Instructions

(Today’s Scripture:  Exodus 12:1-14)

Instructions are boring.

I am reminded of this daily because I have small children.  When I sit them still to give them instructions, their gaze almost immediately leaves my face and floats off toward some shiny object across the room.  But we adults find instructions dull, too.  Halfway through a set of rules or directions my mind floats off to another place, thinking of some grown-up shiny object.

This is why it’s curious that the Exodus story pauses near its peak for a set of instructions.

We’ve just been through 9 plagues.  Pharaoh and the Egyptians are being broken down.  We know they are close to letting the Israelites go.  We know that next will come that terribly effective tenth plague.  We are waiting on the edge of our seats to hear about it.

And then:  a break for a detailed explanation of how to celebrate the Passover.

Is this poor story telling?  No.  We pause here for instructions because they are so important.  And they are important because they will teach the Israelites how to remember this great saving event.

Remembering is hard, maybe even harder than listening to instructions.  As a student I had all sorts of tricks to help myself remember:  repetition, rhymes, flash cards, detailed notes.  The most effective way to remember, though, is always by doing.

The Nantahala River is right down the road from Andrews, NC.  The two-lane road that runs through the Nantahala Gorge is lined with outfitters who can take you on a rafting adventure down the rapids.  The first time I went, I remember sitting down for the pre-trip safety instructions.  Sit here, keep your hands there, do this with your paddle, wear your life vest.  I heard the instructions.  I understood them.  But after I had been down the river, they meant something more.  I had seen them in action.  They were real.

Those of the Jewish faith have done this sort of remembering-by-doing every year since the first Exodus.  They eat unleavened bread and remember how the Israelites had to rush out of Egypt.  They eat bitter herbs and remember the bitter years of slavery.  They eat roasted lamb and remember the lamb’s blood that saved them.

They remember how God freed them from slavery under Pharaoh.

Communion2We Christians have a remembering-by-doing event like this, too.  Each month at Andrews United Methodist Church we celebrate communion.  We eat the bread and remember the body broken.  We drink the cup and remember the blood of the new covenant shed for us.

We remember how God freed us from slavery to sin and death.

This fact is so important, it demands more than just memorizing the facts of a story.  We are called to remember by doing – by breaking and giving, by eating and drinking, by kneeling and receiving.  Our hope is that through this meal, we will move beyond remembering to experiencing the gift of God’s grace.

If you took communion today at your church, may that action call you to deep remembrance.

If you’ve never eating this meal of remembrance, then let me invite you –
to Andrews UMC or to any church –
to come and remember-by-doing for yourself.

***

Yet again the Lectionary Lab Commentary was very helpful with this week’s sermon.  My gratitude to Fairless and Chilton for their thoughts.  Credit also to the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary for pointing out how the Exodus story is interrupted for instructions in this passage.

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4 comments

  1. Can you cite more data from your references?
    Ray 🙂

    1. Ray, I don’t have the books in front of me right now, and I’m going to be out of the office for the week. Are you asking for page numbers? If so, I can share those when I’m in the office on Friday.

  2. That would be nice.
    Page numbers.
    I have an extra Torah here.
    Thanks for the quick reply.
    Ray 🙂

  3. Lectionary Lab Commentary (Fairless and Chilton): pp 216 – 219.
    New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Vol 1: pp 776 – 778

    Hope that helps!

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