by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
The Narrative Lectionary Readings for September 30, 2012:
Exodus 12:1-13; 13:1-8
optional text: Luke 22:14-20
What a difference a week makes: last week, the Israelites were saved from starvation because they had connections in Egypt, but this week, generations later, the Israelites are in trouble. Once again, we see a people enslaved and crying out for deliverance. Once again, we see a God who can make a way out of no way.
There are directions that must be followed, even as the people might not fully understand them. Blood on the doorposts? This deliverance may not be what the Israelites had in mind.
This text shows that deliverance doesn't always happen in the time frame that humans demand. God has a larger picture and a plan that we may not understand. But the Exodus story does promise us that deliverance will come.
Throughout the centuries, enslaved people have taken much comfort from the Exodus story. It's a vision that still speaks to us, this one of keeping our shoes on and our food ready to travel. It's a story that terrifies, with its tale of widespread death of children so that the ruler's heart can be softened.
Our deliverance will come, but the cost may horrify us.
We see echoes of this story throughout the Bible. The one that is most likely familiar to Christians is the Christ story itself. In some of the Easter stories, Jesus celebrates the Passover, the ritual that makes sure that the Israelites will remember what God has done for them.
We see echoes of the Passover story in Christ's story: the violence of the redemption, the swiftness, the fear, the blood, the ultimate salvation. We also see in both stories a people enslaved by a repressive empire: Egypt and Rome. The Romans hang Jesus on a cross, the capital punishment reserved by those who are a threat to the state.
We are at the mercy of many forces that seek to enslave us, and again and again, the Biblical stories remind us of how precarious life is. The regime that saves us in one story will enslave us in the next.
Again and again, our Bible stories tell us that God will set us free. As we will see, humans are often our own worst enemy, as we forget our ultimate liberator and try to do things our own way. Our Biblical texts, our religious holidays, our daily spiritual practices: all of these things remind us that God has a greater, more liberating plan than anything that we can dream.
But again and again, we're told that we must be ready, with shoes laced and eyes watching. God will swoop in where and how we least expect it. Even if we're chafing in our chains, we can trust that salvation isn't very far away.