The Episcopal Church of the Holy Innocents
Sermon, Proper 10, Year A, September 10, 2017...Making Things Right
Beloved Savior, may we continue to make things right in your eyes. Amen
I have a dear friend, many of you know her because she has co-guided our Advent Retreat for several years. Elaine is a Jewish Christian, having been raised Jewish and converting to
Christianity as an adult. I think Elaine is a genius, she would deny this quickly but my experience with her is that she sometimes sees things that I don’t see in Biblical readings. When I was struggling with this sermon, she happened to call and I told her what I was doing and she said read the readings to me. I read them and she immediately saw the theme of “making things right” in the readings. The story of Passover is God making the Israelites right in terms of the Egyptians. For Elaine, the Passover is a story of making her right in the eyes of God.
She as an adult, saw the story of Jesus in the Passover. In her own words: “A combination of circumstances and people helped to lead me to Christ, but seeing Christ in the Passover was a key element. I am of Jewish heritage, so this was very important to me. In 1974, my husband, his mother, and I had our own Passover Seder, just the three of us. We used a standard Jewish prayer book (Haggadah) containing the Passover ceremony. During this traditional Seder, I kept seeing Christ. For example, when we read how the Hebrew people put the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their houses so that the angel of death would pass over them, I saw a parallel to the blood of Christ, and how through that blood the angel of death passes over us – giving us eternal life. And there is a Seder plate upon which with three matzos are placed under one cover. The middle matzo is broken and a piece of it is hidden, to be found before the end of the Seder. This plate of three matzos under one cover spoke of the trinity to me, and the broken matzo spoke to me of Christ’s broken body. During that Seder, I felt that Christ was hidden right in the Passover, for Jewish people to find. Soon after that time, I gave my heart and my life to Christ. I knew I would never be the same. This was a serious commitment” (Personal communication, Dr. Elaine Lux, September 9, 2017).
A story like Elaine’s is such a good example of making things right. Her life in Christ has been and continues to be a wonderful example to me of living life in Christ.
So how does the Exodus reading play out our theme of making things right? You remember the story, I’m sure, but just in case you have forgotten the details, let me remind you of them. We have been leading up to this part of the story for several weeks. We learned about Joseph’s brother’s jealousy of him and how they sold him as a slave to Egyptian traders. Pharaoh discovered him and made him second in command. When a great famine threatened the land, Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt to find food and they found Joseph who told them to move to Egypt and he would take care of them.
After many years, a new pharaoh ruled Egypt who did not know Joseph. He despised the Israelis and made them into slaves and then tried to kill all Israeli male babies because there were too many of them. Moses appears in the picture and was saved from death by Pharaoh’s daughter. God calls Moses to set his people free and he is afraid and tries to argue with God. What follows then is the series of plagues imposed upon the Egyptians and they do not grant freedom to the Israelites.
Finally, there is the 10th plague in which the firstborn children and animals of the Egyptians die and to avoid being caught in this plague the Israelites are commanded by God to put blood on their doors and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. They are also commanded to remember this event every year and this is how Passover was established. This looks like the freedom of the Israelites is guaranteed…or is it? To be continued next week.
In today’s reading, we see this is the opportunity to make things right with the Israelis so they may be free of the oppressive Egyptian bondage and Moses is the leader of this effort. If they mark their doors, the angel of death will bypass their homes and if they are ready: sandals on their feet, staff in their hands, loins girded, food made in haste, bread made without yeast because there is no time for it to rise, they will flee Egypt for the Promised Land.
There are symbols in this story that mirror our experiences as Christians. The first symbol is the symbol of Christ’s blood by which we are saved and by which we will see the angel of death bypass us as well. Yes, we physically die, but for us there is life after death, eternal life with our Lord. The symbolism of readiness, sandals on our feet, staff in our hands, prepared for what is to come are also strong Christian symbols. Jesus expects us to be ready to do his work on earth and to be ready for his return.
I see so much readiness in this congregation when it comes to fighting Human Slavery and supporting Family Promise and other projects that serve humankind. Some of you ask me when we are going to have our turn bringing food and staying overnight for Family Promise. You are ready to the work of Jesus on earth, setting things right with people who have suffered having a lot go wrong in their lives.
We can take this theme of setting things right into our reading from the Epistle to the Romans where we are told to love one another. Paul says all the commandments are rolled up into the concept of loving one another. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Motivated by love, it is very difficult to do wrong. Love one another, help one another, whatever we do, we do it in love.
Again, we see the reference to time, we are to wake up from sleep, night is far gone, the day is near. We are to lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. The armor of Christ is His love shining out from us. Be up and awake to how God is perfecting us to accomplish the work of his Kingdom. As Paul says: “Don’t be overwhelmed and exhausted by taking care of our day-to-day obligations. Be ready to do Kingdom work, not wasting our time in bickering and grabbing everything in sight…Dress yourself in Christ and be up and about” (Matthew 13:8-14, The Message).
Making things right as a theme fits here too. Our work as Christians includes: leading others to belief in Jesus’ work of salvation, loving and taking care of the church and fellow believers, and doing all we can to make this world as right as we can whether our work is with believers or not. Whoever is bound to Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit and our love, will be bound in heaven. Let us go forth and make things right with the world as best as we can. Remember what God told the Israelites: be fully dressed, sandals on your feet, staff in your hand and having eaten hurriedly, be ready. Dress yourselves in Christ and be up and about!! AMEN