Refugees En Route

Exodus 12: 1-8, 11-14; I Cor 11:23-26; John 13: 1-15

In just a month’s time our Jewish brothers and sisters will gather around table as we do this evening to remember and commemorate the Passover, which we hear all throughout these readings. Of course, they were all Jewish so it’s central to their very being as people. As they gather it is custom that the youngest begins with the obvious question, why is this night different from all the rest. We can ask ourselves the same question as we gather. There is something different on this night. There’s a different feel as we anticipate what is to come. It is the Passover of the Lord we hear in Exodus this evening. It is the commemoration of their freedom from the bonds of slavery to the Egyptians, refugees in another land seeking their home, seeking freedom. That’s what makes it so special.

But from the splashing of blood on the wooden doorposts to the splashing of blood on the wood of the cross, there is an intensity to the story that people Israel and the early disciples probably have a much different experience than our own. It seems as generations pass that these marked events lose some of their luster. We become disconnected from the larger story as a people enslaved to this day and refugees to this day of another land, seeking freedom and the celebration of passing through. Our lives are marked by passing through, all that come with a great deal of intensity and stress it seems. From the passing through from the womb into the world and the passing from our attachment to this world to the eternal comes with great stress.

Think about what it was like for the Israelites who have that first generation experience of being tossed from their homes, the youngest child and animals slaughtered, and the nightmare that it must have invoked in their lives as the world comes crashing down around and within them, no longer knowing what life is all about. The disciples as well. The crucifixion of their friend will send shivers. Their about to experience utter chaos and darkness in their lives and they will be left with great choices as to how they proceed. Think about the grief that they will experience, the bitterness, the anger, the resentments. At this moment of the story, it’s all building around them and soon the bottom will fall out and their world will collapse. It will be the Passover of their own lives, but now with new meaning, connecting it back to their heritage, to the great story as they retell the story. There is something special about this evening. There’s something different about it.

We’ll start to feel that change as the we proceed today and into tomorrow. Gradually the music lessens and becomes more somber. Soon the lights will dim and the sanctuary will become bare and vulnerable, exposing all that is unseen. We begin to feel that uncomfortableness. All that we know and are familiar with when we come to this space and when we gather at this table will be taken away from us and we’ll look at things differently, we’ll experience things differently in this space, anticipating a return. It is the Passover of the Lord. It is the Passover of the people, freed from slavery, freed from sin. No longer wandering as refugees in a foreign land but a call home, a passing through, to that place they call home, remembering the suffering that came with it all. From the womb to the world and from our attachment to the world to the eternal. Their story is our story as we gather and retell. There’s something special about this evening. There’s something different about it.

Our first glimpse of the tradition on the other side is given to us by Paul in today’s second reading. We can only imagine what it was like for them as they recalled the story and experienced it in the breaking of bread and the through the cup. Yet, there they are, telling the story and watching it unfold once again. They were so close that it must have still been raw for some of them, that feeling of intensity returning. Do this in remembrance of me, they are told, we are told.
As we enter these most sacred of days we are aware that something is different. We are invited to put ourselves into these stories and allow the symbols to speak to us today. Think about it. Despite all the chaos swirling around Jesus through the disciples and the increased pressure of the religious leaders, he enters the scene this evening with a great sense of calmness and peace. He models for the disciples and us that place of strength within when we feel our lives our out of control and chaos ensues. He meets us there this evening. These are messy events and he encounters us in the messiness of our lives. It is the Passover of the Lord. There’s nothing easy about it, yet, we’re invited into it all and allow the Lord to meet us in it all. From the womb to the world to the eternal, we are but refugees, seeking a better way of life, seeking the same freedom that people Israel sought. It is the Passover of the Lord. There’s something special about this night, something very special.

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