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 to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall share with a neighbor; the lamb shall be divided so every person receives the same portion. Eat it with 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 theLord. 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 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. - Exodus 12 (The First Passover)
In this first reading for Maundy Thursday, God marks our sense of time and creates a calendar for the people of God. Our story begins with a close call. There is drama and death is right around the corner. Then again, isn't it always? An innocent one is chosen and sacrificed for the sake of many. Not because it's easy or fair, but because it's the only way.
When you do this at the beginning of each year, don’t get too comfortable with the idea. Don’t bury the meaning beneath something lavish or laid back. Keep it simple and valuable so you remember to be agile in faith, ready to move where the Spirit sends you. And so the Passover has helped generations of people remember God’s saving grace. The simple tradition has gathered families around tables and the faithful in synagogues to remember how much God loves us.
God knew that over time we would do a wonderful job of hiding the meaning of things deep beneath strange expectations, false promises, and tempting distractions. God knew Christmas would one day fall prey to garland and credit card debt. The anticipation of Easter would be rooted in chocolate bunnies and plastic eggs. We get carried away so easily, creating layers of tradition about...nothing at all.
But there is a beautiful beginning here in Exodus, long before God’s people had any holidays and festivals. While they were still slaves in Egypt dreaming of an escape, God marks their time with something solid and simple.
Your calendar, your story, your lives begin here: with your loins girded and a simple meal shared in a community. Take a morsel, the same size as the next person. There is enough for everyone. And when you take it, when you mark your house with its blood and consume its flesh, you will be changed. You will be strengthened. You will have what you need for the journey ahead and the promise that God goes with you. This is the God who breaks bread for his friends and betrayers and deniers alike...because sometimes we are all three. This is the God who passes the cup around for everyone, claiming people with his own blood. This is the God who bends down to wash Peter’s feet, becoming lower and taking on the dirt and dust of another because that is the only way Peter can be clean. That is the only way we can be clean.
That is love. That is the love of a God who does not want the good and true stuff to get buried in our heavy and noisy lives. And so God commands us to keep it simple. To take and to eat. To do this in remembrance of him.
And in doing so, we are filled with that same love. By consuming the body and blood of Jesus, we become the resurrection promise. We become the servant bold enough to watch the hands and feet of others. We become the meal that satisfies the whole world.