Exodus 12:1-13 and 13:1-8 | Mission First: Called Series | Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost | October 2, 2016 | Dennis Sanders, preaching
The one time that you tend to be aware of how something tastes is when you aren’t able to eat or have your first bite of something after a period not eating. I can remember when I had my tonsils out at age 12. You know that old saw about having all the ice cream you want after getting your tonsils out? They lie. You are in pain for a few days and the last thing you want is to have to swallow...anything. But after a while, things heal up enough that you are able to eat and those first few bites of food taste great.
When I came down with a severe case of pneumonia two decades ago, there was a period when could not keep anything down. The only thing I was able to accept was Vernors, a ginger ale the official drink of Michigan. When I was able to taste that unique flavor, I felt good if not for a few minutes. When I was able to take solid food, I delighted in the food I was able tasted, even if it was hospital food.
Thanksgiving occurred during that period, and I was still stuck in the hospital. I can remember my mother had made some things for the holiday, and she brought some to the hospital. Even though it was food that my mother had cooked every holiday for years, it tasted better than it ever had because it was a sense of normality.
Taste is a way we remember things. We don’t simply remember with our minds, but also with our other senses including our taste buds. Tastes and sounds and smells remind us of some important or sad event. I can remember the taste of a simple ham sandwich with butter that was offered at the funeral for Daniel’s father even though that happened nearly 10 years ago. When we remember, we remember with our whole self.
Our text today basically are instructions on how to eat a specific meal. God is getting ready to unleash the final plauge on the Egyptians. Now last week, we learned about Joseph and how his family came down to Egypt to live as guests of the Pharoah. The book of Genesis ends with the people of Israel living in safety in Egypt.
When Exodus opens, years have passed. Joseph must have passed from the popular memory, because when a new leader assumes power, they said he didn’t know Joseph. He is afraid of the Jews and their rising numbers. He decides to make them slaves building his new cities. He also authorizes as genocide as all Hebrew males infants were to be killed, in order to reduce the population and their supposedly apparent size. Out of all of this emerges Moses, who leads his people to freedom. He and Pharoah have a battle of wills, with God sending 9 plauges to afflict the Egytpians. Each time the Pharaoh wouldn’t budge.
So now we have this final plague, one so horrible that it would cause the Egyptians to basically throw the Hebrews out. An angel of death would sweep over the land killing every first born, unless your house had the blood of lamb smeared on your door. Then, the angel would pass over Hebrew households, but go after the Egyptians.
In preparation for their journey, that’s when we get these dinner instructions. Eat unleavened bread with bitter herbs. The lamb was supposed to be cooked over an open flame, not boiled or eaten raw. Verse 14 tells us that this day would be a day of remembering for the Israelites. It would be a day when they would gather and tell the story anew. They would eat this meal annually to remember something: that it was God that brought them out of Egypt and to the Promised Land. This is something that they would have to remember many times over the years and cenuturies as they forgot what God had done. But the intent was that the taste of the herbs, the cooked lamb and the flatbread would cause people to remember what God had done for them, even if they themselves had not been there to see God at work.
In our continued series about beig a called people, we learn that we are people that are called to remember. We are called to remember what God has done in our own lives and share that memory with others.
You might say that we have no passover meal to remember, and I haven’t seen any angels of death lurking about lately. But we do have an event where we are called to remember: communion. As Christians, we can’t forget that the first Lord’s Supper took place during a Passover meal. We remember tasting the bread, and the wine. We remember Christ being arrested a few hours later. We remember that he was tortured and put to death for our sake.
Psalm 34:8 tells us to taste and see that God is good and this why we taste the bread and the grape juice. We taste to be reminded that God is good. That this God is the one that free the captive, be they an Israelite in bondage or a slave on a plantation in Louisiana. It is the God that hears the cries of the Israelites as they are made slaves and their infants are murdered by the state, and it is the God that hears the cries of the alcoholic wanting to give up their addiction or in the anguished cries of a mother or sister when they hear their loved one was gunned down by police.
As a people who remember,we share the good news with others and bring those around us to the grand banquet so they too can taste and see the goodness of God.
Shortly after I first moved here, I wanted to visit some churches. I went for the first time to First Christian, Minneapolis and enjoyed the service. Later that evening, I’m at home and I hear a knock at the door. It was a middle aged man from First who wanted to welcome me and gave me some material about the church to look over. And he gave me bread. Bread was important to me at this time since I was not making much money and having free food was a good thing. I remember tasting that bread with butter and it made a difference because I’m standing in front of you now.
The church has tried to understand the even we call communion in various ways. Catholics believe in transubstaniation, meaning the bread and wine become the body of Christ, Lutherans believe in consubstantiation, which means the bread and wine co-exist with the body and blood of Christ and then there is one called Memorialism which sees the bread and wine as representations of the body and blood.
I’m telling you this, because despite our differences in how it happens it is about knowing that Christ’s actions that took place long ago, affect us now. The taste reminds us that we are loved by Jesus and that has changed everything for us.
Today, we gather during World Communion Sunday, a time when remember the global nature of our church. Some churches have people make bread from different cultures to remind us of how far the good news has spread and remember how God loved us so much that God chose to be a human and to live and die among us. We remember this, just as the Israelites and modern day Jews remember how God brought an enslaved people into the light of freedom. Let us taste the goodness of God and remember. Thanks be to God. Amen.