This sermon was written for Kerr Presbyterian Church September 13, 2020 by Rev. KJ Norris based on Exodus 5-12, especially emphasizing 12:1-13.
Return to the At Home Worship Kit for Sunday, September 13, 2o20.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
“There is power, power, wonder working power in the blood of the lamb.”
“What can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
Songs about blood are a common part of our Christian heritage. When we come to the Communion Table, as we will today, we are reminded of the importance of the blood of Christ and what God did for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But sometimes we lose sight of the fact that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And so the idea of being covered in the blood of the lamb didn’t start with Jesus. And if we are to understand the Lord’s Table and why we come together gathered around the Lord’s Table every month, we have to start with the Book of Exodus where it first began.
It starts with the ritual that we are given in Scripture today. It starts with Passover.
Let’s back up a little and put all of this in context:
You all know that churches around the world right now are studying the Book of Exodus. It comes up in the lectionary every three years and ministers are encouraged to preach and teach on it. This Book is jammed packed by stories of faith which have transformed the way we understand our faith and our call from the Lord.
I suppose you could say that about every book of the Bible. Each book, and yes, some of these books are history, some are poetry, some are letters—but still we generally refer to each different selection as books—each book has so much to teach us about our faith and our walk with the Lord.
But Exodus, in particular takes this challenge seriously because the Book is about a formation of a people. It is about how people came to understand God and God’s call. It’s about how God brought people together to worship and to live as a family.
It’s a very important book and I wish we could preach through every chapter of it, but that would take 40 weeks—almost an entire year—so if we are going to know the rest of the Bible, too, we simply can’t go that slowly. That means, it is up to you to read some of it on your own.
I want to encourage you once again to do that. Take this month and read a chapter a week. Get familiar with this Book which is so foundational to our faith.
And if you did get to read through the first 14 chapters already, then you know what has been happening up unto this point.
You know that great evil exists in the land. The leaders have chosen to become oppressors. As we said last week, labor matters to God. It matters to God that all people are treated fairly and with respect. It matters to God that people are compensated fairly for their work. The roots of Labor Day are Biblical roots for God has shown us that God hears when laborers cry out against injustice.
And then this week, we encounter situation after situation when the worst thing possible happens.
Not just once. Not just twice. But 10 times the people suffer from 10 different terrible things which come into their lives.
Unusable water, frogs, gnats, flies, diseases in livestock, boils, thunder and hail, locusts, darkness, and yes, even the death of children come to pass.
If you’ve been reading all week, you may have related to these passages more fully than you would have ever related to them before, I know I do.
We are in a moment in history right now when we are facing plagues. A terrible plague has struck the entire globe. We haven’t seen anything like this since 1917. Over 100 years went by without anything of this magnitude, a great grace of God for which I give thanks.
But that wasn’t true in former days. 4,000 years ago, the experience of plagues was incredibly common.
Along the Nile river basin, where our story is set, frequently the whole area would flood, and while this was important for growing crops and for refreshing the soil, when strong rains would come, all the dirt and mud and waste from animals and humans would fill the rivers, making the water unsuitable for drinking and cooking and bathing.
People regularly would experience plagues like the first plague described when the water become unusable, the water became like blood, our Scripture says.
And not just a plague of water. People were much more in touch with nature in those days. Most people worked outside farming and doing other labor so they experienced changes in nature much more acutely than we do today.
These things still do happen, for instance, in Pennsylvania this year we are dealing with a plague from lime disease. Ticks have gotten much more prevalent in our area and they carry the disease which can cause fatigue and muscle aches and in its very worst case even blindness.
But most of us don’t experience this plague too badly because most of us don’t work in areas where the grasses are high so we don’t come into contact with the ticks, even though they are there. And when we do come into contact with them, modern medicine has make it possible for us to heal from lime disease, especially if we catch it early so we don’t experience its effects as badly as we could.
This too, is the great grace of God at work. 4,000 years ago modern medicine didn’t exist and people were exposed to nature much more closely than we are today so they understood plagues in a way that they we do not.
But coronavirus and lime disease are not the only plagues we are facing as a nation right now.
And if you have been following the news of our sisters and brothers on the West Coast, in Washington and Oregon and California you have seen the devastation the fires have caused. A good friend of mine who lives in California is not threatened by the fires themselves, but she shared a photo of the deep darkness which has covered the land—it looks like dusk in the noon day sun.
In Iowa crops have been destroyed by thunderstorms and hail and tornadoes. In Texas and Louisiana people have gone without electricity for days because of the hurricane. And across the country people are crying out against the plague of racism and injustice.
We are living in a day of many plagues.
And our Scripture chronicles the horrors people lived through many plagues back then. It describes the damage done by gnats and flies and other insects. How crops were destroyed by thunder and hail. How animals were affected by disease. How darkness covered the land. And it shows how people respond when they experience these trials.
