Faith United Methodist Church
September 7, 2014
13th Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. Krista Beth Atwood
Scripture: Exodus 12:1-14
Prayer of Illumination:
The word of God is like bread from heaven. May we remember God’s holy promises and make known God’s deeds among the peoples. Amen.
Sermon: Remembering Together
It is fun to reminisce, isn’t it? Recall good times gone by. It is even more fun to reminisce with someone. The other day my mother posted a picture on Facebook of one of my favorite childhood toys ~ Happy Apple. (Anyone else have a Happy Apple?) My good friend Julie, whom I’ve known since I was two, commented that she remembered it and that she’d had one, too. Just that little exchange brought back lots of good memories of Julie and I ~ our two-year-old selves ~ playing together, Happy Apple’s music in the background.
During my Renewal Leave I was able to attend a family reunion with my Dad’s side of the family. Family reunions are a great opportunity to reminisce. Several years had passed since I’d seen some of my cousins. And with my grandparents, one uncle and my father gone, there was a lot to reminisce about. My one uncle who is still living brought photo albums that had been my grandmother’s. We sat around the patio, plates of hamburgers and potato salad on our laps, looking at the photos my grandmother had loving placed along with the captions she wrote next to them. Looking at those photos, and being in each other’s presence, brought back lots of memories. Remembering helps the memories live on within us.
Today’s passage from the Old Testament book of Exodus offers instructions on how to remember one very special night. The night ~ which came to be known as The Passover ~ was the night God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Even while instructing Moses and Aaron on what to do to prepare, God told them to pay attention because this was big, this was something they would want to remember. Moses and Aaron, and all the Israelites, were encouraged by God’s words, “This day will be a day of remembering for you. You will observe it as a festival to the Lord. You will observe it in every generation as a regulation for all time.”
In our day we tend to take pictures of things we want to remember. When out with a group of friends we might take a ‘selfie’ to help us remember the night. The Israelites, though, didn’t have smart phones. They didn’t even have paper and pens to write down their experience. What they did have was God’s instruction. God told them how to prepare the meal and how to eat it. God told them to gather their family, and even their neighbors, to share the meal together. God gave them a ritual to commemorate year after year. As Kate Huey described it in Sermon Seeds, “God takes time to instruct the people about how to remember what is about to happen, how to worship properly not just that night, but in every age to come.” God knew that life after slavery would be different. In remembering that first night of freedom, in the ritual of the Passover meal, that scattered band of slaves became a people, a congregation.
What rituals help us remember and celebrate God’s purpose in our lives? What helps to remind us of who we are? It is the first Sunday after Labor Day, which is a ritual-of-sorts for us. It is the Sunday we gather our children and families after a busy summer and start another year of Christian education. Our children ~ in FLOCK ~ and we ~ in worship ~ hear stories of our faith and remember what God has done for us through the ancient stories of God’s people. As Mark Gignilliat wrote, “In biblical parlance, remembering is not a mere passive activity or a sentimental act of nostalgia. Remembering is active, a moment when members of the present community participate in the events of the past.”
One of the events of the past that we share together is the meal that God offers us at this table. The Gospels tell us that it was at a Passover supper that Jesus instituted The Lord’s Super. “Take and eat; Take a drink and remember me.” Like the Israelites before us, when we share the bread and the cup we become a congregation. As Charles Aaron Jr. describes, “In a world that constantly wants to stamp us with it’s way of identifying us, scripture and our ceremonies remind us of who we really are and what our mission is in the world.”
The word “commemoration” literally means remembering together. When we commemorate The Lord’s Supper ~ as we will do in just a few minutes ~ we remember together Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. We also remember together Jesus’ promise to come again. By remembering together we hold the memory within our congregation, we share it with our children, and it becomes part of our collective memory going back 2,000 years, and beyond, to the community of our ancestors freed from slavery. As Rabbi Adam Morris observed, “We learn a great deal about others from the stories they choose to tell.” May our stories be ones of hope as we remember together who God is and who we are because of what God continues to do. Amen.