Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen in your possession, and no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory. You shall tell your child on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ (Exodus 13:7-8)
We live in a time of trauma. As I write this, the first of three presidential debates has just ended. No matter which candidate you favor, watching was an experience in trauma – I won’t say more. But in a time of COVID shutdown, economic recession, racial tension and the rise of militant groups – I am now 60 years old, and at no time in my lifetime has our country been a bigger mess or in more trouble. It is easy to be discouraged. In fact, it is hard not to be discouraged.
This is not the first time God’s people have been discouraged and in struggle. After years of toil in slavery in Egypt and plague after plague sent by God to convince the pharaoh to release them, they were worn thin. Hope seemed distant. Would anything ever end this?
Then God acted in a mighty way. Each family was to mark their home with the blood of a lamb as a sign that they were in on God’s plan. Everyone else in Egypt would be at risk. The night when the call to action was given, death poured over Egypt while the Israelites fled to freedom. God had acted in the midst of struggle and they were given a new lease on life.
The verses from above are after the time in Egypt was over. God instituted the Passover, a celebration in which God would act to encourage God’s people year after year. No matter what was happening, they would pause and celebrate that God always acts to bring life and salvation – not always on our timeline, but always. This gathering over a meal would mark the Jewish people as people of hope – hope that sustains them no matter what else may be happening at the moment.
For followers of Jesus, God’s ultimate saving acts are embodied in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In the trauma of the cross, God in Christ was subjected to the pain of the world and Jesus’ own blood would be the blood that would mark God’s people for life and salvation. In the eating of bread and drinking from a cup together, God comes among us in communion, not just encouraging us to remember what God has done, but also to hear from God who is truly present in the midst of the meal, “I’m here for you. I know life is hard right now. But we’ve been through struggle before. Resurrection always wins.”