Those who are experiencing these things have a variety of reactions:
- If we read back in chapter 6, we find that some don’t react at all to messages of hope because their spirits are broken.
- The suffering they have endured from harsh treatment has lead them to believe that no good can come.
- They don’t desire to worship; they don’t desire to leave the situation they are in. They don’t think that they can for their hearts are so heavy the Scriptures say they are broken.
- Some people break—they simply shut down and don’t want to do anything when difficultly comes.
- In chapter 7, we find a different response. The Scriptures says that people, in particular Pharaoh hardened his heart.
- Sometimes in the face of trial and adversity people harden their hearts.
- They start to think about no one but themselves—they can only see what is happening to them, and they refuse to listen to others who are hurting as well.
- In chapter 8, we find another response: crying out to God.
- There are those who in times of challenge and agony who turn to God.
- Even those who supposedly don’t know God, the “magicians” our Scriptures call them turn and say, “This is the finger of God.”–they acknowledge God’s power in times of severe trial.
- Times of plagues are times when many seek God, looking for answers to why we suffer and praying for the mercy of God.
- In chapter 9 we find another human response: denial.
- Some of the people, even though they have already experienced so much suffering—7 plagues worth of suffering—they still deny that this is even happening.
- For some it was so difficult to watch what was going on around them, it was simply too difficult to fathom, and so they simply didn’t see the seriousness of the situation.
- They wouldn’t change their ways or do what they needed to do to protect themselves or others around them, instead they just acted like it wasn’t happening.
- And through it all we find Moses speaking words of prayer and calling for justice and hope to a lost people.
In every chapter we see people responding in different ways when tragedy comes. No two people respond in exactly the same way when difficultly strikes.
But there is one thing that stays constant as you read chapter after chapter after chapter. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and today, chapter 12. One thing that is clear on every page.
Do you know what that one thing is?
Chapter after chapter, as the worst thing that could possibly happen happens. And then somehow something even worse comes. Chapter after chapter as life becomes harder and harder and people suffer and animals suffer and the world groans there is one thing that the Scripture makes clear time and time again.
Do you know what it is?
God is in charge.
No matter what happens. Even in the suffering. Even in the pain. Even in the tragedy and trial. Over and over we are reminded—God is in charge.
There are some who say that when we come to Jesus, when we come to the blood of the lamb and are marked in the blood that we no longer suffer. That God protects us super naturally.
The next time someone tells you that, ask them how much of the Bible they have actually read. I guarantee you, they haven’t read Exodus. Or Genesis. Or Job. Or Psalms. Or the prophets. Or any of the Gospels.
The stories of people of faith are stories of suffering. Even Jesus who lived the perfect life, the one in whom all the power of God was present, the one who showed us the very meaning of love, even he suffered. And suffered with some of the greatest anguish one can image.
And yet, the Good News of the gospel is—even in times of plagues, God is still in charge.
When we get to chapter 12, the people are asked to make a choice.
Yes, there are some whose spirits are broken; there are some whose hearts are hardened; there are some who are crying out to God; there are some who are denying any of this is even happening, but regardless of their earlier responses, God now asks them to make a choice.
Will they trust God? Will they hope in God? Despite all that has happened, will they symbolically step out in faith and declare hope in the midst of trial?
So God gives them a ritual, an active step of faith, something which becomes known as the Passover.
God speaks to the people through Moses with Aaron as his mouth piece and says take a lamb. Not just any lamb, but your best lamb. And kill it. And take some blood from the lamb and spread it over your door way.
In other words, let the blood be a covering.
This is what those songs are about the covering of blood.
It’s an odd request, of course. Who wants blood on their doors? But God asks them to do it anyway as a sign of faith. A sign that they believe in the power of God. A sign that despite all of the evil and hardship they have seen, they still trust.
The people do as God commands and where the blood is placed, God passes over the door. God forgives their sin. God hold’s back God’s judgement. God makes sure that they are not destroyed when the worst comes. The blood marks you as one who is part of the family of God, claimed as God’s own. As one who knows you have been claimed.
And from that time on, every year people would gather to celebrate the Passover meal. They would keep their promise, just as their ancestors had done for 2,000 years to spread blood on the door post and to celebrate with a gathering of the whole family and to recommit themselves to trusting in God even in the hardest of times.
When we come to the communion table, we do the same. Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted Communion at the Passover meal. Jesus took this understanding of faith and gave it to us anew. And instead of us having to kill a lamb so that we might be saved, Jesus willingly went to the cross as the lamb.
In the blood of Jesus Christ, we are sealed as the family of God. And the table is a call to us to put our hope, our trust, our longing in God.
Let us pause for a moment of silent prayer before we come to the table for the Lord’s Supper.
Return to the At Home Worship Kit for Sunday, September 13, 2o20.