This day shall be for you a memorial, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout all your generations…you shall keep it as a feast. Exodus 12:14
This is a holiday weekend, yet I have already received an email and a text from the city of Austin, Texas, where we live, to be mindful of COVID and not gather in large groups. Our ability to get together has been changed and limited, yet we all want and need to push forward with creativity to remember and celebrate. Our faith cannot stay fresh without celebration and story to keep alive and real our experiences with both God and people.
The story of Moses continues in this Sunday’s lectionary reading Exodus 12:1-14, the Passover story. The Jewish festival of Pesach or Passover, commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. Highlighted with a meal of wine, matzah, and bitter herbs, the story of God’s redemptive freedom of his enslaved people is retold again and again to both young and old. This springtime story is a foretelling of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God. The remembrance feast also stands alone as a testimony to the power of remembering, retelling, and celebrating the story of God in our daily lives.
Remember. Celebrate. Feast. As you read the story in Exodus 14, you will see Moses was given instructions for the Passover feast. Looking at the high points, we can also be challenged today to be creative, grateful, and hopeful this holiday weekend:
- Share in community. Each Israelite family sacrificed and prepared a lamb. But “if the household is too small for a lamb,” (12:4) for example a single or couple, then they were instructed to join together with a neighbor for the feast. Going door to door this past month for the Census, I noticed there are many people living alone, in both apartments and big homes. Investigate your neighborhood, is there a senior living alone or a young working single? Include them in your meal preparations or ask for other ways they might enjoy being part of family. If you live alone, ask to join in and bring a dessert!
- Give your best. The lamb sacrificed for the feast was to “be without blemish, a one year old.” (12:5) Our gift giving and our volunteer time should be from our best. Extravagance is part of celebration. When my granddaughter got a raise, she put together 100 really nice gift bags for the local sheriff’s department to show her gratitude. It was her best in giving her time, resources and love.
- Be Fully Covered. Allow God’s “sacrifice” to protect and cover you. “Take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts on the house.” (12:7) Remembering the sacrifice of the Christ, the Lamb of God, is something we can be grateful for daily and not take for granted. Pray for God’s protection, through the blood of Jesus, to protect and cover you.
- Expect only what you need today. After celebrating the feast “none of the (cooked lamb) should remain until the morning.” (12:10) What, no leftovers! Give us today our daily bread, O Lord! In days of hoarding and fear, there should be days of celebration where you don’t scrimp or save, but feast!
- Be ready to Go. Have “your belt fastened, sandals on your feet, and your staff in hand.” (12:11) Many of us have started living in our pajamas and house slippers. Choose a day to get dressed and go out to serve or meet a neighbor. Celebration is a day for dressing up and going out. Of course with masks and social distancing!
Practice Celebration. Look back over the past year, read your journal, think about where you see growth in your character, family closeness, or other areas of transformation. A year ago this month I was in Sri Lanka facilitating a week of residency for a Spiritual Formation course for a Masters in Leadership program. The year-long course allowed me to walk alongside (via internet) ministers who with intentionality and mentorship have done difficult inner soul work. As I read their final assignments of both reflection and renewal, I am celebrating, thankful, and downright proud.
Practice Remembrance. Search your heart and mind for experiences, images, and memories of encounters with the Glory of God or Divine Presence. In the ancient practice of Recollection, Teresa of Avila, encourages us to remember the moment by returning to it using our imagination, not words. Recall what was going on around you, where you were, who you were with. Allow a symbol of the encounter to fill your awareness, such as a warm embrace, clouds, or healing light. Throughout the week allow the symbol to return you to the assurance of God’s active presence in your life.
Practice Storytelling. An important part of Pesach is telling the Exodus story of Freedom to the next generation. It seems that politics, privacy, and religion can keep us silent about our faith. Be encouraged to use a meal time or family gathering to simply tell your faith story to your children or friends.
Redeemer God, Thank you for your amazing power and work in our lives, thank you for your goodness and for your blessings over us. Thank you for your great love and care. Thank you for your sacrifice so that we might have freedom and life. Renew us through remembrance and celebration.