(Exodus 12:1-14) J G White
Sunday, Sept 10, 2017, UBC Digby
Our world is in a stormy state of affairs. The hurricanes south of us continue to threaten and destroy. The monsoons in India, Bangladesh and Nepal killed more than 1,200, by the end of August. Not to mention the storms of politics and powers.
[Remembering] Of course, we are at a time of year in the west when the work and sacrifice of emergency responders is remembered. Today in Canada is National Firefighters Memorial Day. It seems to me that remembering and honouring has become a stronger urge in so many people in the past sixteen years.
Around September 11th each year the one thing I am inclined to see again is the 2002 documentary simply called “9/11”, by French filmmakers, Jules & Gedeon Naudet, about Fire Battalion 1, NYC…
This one way I remember September 11, 2001.
We read from Exodus 12, the Passover in ancient Israel. A special remembering. A Day of Remembering. “This month shall mark for you the beginning of months.” Some events are so important, so traumatic, so dramatic, so formative in a nation that they are remembered forever. Many of us, from childhood, have know the stories of Moses and the ‘Children of Israel’ escaping from slavery in Egypt and finding their way to a Promised Land. There is great beauty in this story, great violence, great miracles, great humanity. For ancient Israel the exodus was the big saving moment for them, among the other rescues in their history. So the annual ceremony of Passover was instituted. To tell the story again and again; to act it out; to pass it on to each generation. Never forget.
This kind of community remembering has such power. At its best it includes looking back with fresh eyes, seeing new things, learning new lessons from our shared past.
[Remembering anew, looking back]
Terry LeBlanc spoke at Oasis in August, up in Moncton. A first nations/acadian man, his work is with NAIITS, and indigenous learning community, across North America. At the university level, he is an indigenous educator. He told us a story of a grandfather’s advice, when getting out into the wilderness, along an unclear trail: look back often, watch for the landmarks…
And we look back in history, in Canadian history in this 150 year. And looking back we see things differently. We keep learning. History gets retold from different perspectives. We had forgotten how we got here. We are learning anew.
So it can be for us in many circumstances, in any of the paths we take. When a long-term relationship is getting old, look back together, look deeply. When a job – paying or volunteer – is wearying or wearing you down, look back and review what you have done, or how it all started. When a hardship or sadness continues to haunt you, do the therapeutic work of looking back, and find new healing.
We continue our Remembering theme with Jesus at the Lord’s Table. Like Passover for the Jews, Holy Communion for the Christian community is a ritual meal that is about remembering is a special way. A way that bring into the present what was real in the past.
We postponed our monthly communion this month. We have such freedom to do whatever we want; not always on the first Sunday. Back at the start of the Passovers, I find it so compelling they are told, “This month shall mark for you the beginning of months.” A somber celebration so important, it becomes their New Year. Indeed, it was a new beginning for this giant clan of slaves. Really, they become a nation when they get free, and spend forty trying years headed to their Promised Land.
Communion: the life of God, poured out so we can live. Does it seem to you like a ceremony of new beginning? True belonging? Fresh identity? Invigorated life?
All day long today, I will try to remember to eat well and drink lots of fluids. Why? Tomorrow, while many of you are eating supper, I will be lying down to donate blood, at a clinic in Saulnierville. One sometimes wonders where the blood will go, what sort of person in what kind of trouble will get that transfusion. That transfusion that is life-giving. Of course, one never ever will know.
Christ our passover is sacrificed for us; therefore, let us keep the feast… 1 Corinthians 5:7. With our very simple, Baptist communion service, we keep the feast, the ritual part of it. Keeping on living with the life of Jesus in us, the rest of the month, that is the real feast of life!
How idealistic we preachers always are. And maybe that is fine… how all sermons should be: motivating and pointing to things far better than we have yet reached.
We can need prompting to remember our spiritual progress in this life. Because we forget. The highlights, the mountaintop experiences, the seasons of spiritual progress, can all get lost in the drudgery of the present. Remembering Jesus from the standpoint of a devoted disciple is a refresher that even monthly communion services can help us do.
Remember your first love. Christ. Revelation 2:4, in a Letter to the Church at Ephesus, warns that the people of that congregation had abandoned their first love, their connection with Jesus.
Remember your best steps as a disciple of Jesus. Do you remember? My penchant for quoting lyrics for every occasion tempts me to sing now:
Do you remember the kind of September
when life was slow and oh so mellow?
So how do we rewrite it for our walk of faith?
Do you remember the kind of Saviour when life was… what? What was your life like when Christ drew near?
My experience of God, in Jesus, has certainly changed through the years. It’s to be expected. Some moments are so vivid. Once, in my apartment on King Street in Windsor, I sat alone in the front room, trying to be prayerful. At one point I imagined Jesus coming into the room. I wanted to see Him as He might have been in Galilee. Not a tall, pale, european Jesus from a painting or stained-glass window. But a shorter, darker, Middle-Eastern Man.
And so I saw Him that way. He had a very serious face. He came in the door, and stayed facing at an angle away from me. But He saw me.
And I saw Him. I shall always remember that prayerful imagining with Him. And when I remember, I am reminded, encouraged, to seek Him more.
Today may be a day of remembrance, for more than one thing. And tomorrow too. And the next day. May we find a feast for the soul on many days of our lives, and get from the gift of remembering some grace from God.