Enough

Personal photo of path I often walk.

We’ve been reminded frequently lately that living with Covid-19 is a marathon, not a sprint, and that we have to pace ourselves accordingly. That was helpful for me, at least to some extent, but a marathon is still sustained effort, extraordinary effort.

Our moderator, the Right Reverend Richard Bott, recently posted on Facebook something different, he wrote:

This is not a sprint.
This is not a marathon.

Both of those suggest
that there is a destination,
an endpoint,
a goal.

This is life.
Life that has been.
Life that will be.
Life that is – now.

Living with Covid-19 is our reality and will continue to affect how we live, work, worship, play and interact with one another. The impact of this time will continue to affect us and the generations that will come after us. There will be no going back to what was. Just like the journey that the Israelites are about to undertake in their flight from Egypt.

Last week we heard the story of Joseph and his brothers and how the family of the Israelites ended up in Egypt. They grew and were prosperous and safe there…until a new king rose over Egypt, who did not remember Joseph and his leadership in the previous crisis, or how these foreign people came to have such an integral place within the nation. That pharaoh began to imagine that the Israelites were dangerous, and so shifted the policy and the culture of Egypt until the Israelites ended up oppressed and enslaved, and the Egyptians were commanded to throw the Israelite children into the Nile to die. As a baby, Moses was drawn out of the Nile by Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought up as her own. After an altercation that ended with him killing an Egyptian taskmaster, he fled into the desert, where he married and looked after the flocks of his father-in-law. God met him out in the desert, in a bush that was aflame yet not burned up, and called him to go back to Egypt to set his people free. Moses and his brother Aaron had a number of conversations with Pharaoh in which Pharaoh refused, and so God began to send plagues on Egypt. We pick up the story in between the ninth and tenth plagues, on the eve of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt, in the book of Exodus, chapter 12, verses 1-13, and then continuing at chapter 13, verses 1-8. (Teri Petersen)

As I pondered this passage, these were the major themes that came to mind: deliverance, readiness, sharing, enough.

Deliverance – God is portrayed as bloodthirsty in this passage. He commands the Hebrew people to put the blood from the lamb on the doorposts and lintels of the house in which they live… and he will ‘pass over’ all those doors, but will strike the homes of the Egyptians who will have no blood on them, killing the firstborn of the household. It’s not just a marker, it’s blood, the very essence of life. We hear echoes of this in some of our communion liturgies, where Jesus is compared to the sacrificial lamb. I had trouble with this passage even as a child… I couldn’t wrap my head around it… and still can’t.
My question then and now is, how can I worship a God who brings death instead of life?
And some Jewish midrash, or interpretation, has God weeping at the end of the destruction.

Readiness – This first Passover meal is not one to be lingered over. This is a meal eaten hurriedly, dressed for the journey that you are about to undertake. Are we ready for whatever journey God is leading us on? Or do we want to stay in Egypt? What are the things that enslave us and keep us right where we are?

12:1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 2 This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3 Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. 4 If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. 7 They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. 10 You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

13:1 The Lord said to Moses: 2 Consecrate to me all the firstborn; whatever is the first to open the womb among the Israelites, of human beings and animals, is mine. 3 Moses said to the people, “Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, because the Lord brought you out from there by strength of hand; no leavened bread shall be eaten. 4 Today, in the month of Abib, you are going out. 5 When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this observance in this month. 6 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival to the Lord. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen in your possession, and no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory. 8 You shall tell your child on that day, “It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’

As I pondered this passage, these were the major themes that came to mind: deliverance, readiness, sharing, enough.

Deliverance – God is portrayed as bloodthirsty in this passage. He commands the Hebrew people to put the blood from the lamb on the doorposts and lintels of the house in which they live… and he will ‘pass over’ all those doors, but will strike the homes of the Egyptians who will have no blood on them, killing the firstborn of the household. It’s not just a marker, it’s blood, the very essence of life. We hear echoes of this in some of our communion liturgies, where Jesus is compared to the sacrificial lamb. I had trouble with this passage even as a child… I couldn’t wrap my head around it… and still can’t. My question then and now is, how can I worship a God who brings death instead of life? And some Jewish midrash, or interpretation, has God weeping at the end of the destruction.

Readiness – This first Passover meal is not one to be lingered over. This is a meal eaten hurriedly, dressed for the journey that you are about to undertake. Are we ready for whatever journey God is leading us on? Or do we want to stay in Egypt? What are the things that enslave us and keep us right where we are?

Sharing – Did you notice that it is written that the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it? John Holbert writes, “At the very heart of Passover is the desire to include all in the ritual and to make certain that all have enough, but none have too much. Our Christian communion rituals reflect this ancient demand, since all without fail have enough and none have more than they need. Immediately, one can see that this sort of sharing is intended to be a model for the larger society, a society that too often presents some with far more than they need and many with far less. Our 21st-century society is just like that, unfortunately and to our shame.Two billion of our fellow humans attempt to live on perhaps two dollars per day, while the eighty-five richest human beings on the earth control more resources than all of those two billion! Passover has at its heart a call to equality.”
https://www.patheos.com/progressive-christian/narrative-ritualized-john-holbert-09-02-2014.html

Enough – Enough can have at least two meanings. It can mean sufficient. Or it can mean enough! As an expression of impatience. One of the marks of mature thinking is being able to hold two seemingly contradictory thoughts at the same time. The Israelites commemorate their safe passage every year by recounting each of the events that brought them out of slavery and say that each individual act would have been enough. That is the Passover Feast. And yet… and yet… there is still hunger… abuse of power… poverty… violence… enslavement… And we say, enough, is enough! Byron put together a beautiful Musical Meditation that holds these two contradictions together.

Deliverance, readiness, sharing, enough. Just like that journey the Israelites started out on, this journey of pandemic living is a period of wandering in the wilderness, and so I will conclude with the remainder of Richard Bott’s words:

This is not a sprint.
This is not a marathon.

Both of those suggest
that there is a destination,
an endpoint,
a goal.

This is life.
Life that has been.
Life that will be.
Life that is – now.

There are signposts on our travel,
but each of them point
in a myriad of directions,
a multiplicity of possibilities.

There are waystations.
Places of rest and recuperation,
places to share a meal and conversation,
places for a breath, or a moment to stop.

But, pilgrim, this journey is one
where the paths move under your body,
and life, itself, moves you along.

Breathe deeply. Be inspired.
And know that,
on this journey,
you are never, ever, alone.

Thanks be to God, amen.

Enough
Exodus 12:1-13; 13:1-8
October 4, 2020 – SMUC

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