This past Monday, our Jewish sisters and brothers celebrated the feast of Passover.
Gathering in their homes around the dinner table, they called to mind all that God had done to liberate them from slavery in Egypt. They recalled how, because of Pharaoh's stubbornness, God sent an angel to kill the firstborn of the Egyptians; however, the first born of the Hebrews were saved by the blood of a lamb that was smeared on their doors. Reading from the book of Exodus, they celebrated how, through Moses, God parted the Red Sea to give them safe passage into the desert and protect them from Pharaoh's horsemen and charioteers. With songs of joy, they tell once again the story of how God led them through the desert and provided nourishment for them on their way to the land He promised to give them.
When they have recalled all that God had done to deliver them from slavery, they then discuss what they can do to extend His liberating power to those who continue to live in slavery today. They challenge each other to look at the world around them to see where God’s saving power needs to reach those suffering under the tyranny of injustice and poverty. In this way, not only do they celebrate what God has done in the past but they make His saving power present today in their resolve to end all forms of slavery and oppression.
We gather here this evening to celebrate our own Passover. Just as our Heavenly Father delivered the People of Israel from slavery in Egypt so, through Jesus Christ, He has delivered the whole world from its slavery to sin and death. Just as He led His people through the Red Sea, so He has led us into new life through the waters of baptism. Just as He guided His people through the desert, so He guides us today through His word. And just as He established the People of Israel in the Promised Land so He welcomes us into His Church which is the new People of God spread throughout the world. Today we gather to tell the stories of how we were saved. We celebrate with story, song and ritual how God fulfilled His promise to send a Messiah.
In particular, on this night, we celebrate how our Messiah, Jesus Christ, passed over from a humiliating death on the cross to a new, resurrected life. We tell the story of how His tomb was discovered to be empty, how He appeared to the women who had gone there expecting to find a corpse but were instead greeted by angels who proclaimed that Jesus had risen.
Like our Jewish brothers and sisters, however, we do not gather only to remember incidents from the past. Rather we fill this church with rejoicing and song because the resurrected life of Jesus Christ continues to be a reality at work in our lives. We experience it whenever faith conquers fear, whenever hope defeats despair and whenever love casts away hate. It is at work in our lives when we forgive rather than hold on to grudges, when we do good to those who hate us and when we reach our hand out to those who would harm us. And it is present among us when we face our own death with courage knowing that Jesus has conquered death and opened the gates of heaven for us.
If the power of Jesus’ resurrection is to continue in our world, we must then join our Jewish brothers and sisters in asking this question. Where are people still living in the shadow of sin and death? Where are people still struggling under the yoke of fear, despair and hatred? Where are the dark places in our world which are waiting for the light of Easter victory? What can we do to relieve their suffering?
We will stand soon to renew the promises of our baptism. It was through baptism that Christ’s resurrection victory first flooded our souls with light. As we say “I do”, let us remember those who have not yet been blessed with faith and ask God for the courage to bring this light to them so that Christ’s victory may continue to extend itself through all corners of the Earth.