Photo by Jane Laping.
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.
God of grace, as the day begins we give thanks for each new breath and for the mystery of life. As we reflect on death and life this holy week, increase in us compassion and a willingness to travel the hard pathways to life and freedom.
In this passage, we are standing with a people on the verge of exodus. Here we have instructions given to Moses to prepare the people for freedom. This is quite a “to do” list. It emphasizes that preparations are needed. We can’t just walk into the freedom God intends for our life without doing any work.
The truth is: walking into freedom is hard; it takes deep courage. Preparing for freedom simultaneously means preparing for change, and change is never easy. In this story, walking into freedom is a powerful blessing to an enslaved people. Yet walking into freedom also means hard, intentional work. It includes grief at saying goodbye to the familiar life. Freedom means really changing oneself, one’s family, and even one’s way of eating in order to walk through the door that God is opening. We know this is not easy, even if what lies behind is something we deeply desire.
The liberation event in this story is harried, stressful, and new: a new calendar, a new way to eat meat, and a new identity (they are called a congregation here, for the first time in scripture). This is our risk, too. If we want liberation, we must accept the discomfort that comes with it, the newness and change. We cannot move forward into freedom if we just stand still, living the way we always have.
What liberation is God inviting you to pursue today? In what particular lifestyle change will your freedom emerge? Like God’s people in times past, our personal freedom is connected to communal welfare. How might our fasting, our rituals, and our prayers this Holy Week mean liberation for the earth? When we are courageous enough to unbind ourselves, to prepare ourselves for freedom, we can also work for the unfettering of God’s creation.
Perhaps like the ancient Israelites, God calls you into freedom through giving you a new intentionality and understanding of your food and ways of eating. Or maybe you are called to accept the discomfort that comes with fasting from consumerism and consumption, lightening your load for a walk to freedom. In whatever way you are called to change in order to follow Christ, may the pathway to freedom mean blessing for you, for the gathered people of God, and for all of Creation.
Terence E. Fretheim, “Exodus12:1-28” in Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching “Exodus” (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), 81-82.
God of liberating change, we know that you lead us into freedom even when we are scared of what this goodness might do to our current, comfortable lives. Walk beside us, O Christ, and guide us. Show us how to take this journey with you.
Rebecca Barnes-Davies is the Associate for Environmental Ministries (PCUSA) and is ministry organizer for Eco-Justice Worship Collective (in Louisville, KY).