Saturday, 3 September 2011

Community is...On the move

Reading: Exodus 12  v 1-14

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 2This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. 3Tell 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. 4If 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. 5Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. 7They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. 10You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11This 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. 12For 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. 13The 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. 14This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.
Today probably marks for us as a community together, the start of a new session.
We’re back to 11am worship.
All the organisations are restarting.
And we celebrate communion together.
Over the next few weeks, our readings in worship will take us on a journey with the Israelites as they find their way out of Egypt and are led through the wilderness to the Promised Land.

Voice A:  Are you ready?
Voice B:Stick, sandals, stomach ache… ugh!
A:                    What a feast, eh? Roast lamb on the hoof!
B:                    We had goat, and there’s not a hoof among them by the way…
A:          I always wondered what roasted lamb lungs tasted like… not bad at    all!
B:                  Haggis by any other name… yeuch!
A:                  For once I was glad of our huge family, we scoffed the lot no bother!
B:        For once I was glad of our greedy guzzler Joe next door, always sticking his nose in when anybody’s cooking, this time I said, have as much as you like Joe, really!
A:          Fast food, it’s the in thing and I’m all for it, Uncle Zeb couldn’t do his usual and talk the hind legs off a donkey all through dinner!
B:                    Joe would eat the hind legs off a donkey, that’s for sure.
A:                    I’ve got a great feeling, you know!
B:                  I’ve got a terrible feeling— indigestion!
A:                  But are you ready?
B:        I don’t think I’ve ever been more ready. I’m not going to eat for a week, or a fortnight, or a month. What month is it anyway?
A:                    It’s the first month.
B:                  The first month of what?
A:                  The first month of our new futures.
B:                  I don’t think the Egyptians are going to like that.
A:                  They don’t have to like it. We’re not going to be around to find out.
B:                    Do you think the blood on the door will keep us safe?
A:                    Let’s hope so.
B:                    Can you hear wailing?
A:                    It’s started. Let’s go

The story of the Passover is a story that is retold in Jewish homes year after year during Passover festival.
The story is kept alive through the tradition of children asking questions which the adults answer – and so the story is retold and passed on from generation to generation.
The Passover meal which is then shared pays tribute to the sorrow and grief that is a part of the story by including bitter herbs.
But this first Passover was strikingly different from any celebrations that are marked today.
Whenever and wherever communities celebrate by sharing a meal together, we make ourselves comfortable.
We kick back and relax.
No such luxury in this first Passover.
There’s an urgency about this meal.
You can almost imagine the Israelites, standing up to eat, with their coats on and their bags packed.
They had been given very specific instructions:
11This 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.

This is a community who are about to go on a journey – a journey that some of them will not complete.
God is calling them TO MOVE.
And it’s going to be a very long time before they are settled again.
Over the next few weeks, as we travel through Scripture with the Israelites, we’re going to consider different aspects of Community.
And, today, we’re considering a community that is ON THE MOVE.
The Israelites were being oppressed in Egypt.
They were used as slaves.
And their culture and tradition was being eroded.
But, for many, it was all they had known.
And, you know what they say: Better the devil you know…
Sometimes it is easier to simply put up with things – just go along with things, even when we know they’re wrong – all for the sake of peace.
And, even though the Israelites were living in appalling conditions, it was too daunting for many of them to contemplate anything else.
Especially when they couldn’t be sure that they had any better alternative.
But God called them, to leave behind all that they knew, to pack up everything and go, with Moses, into an unknown future.
To have faith that God would lead them onward into something better.
So we find a community preparing to move.
Following God’s instructions to eat the Passover meal, prepared and partaken exactly as instructed and then to go, following God on a journey into the unknown.
That Passover lamb was going to have to sustain them for quite some time as they journeyed in obedience to God’s call.
A community on the move.
Today, in our settled community here at Castlehill, we’ve kind of forgotten that God’s call to us is to be a people on the move – a community that isn’t by any means settled, a community that is constantly being called and poked and prodded by God to get moving.
And this communion Sunday, heralding the start of a new session’s work here, the food that we share together, Christ’s body and blood provides that sustenance that we need to be a people on the move.
The community surrounding this building, the parish that we serve, needs us to move in response to God’s call, away from all that we know, out of all that makes us comfortable, in response to God’s call to journey together.
It is wonderful to feel part of a community.
Often when I’m walking or driving around the parish, especially in some of the harder to find streets, I remember back to the first few weeks when we arrived here.
When I was constantly getting lost.
There was many a time I was grateful to catch sight of the cross on the top of the church and get my bearings again.
But now, as people and places become quite familiar, I feel settled, at home.
That settled feeling, that sense of community is not without struggle and conflict but it is, nonetheless a good feeling to belong in community.
The caution that I believe comes to us from our Old Testament reading this morning, is that the community that we call church, is a community called by God, to be on the move.
Our calling is not to become settled, but to be constantly on the move, seeking to serve the community outside these walls.
God promises, that in the journey, we will be set free.
And so, this morning, as we meet here in comfort, (if pews can ever be called comfortable) let’s be mindful of God’s call to be a people on the move.
As we share the life giving food in communion, may we know God nourishing us and sustaining us for the journey.
A journey into the unknown, fueled by the God of yesterday, today and forever.
Glory be to the God of the journey.

No comments: