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Exodus 12:1-4

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

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The particularity of this Passover text is everywhere. This narrative is one that forms religions and spiritual practices for ages. Children still ask their Jewish parents, Why is this night different from all others? We are formed by a God who calls us out and gives us our identity. The meal and the blood from this night continues to shape our Christian gatherings thousands of years later, as this story is still central to who we are as the people of God. Doorposts become crosses as we continue to receive salvation from the bondages of today’s evil empires.

As we see in the first couple verses this narrative becomes calendar forming, reshaping our story. “This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you.”[1] We are called to reorient our lives around our soteriology.

Alongside this each family must present a lamb without blemish. This must not go unnoticed as it would be a treasured possession in a family unit and community for these poor Israelites. An important piece to notice is that the lamb would be shared appropriately between families and neighbors in proportion to the number of people who eat it. Each family would not have had an entire lamb but this sharing was a crucial part of the event. Part of this formation is that we share the meal, the blood, the salvation. Sharing with our “closest neighbor”[2] gives a beautiful image of the peculiar and particular of this community of the LORD. There is also concern of cooking the lamb completely, not eating it raw, and burning anything that remains in the morning. This is somewhat foreshadowing some of the Levitical law that the people will later receive. It is unique among ancient cultures that these ordinances from the Lord are concerned with our well-being. God’s love is expressed early on as taking care of our bodies. How fitting for a holy God! Isn’t it wonderful that this community defined by YHWH is a community that is called to live whole, healthy, and together and this is part of our salvation?

Lastly here the people are to participate in this entire event with a heightened sense of readiness. “This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly.”[3] This sense of preparedness and alertness bends the feeling of the story. Imagine the surge of energy believing that tonight is the night we are getting out of slavery! Tonight is the night it’s really happening! We don’t know the exact hour, so be ready. These are familiar sentiments if you’re in the least bit familiar with Jesus’ words towards the end of Matthew’s gospel. Bridesmaids and talent keepers are left to be faithful, ready, awake, prepared, and alert for the moment!

What does it mean be to ready at any moment for God’s rescue to take place? That we are ready at any time for our Lord to deliver us from the gods of Egypt? What does it mean that we eat with our hiking boots on because we know without a doubt that God delivers His people? Here this is the last point of particularity that we are a people woke to God’s work in our lives and the in-breaking of the eschaton therein.

How might we preach this particularity today? How might our narratives today continue to be shaped by this God who hears the cries of His people and delivers them from evil? How might we be formed and shaped by this God as holy and whole as we share this meal and blood with our closest neighbor proclaiming that tonight is the night!? How might our active participation and readiness testify to our faith in this coming kingdom and this delivering God?

[1] Exodus 12:2 NRSV

[2] Exodus 12:4 NRSV

[3] Exodus 12:11 NRSV

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