The Exodus Is Not Yet Over
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The Exodus Is Not Yet Over
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker
From late August
through October of this year,
our Sunday readings feature
highlights from the story of Moses
and the Exodus he led from Egypt.
Last month we heard about
the baby found among the reeds on the river bank,
and the voice from a burning bush
that summoned an inquisitive shepherd to action.
On the next several Sundays
we will hear of
Israel’s passage through the Red Sea
while chased by Pharaoh’s army,
and about how, out in the wilderness,
Israel’s complaints were answered by God,
first through manna falling from heaven,
then by water flowing out of a rock.
Later Sundays will direct us
to Mount Sinai:
for the giving of the Ten Commandments;
and for the people’s apostasy,
when they worshiped an idol,
a calf they had forged from gold.
On the last two Sundays in this period
we will recall how Moses asked
to see the divine glory,
and how he died an old man,
still outside the promised land.
The lengthy saga of Moses and the Exodus
is one of the most significant stories in Scripture.
It centers around
the great redemptive event of the Old Testament:
Israel delivered from slavery in Egypt.
Today’s first reading
recounts the original Passover,
when Israel in Egypt
was spared from the slaughter of the firstborn
that the Lord brought about
as judgment on their oppressors.
about the killing of lambs,
and the use of their fresh blood
to anoint the doorposts and lintels of houses
for the protection of Israel against this slaughter.
Practicing Jews today
continue to celebrate the Passover
with a home liturgy known as the seder.
Christians recognize themselves
in a new and wondrous exodus
brought about through Christ,
who is both our Moses
and our Passover Lamb.
later in our worship,
with the Lamb of God on the paten
and his blood in the chalice,
priest and people will announce the mystery
in familiar words:
“Alleluia. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us;
Therefore let us keep the feast. Alleluia.”
What we do
in celebrating this Holy Eucharist
has for its foundation
both the exodus from Egypt under Moses
and the exodus from evil and death
brought about by Jesus.
Both the old exodus and the new one
that are already complete.
Israel came out of Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of strange speech.
Christ rose from the dead,
never to die again.
These complete events
are celebrated by covenant communities.
The Jews of today keep the Passover,
while at Easter and every Eucharist,
we Christians announce the Lord’s resurrection.
Yet in another sense,
these events are not over and done;
they are open.
Faithful Jews of today, I am told,
claim to be present
with their ancestors at Mount Sinai
when Moses delivers the Torah to his people.
And we Christians march forward
on the exodus Jesus leads
into the fullness of God’s reign.
One popular hymn declares,
“We are marching in the light of God.”
Exodus and Easter,
time and again they happen
in this place and that.
God remains active in history,
liberating people from every bondage.
Let us recognize this paradox
in which we live
as people of faith.
Salvation is bestowed on us,
freely and completely.
Yet this salvation
continues to be worked out
amid the lights and shadows of history.
We gather here for the Eucharist
Christ’s conquest of death,
the empty tomb and the risen Lord.
Then the dismissal sounds forth,
we return to the world,
and there also the risen Christ meets us.
He summons us to work with him
as he extends his conquest of death,
makes it real in every heart and every place.
All this inspires
hope and patience on our part,
a consecrated stubbornness.
It requires us to increase
and increase again
in hope and patience,
to make consecrated stubbornness
our habit and our nature.
The stakes are high.
Our national life desperately needs renewal.
We must move forward.
But forces are at work, powerful ones,
fueled by greed and fear,
that want to take us back to Egypt.
Let the Church say:
We will not go back to Egypt!
Christ summons us now
to participate in his exodus.
We are to work with him
as he extends his conquest of death,
as he makes it real
in every heart and every place,
including our own.
But how to do this
in the public square,
in the arena of national politics,
on the global stage?
As Christians we must know the story
of Exodus and Easter
and know this story as our own.
The books we need for this
are above all the Holy Scriptures
and the Book of Common Prayer.
As Christians who are citizens,
we need to know as well
both the tragedy and the promise
of our national life.
• One of the glories of the Old Testament
is the way human folly is exposed,
including collective delusion
and the crimes of the powerful.
Such disasters take place in American history also.
They are chronicled clearly and relentlessly
in a remarkable book by Howard Zinn
entitled A People’s History of the United States.
This meticulous scholar
recounts numerous sad and shameful episodes,
ones we would rather forget,
but must take pains to remember.
• The Old Testament is also heavy with hope
because the God of Israel
never gives up on his people
but keeps covenant with them.
Hope for our national life
is set forth with stunning appeal
in a book by Paul Loeb
that bears the title
Soul of a Citizen:
Living with Conviction in Challenging Times.
According to one reviewer, this book
“brims with stirring stories of everyday heroes
who saw something wrong,
heeded the call of their conscience,
gathered support and,
acting in concert with others,
changed things and made a difference.”
Zinn and Loeb
are not theologians.
But they tell the truth,
and do so
with decency and eloquence.
Whether aware of it or not,
they point to ways
that the Lord of Exodus and Easter,
who demonstrates judgment and mercy
on every page of Scripture,
who anoints us at Baptism
and feeds us in the Eucharist,
remains present and active with us,
and struggles with the uncertainty and confusion
of public affairs.
For the Lord expects us to join
in the resurrection project,
in the realization of peace and justice
on earth as it is in heaven.
Our nation and region
are commemorating the War of 1812,
which has been described as the Second American Revolution.
The early patriots were people of hope and vision.
Long centuries later,
we still need to be motivated
by hope and vision,
and sometimes they seem in short supply.
Here’s one way
we can replenish our vision, our hope.
Decide to give
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
Soul of a Citizen by Paul Loeb
to a young adult or teenager in your life:
your child or grandchild or godchild,
your nephew or niece or neighbor.
If you are a teenager or young adult yourself,
get these books and read them.
In this way,
plant a seed
that in time will blossom.
For the Exodus is not yet over.
And Easter has only begun.
1 “We are marching in the light of God,” Hymn 787 in Wonder, Love, and Praise: A Supplement to the Hymnal 1982 (Church Pension Fund, 1997).
Copyright 2014, Charles Hoffacker. Used by permission.