Freedom is a principle we all value and hold dear.
It is one of the bedrock values of our society and faith. Freedom means we are not bound to anyone, and we can live as we please. We are not in bondage to someone, or to something, but have the free ability to make the choices we want.
Freedom does not come without a price. In order for freedom to exist, often there is a sacrifice paid by someone. As a country, freedom came as a result of the sacrifice of the brave men and women who participated, in some shape or form, in the Revolutionary War. As a people, freedom came for our African-American brothers and sisters with the end to the Civil War and passage of Civil Rights legislation. We know freedom is being protected, and fought for, by men and women in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and so on.
We remember these struggles for freedom. Our monuments in Washington tell the story of many who made sacrifices for freedom to exist in this country. Our museums exhibit artifacts from those the struggles. At our battlefields, we can walk the same paths that some died, so others may be free. Throughout this week, we will remember the sacrifices of the First Responders who gave their lives, on September 11, 2001, so others may live. We remember the sacrifices made on freedom’s behalf. We remember those who stood up, so that the voices of others may be heard.
Exodus is a story about freedom. It is a story about how our forebearers were placed in slavery in Egypt. It is a story about how God heard their cries for freedom, and set out to secure their freedom. And, it’s a story of that day when freedom came.
For our forebearerers, the people of Israel, this was something to remember. They never wanted to forget what God did for them in securing their freedom from the chains of slavery. God didn’t have them build a monument. There were no lands set aside for preservation. Instead, God reestablished an old meal, and placed it in terms of remembrance, so that everyone would never forget what God did for them in Egypt.
We cannot just simply jump to trying to understand the meal. We have to understand how we got to the place of the meal, and the need for this remembrance for the people of Israel, and us today.
The story of freedom for the people of Israel doesn’t begin with Exodus 1:1, but in Genesis. Any story of redemption doesn’t begin with the act, itself, but how the bondage began. In Genesis, Joseph is sold by his brothers out of jealousy. His dreams gives him influence with the Pharaoh, and Joseph becomes a person of influence who helps the people of Egypt prepare for a time of famine. In the first chapter of Exodus, a new Pharaoh enters into power. The new Pharaoh “knew nothing about” what Joseph had done for the people. Out of fear of the vast number of Israelites, the new Pharaoh places the people of Israel into slavery. They were forced to build massive cities and buildings. The people of promise were now a people of slavery.
In the midst of the slavery, the people begin calling on God to rescue them. God hears their prayers, and beings to act. He calls on Moses to lead the people of Israel out of slavery and bring about their redemption. Moses is called to go to Pharaoh and tell him to let the people go home to the promised land. Moses and Aaron would go to Pharaoh and he said “no.” It is then that we see God bring nine plagues on Egypt in an attempt to change Pharaoh’s heart towards the Israelites. Each attempt, whether it was darkness, gnats, blood, frogs, or others, never changed the Pharaoh’s heart.
That is until the 10th and final plague. The spirit of the Lord would pass through Egypt. As a result, the firstborn of every living thing would die. This announcement is enough to bring fear to anyone. Moses made this pronouncement of the 10th plague, and yet it did nothing to change Pharaoh’s heart. The plague is coming, and Pharaoh would not move.
We almost expect the story of Exodus to move straight to the plague and Israel’s freedom, but there is a pause. We get the instructions to a ritual. God gives a ritual to Moses and the people of Israel. It was a ritual of how to prepare a sacrifice, how to eat it, and what to do with the blood. This ritual might have been common to the people. It was a familiar ritual shared by shepherds to ward off evil. In this moment when the 10th plague was near, God changed the ritual. Where it once served shepherds as a way to keep evil away, it would now serve as a sign and remembrance of what God is about to do for the people of Israel. Freedom is coming, and God is giving the people a way to remember how that freedom came about.
Each family, God tells them, is to take a young lamb or goat in order to make a sacrifice. When the animal is slaughtered at twilight, the people of Israel were told to take the animal’s blood and then smear it on their doors. This is important. This blood would serve as a dual sign. First, it was a sign for God. God’s spirit would see the blood on the door posts and pass over the houses of the Israelites. On the night of the 10th plague, the houses that had this blood on its doorposts would not experience the deep and painful loss of their firstborn. The people of Israel were saved by the blood of the lamb. What once gave life, now protected life for the people of Israel. Second, it was a sign for the people of Israel. It was a sign to remember that God’s promises are true, and that he would not abandon his promises. God was coming to bring about redemption, and was going to bring the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.
The long-desired freedom that the people of Israel had wanted was coming. It was going to come through an act of God, and they were going to be protected. Those without the blood on the doorposts were not saved. It didn’t matter who they were. Firstborns were taken throughout Egypt, from the highest of positions to the lowliest of lows. All people, and all things, were impacted by this plague. This time, Pharaoh’s heart was changed. He even asks for a blessing, asking for the people of Israel to pray for him.
God had acted. The freedom of the people of Israel had been secured. This is an act worth remembering.
Sensing this, God gives them the meal, before the plague comes, which we know as the Passover. God gives the people instructions on how to eat this meal. They were even told how to eat the meal. They were to eat in haste and dressed in their traveling attire, because they were about to move out of Egypt and begin a journey to the promise land. Anyone could partake in this meal, as long as they were circumcised.
This meal would serve as a remembrance to the people of Israel. From generation to generation, every time they would partake in this meal, they would remember what life was like in slavery, they would remember God’s promises, and how God brought them out of slavery. In remembrance, there is a sense of gratefulness of all that God has done for us. There is a joy when we remember the newness of life that comes from God’s act of redemption.
For the people of Israel, the Passover was the great remembrance of God’s mighty act of redemption. For us gathered today, Holy Communion is our great meal of remembrance. On the night Jesus was betrayed, he and the Disciples gathered in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover. In this moment, Jesus gave a new purpose to the Passover to a meal, and it became what we know as Communion or the Lord’s Supper. The meal serves as a reminder of what Jesus would do on the cross. It was a reminder that on the cross, Jesus’ blood became the blood of the lamb. When the blood of the Lamp touches the depths of our souls, and we repent of our sins, God passes over our sin. In that moment, we receive a new name. We are called “redeemed.” Because of the blood and the sacrifice of Christ, we are no longer in slavery, bound to our sin. We are free from the cost of sin. Because of Christ’s mighty act, we are forgiven and set free.
This is an act worthy of our remembrance. This is an act worthy of our sharing with others.
And we do, and we will today. Each time we partake in the bread and the cup, we remember what Christ did for us. We remember our sin. We remember God promises for us. We remember the act of God, through the Son of God, Jesus Christ, in securing our freedom. It is difficult to leave this table and not be impacted by that reality. When we remember what Christ has done for us, it shapes our life, and it impacts us as we enter the world, and our communities, on Monday and all throughout the week.
Just like the Passover, Communion is open to all. It is not a closed meal. It is open to all who earnestly repent of the sin, and seek to live in peace.
So, let us come and remember all that God has done for us. Let us remember the act of redemption that God brought out for our forbearers in Egypt. As well, let us remember the act of salvation and freedom from our sin that came from the blood of Christ.
Today, my friends, come, eat and drink, and do this all in remembrance of the mighty acts of God in securing freedom in your life.