Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:17-19, 26-30
Scripture Lesson: Exodus 12:1-14
Sermon: "Passed Over"
Blood. It's gruesome. It's gory. It repulses many. I have to admit that having tried to give blood a few times, I can't. Each time, I've failed to make it through! I work with animal blood. When others are bleeding, I can work with them. But, when it's my blood, I'm out.
There was a plant manager at a big industrial complex. Having just finished his second round of Red Cross training, he commented to the Red Cross Director. "I'm so glad I took this training. You see last week we had a gruesome accident. Someone was seriously injured and there was blood everywhere. Luckily, I remembered exactly what you taught us. I immediately sat down, and put my head between my knees...and it worked just like you said! Funny. Sad. True. Blood grosses us out.
Ironically, blood also attracts us. Friday the 13th, Halloween, Saw, Roman Gladiators...all bloody...all very popular. When we lived in Chicago they had traffic delays all the time. One of the delays was a "rubber neck" delay. When there was an accident, people would turn and look at the accident as they went by...presumably to see the carnage. I call this the "mangled arm" syndrome. It's gross. It's disturbing. We may shut our eyes, yet we will always take a peek. We're drawn to blood just as we're repulsed by it.
This is biological. All living creatures that we see fly, crawl, walk, or swim have blood. Without blood there is no animal life. Blood is life-giving. Our reactions to blood come from millions of years of evolution.
What is also interesting is that blood is a major part of nearly every religion. Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, etc. As we have such strong reactions to blood and considering it's importance for life, the symbol of blood in religion is very powerful. It represents life, death, and healing (giving life back).
In the Scripture texts, blood plays an important part of the story. In fact, one of the central themes of Passover, the Last Supper, and Holy Communion is blood.
In the Passover text, God tells Pharaoh to let his people go. Stubborn and in a battle of "divine" wills, Pharaoh and the LORD go at it. God sends 10 plagues. Each plague an attack on the Egyptian gods. The Nile, the sun, frogs, etc. But, the last "god" that the LORD goes after is the sun god of Egypt, Pharaoh. For in any monarchy there is ALWAYS one person more important than the king/queen: The first born son. They are the future national security of the country.
In this case, Egypt considered both pharaoh and the first born of pharaoh to be divine. In the last assault upon Pharaoh's "fortified" heart (usually mistranslated as "hard heart...but there is a nuance there), God smites the first born. An attack upon the very core Pharaoh and Egyptian security, religion, and heart. At stake was the Hebrew people; moreover, at stake was every single human being oppressed and enslaved by the tyranny of human depravity. Don't feel sorry for Pharaoh, this was a brutal tyrant bent on genocide and slavery.
However, the LORD told Moses to instruct the people to eat an unblemished lamb or goat as a family. Sit down together and eat the animal ready to travel. They were to paint the blood of the lamb over their doorposts, and when death came by, it would passover the firstborn of every household having blood on the doorframe. God commanded that the Hebrews, the children of Israel were to celebrate this meal for all time...
And they did. Around 1500 years later, Jesus prepares the Passover meal with his disciples. But at this meal, Jesus shifted things a bit...OK, a lot!
Taking the bread, Jesus said, "This is my body broken for you." The flesh of the lamb broken for us. In Genesis, after Adam and Eve ate of the tree, they were ashamed. In a very stark and sad scene, God takes his creation that was "exceedingly good" and marred it. God himself took the first life-blood of an animal, and gave the skin, the flesh, of the animal to cover the shame, the guilt, and the spiritual nakedness of Adama and Eve. In that same manner, the body of Christ is broken that we might eat and live.
Taking the wine, Jesus said, "This is my blood of the new covenant. Take and drink it." A few days later Jesus' blood would flow on a wood framed cross. Just as perfect lambs' blood flowed on door frames in Egypt so many years ago.
The Passover Meal is our meal. The story is our story. In Christ, the Lamb of God, we share the Passover Meal. Through the blood of the Lamb, shed on the door posts of the universe, the angel of death passes over.
You see the Cross becomes the 2nd Exodus. Jesus died on the Cross to free us....to free us from all that would be pharaoh. Pharaohs of guilt, addiction, self-hatred, jealousy, pride, abuse, and the list goes on. In this Passover, we are delivered from ourselves, our sins, and the oppression that humans too often push on others. We are freed to live a new life, a transformed life: The abundant life.
In Communion the stories merge: Exodus and Gospel. As we eat the meal of the Lord together, let us eat ready to leave this place. Ready to leave our sins and shame and oppression behind, but also ready to leave these walls, to proclaim the release that Christ is offering to the world.