Lenten Reflection: On Passover & Remembrance

This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. (Exodus 12:14)

The people of God were to take a lamb without blemish, kill it and paint the blood from the slain animal on their doorpost. This was a sign of faith. It was a sign of faith that God was about to deliver them from their oppressors. The blood was a sign to the ‘angel of death’ that those in the house belonged to YHWH and thus should not be harmed. This was the beginning of their deliverance.

God had also told them that it would be “the beginning of months; the first month of the year for you.” (Ex. 12:2) This is an odd statement. Why would the way time is marked and delineated be effected by their exodus from Egypt? Why does the relationship to time change simply because they move from one side of the Red Sea to the other? To be honest, I am not entirely sure what all the connections and implications of this are, but my guess is that it has something to do with the profound significance of the change in status from “slaves in Egypt” to “sons and daughters in the land.” To move from slavery to freedom is to begin “new life” which deserves its own special place “in time.” It’s like the Exodus marked the end of an old world and the beginning of a new one. Redemption and marking time are inextricably connected.

After the regulations were given about what was to be done with the lamb and how the blood was to be applied, the people of God were told that what they were doing on that night should be ritually observed by them each year as a “day of remembrance.” Every year they were to set aside one day in which to remember their own deliverance from Egyptian slavery. This was a day to remember the beginning of their freedom.

Redemption’s relationship to time was to continue to have national influence. It was as if they were to stop once a year and by the power of their own collective memories, they were to draw the past into the present so as to experience the truth of their freedom all over again. It was to remind them not only of what God had done in the past on their behalf, but what God’s action “back then” meant for their present reality. It was to be a reminder of who they are.

It was during one of these annual Exodus rituals or (Passovers) that Jesus “instituted” his own ritual of remembrance. “This is my body. Do this in remembrance of me. This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it in remembrance of me.” Like the slain lamb, Jesus pointed to his own coming death as the event to be remembered. “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor. 11:26) This is our exodus. This is our deliverance from slavery. This is our freedom. So remember. Remember what God has done on behalf of the whole world. Remember who you are. Amen.

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Chris serves as rector of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Broomfield, Colo., and is my best friend. His many and varied interests include the theology of Friedrich Schleiermacher, his 4,000-volume personal library and news shows from different political perspectives. He also firmly supports the claim of Benjamin Franklin that “beer is proof that God loves us.”

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