Sunday, 2 October 2016

Passover Promise - sermon October 2nd

Exodus 12:1-13; 13:1-8
Family traditions and rituals become part of our lives so much so that when someone new joins us they often are surprised by what or how we do things.
Family traditions and rituals are passed from generation to generation, and it is often difficult to remember when it started, or why.
It can apply to anything – and pretty much every family will be different – have their own particular idiosyncrasies – but each family will also have their own similarities… and, often we believe, because we have always done it, the surely people all through history have done it too…  the way we do Christmas; the way we celebrate birthdays; the way we mark the passing of the years – the way we remember.
It is personal; it is important; it is our tradition and once established it becomes very difficult to change, unless there is some sort of upheaval.

The Passover is probably the biggest Jewish Festival of all; it marks an important event in the life of the tribe of Israel; and it is still remembered today; still celebrated every year; it becomes special for us as Christians because it was the last meal that Jesus shared with his friends before his death. It carries great significance – for from this meal – a meal to remember the actions of God – comes our own celebration of communion – another meal to remember the actions of God.
Strangely today is known as World Communion Sunday – though generally this is celebrated most frequently by American Presbyterian Churches; it is a good day to remember that even communion has its own traditions and rituals – and that they differ from church to church, denomination to denomination.
In America today, many churches will mark World Communion, by having a special communion service, using many different types of bread from across the world; the left over bread will be shared out and given to members to take home to continue sharing the blessing; others will keep it there and it will go to a shared table lunch; still others will want to keep its sanctity and therefore it will be removed and returned to the earth – either by scattering or by burial -   so many ways; so many interpretations, but who is to say one is more right than the other?

What is really important; vital even, in all of these traditions and rituals is not the how, but the why. Why do we remember certain things? And why do others get left by the wayside?
On the personal, family level: we celebrate birthdays – to mark the passage of time, to recognise milestones: become a teenager; reaching adulthood; maturity; moving from one decade to another; passing retirement age – each is marked; each small triumph.
We mark anniversaries: wedding anniversaries in these days of broken marriage or no marriage are increasingly important – a sign of permanence and the fulfilment of promises.
There are other promises we make that are not generally observed – who knows the date they were baptised? Or the date they were confirmed? If you became an elder – do you know which date is your anniversary?
Because of social media – I know that this week marked in the 11th anniversary of my ordination – and I was a little sad that I had not remembered myself – that it took a Facebook reminder.
These last ones: baptism; confirmation; ordination – these I want to think about for these are all holy promises we make.
All through the bible we are reminded of God’s promises to the Chosen People in the Old Testament, and then all people in the New Testament – the Passover meal was repeated, and is repeated and will be repeated year on year to remind the Chosen People still that they can rely on God; that God will rescue them; that God will be with them, come what may.
For us, as Christians, we take not the Passover meal, but the offering that came out of it – our Holy Communion, which we have repeated, and will continue to repeat month by month to remind us the we can rely on God; that God is with us; that God will always be with us, come what may.
God’s Promises are to be relied upon; unlike the promises of individuals – which sometimes are constant, and sometimes may be beset with trials and tribulations; with betrayal and infidelity; God’s promise to us, through Jesus Christ is that he prepares a place for us and that he will be with us until the end of all time.
What a wonderful promise that is!
God totally understands our human frailty; knows that we make our promises with good intentions and constant hope; accepts that sometimes we will fail, or give up, or simply be overwhelmed by life. None of that is important to God – what matters is that we continue to do our best; to share God’s love; to remember.
Remember God’s promises to us and to all generations: from Passover in Egypt, to the Upper Room in Jerusalem, to us here in Earlston today: to be with us to the very end of time.

That Passover Promise is worth holding on to. 

Communion celebrated at Lake Galilee

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