Often during the important seasons of the church year, we find ourselves wondering why. Why do we do this every year? Why to we say the same words, read the same scriptures, and repeat the same rituals? Why do we tell the stories of Holy Week? Why is it important? Why does it even matter?
And our answer in the twenty-first century is the same as it was in the first century and the same as it was a thousand years before that. And that, of course, is another story worth repeating. This story is the story of the first Passover that is recorded in Exodus 12:1-14:
12:1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2 “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lambfor his family, one for each household. 4 If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. 6 Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. 8 That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs, and internal organs. 10 Do not leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. 11 This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.
12 “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
14 “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.”
Even before the Passover happened, God commanded his people to commemorate, to tell the story, to repeat the rituals, so that they would remember what had happened, so that they would remember what God had done for them, so that they would remember where they had come from, and so that they would remember who they were, and to whom they belonged.
These stories serve the same purpose for us. They remind us of where we have been, where we came from, and where we are going. They remind us that we are a part of a much larger story and they remind us that over thousands of years, God has never stopped loving us. Of course, while we remember the story of the Passover, with the coming of Jesus, that is the focus of our ritual. But in our modern liturgy, we heard the story of the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:24, and we remember that Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of me.”
Just as God commanded Moses and the people of Israel to repeat the story of the Passover, and to make it a lasting remembrance, Jesus commands us to repeat the story and remember.
Just as it was thousands of years ago, we tell the stories, and repeat the rituals, so that we will remember what happened, remember what God had done for us, remember where we came from, remember who we
are, remember to whom we belong, remember that we are loved, and remember the price that was paid for our rescue. And we remember because, by remembering the story, we are better able to remember what we are supposed to do with our lives. Because the stories that we tell aren’t just the stories of the past, they are the stories that shape our present, and our future. Because as we remember where we came from and who we are, we can clearly hear the words of Jesus in John 13:34-35 when he says,
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
May we remember who we are and live lives that the world around us will see and feel… as love.
Click here to visit Pastor John’s YouTube channel.
*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601. These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org. If you have questions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on Facebook (search for Pastor John Online). These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.