. This was no longer some diplomatic tryst. Premature death had come to his own doorposts and the loss of his first born meant the loss of an Egyptian deity.
Pharaoh’s Chronos time was met with God’s Kairos time
Are we Exodus ready ? Or are we stuck on Pharaoh Chronos time.
During this strange Chronos COVID time of endless uncertainty, we may feel trapped within a repetitive cycle of doing the same things day after day. Waiting for deliverance ? Are we in need of an exodus? a deliverance from that mind set into the life of the God who makes all things new. Whose mercies are new every morning?
Do we sometimes mark the days brick by endless brick building our own monuments to the unknown or do we mark it by kairos time? by the fullness of God's time who overlays and permeates our lives with a sure and certain hope of deliverance?.
Gerald Janzen SAYS
When pharaoh is in charge of time one's days become an endless repetition of wearisome toil that in time may seem to have been going on forever. Past and future are just limitless extensions of a stalled present. Such a present spreads itself into the past and the future with the result that memory and hope are tuned into a growing mountain and lengthening shadow. ( This was certainly true for the entrapped Hebrews and it is the current reality for our aboriginal marginalised )
Passover celebrates Israel's experience of redemption,which turns the past into a fountain of celebration to which one can return annually in remembrance and turns the future into an open prospect that one can anticipate in hope.
For us... the people of Jesus the Son of God, the past is forever marked from that first passover with the anticipation of the coming sacrifice of the Son of God once and for all.
An ever present redemptive hope is held in our hands as we eat and drink of the body of Christ who conquered death. You and I and all humanity are invited to make that journey into the presence of God through an act of remembrance the seeds of which God has planted in the midst of our experiences every day.
The future is assured because the Lamb of God has gone before us all.
Jesus did not pass over death he passed through it and death passed through him .
Behold the lamb of God who sits upon the throne.
We are the people of God. His Spirit is with us. We are Yahweh’s people.
He brought us out of slavery with a mighty hand, He brought us out of sin and despair by sending his Son to save us. He is a God who delivers in this way not once but time and time again. So as he asks ..Take your remembrance feasts .Remember to tell this story to your family, to your children's children, to your friends and neighbours, Tell it to a dying world who has forgotten the God who saves.
As you lift up the cup of salvation remember that you stand in solidarity with those who lifted it up at the first passover.
You are united in this, The family of Saint Barnabas Charnwood and Saint Michael's Hall….. Remembering the God of the ages in the midst of your camp and on behalf of a people who have forgotten the story of eternal life.
He who delivered us and does deliver us , will yet deliver us.