Sermon – 4 September 2005

As we read the story of the Jewish passover this morning, we face the immediate recognition that this is a story of a people about to be evacuated from one place to another.

The Jewish people stopped on their last night in slavery before making their run for it, through the red sea, as we shall hear next week.
And as they stopped, they did something which was in its own way miraculous ? they stopped and on their most abnormal of evenings together they shared a new meal which would be the beginning of their new life as a people on the move. That night they shared a meal in which sharing was itself part of the commandment of God. If you don?t have enough, join your neighbours and keep this new feast day.

At a time when people slaughtered their own animals for food, the blood on the doors and lintels of the house was a potent symbol ? one which it is hard for us to enter into. However, some of the other things which the refugee pilgrims did that night does resonate easily with us still.

They were to eat it ready to run. This week on the television we have seen pictures of people running for their lives away from the terrible storm in the southern United States. And those pictures have reminded us of how uncomfortable it feels as modern people to see that not everything in life is predictable or under control. We see from pictures and we hear in stories that our civilization is more fragile than we choose to think most of the time.

No-one watching these terrible scenes can be anything but be moved by the tragedy.

The response of the Jewish people at their time of evacuation was to remember God and to turn together with one another towards God.

Of course, books like the Exodus were written by people who believed that if God was on your side then you were less likely to perish than if you were not keeping in with God in the first place. That is who the people were who wrote this, but that is not necessarily who we are as we read it.

I know I don?t believe that people perish in natural disasters because of the action of God. I perceive the action of God more in the action of rescuers, the generosity of friends unknown and in a web of connectedness which binds humankind together when these things happen.

There is something about that connectedness which is getting, if anything, stronger. There is much that is wrong with the media and much that is worrying about having the news in front of us 24 hours a day every day ? we were not designed to deal with that stress. However, the truth is, when terrible things happen like hurricane Katrina or the horrible stampede in Baghdad, or the Beslan siege whose anniversary fell this week, when such things happen, the world does in some way come together.

The Jewish people came together. That is what their meal did for them ? it brought them together and still brings them together as they celebrate Passover in the same way each year.

And it is that meal which binds which Jesus shared and then opened up to the rest of the world to share through the Eucharist. It is on offer here, in this church today.

And the promise of God that I proclaim is that everyone is welcome to share in the meal that binds.

Today, I ask you to reflect on that meal which started so long ago in such particular circumstances but which is shared all over the world today.

As you come to communion this morning, come with your hopes and dreams and come with your hands held open. Open to a God who gives and gives and gives again.

Coming to communion is a time to bring something to God ? not just hearts full of care, though God will receive those too, – not just minds distressed by what we see and hear, though God is the God who calms and soothes as well; but come with open hands.

Ask God in some way today, as you open your hands for communion, to give you a share in all that he promises. For just as the lintels and doorposts of God?s people were marked out as special on the night of the first passover, so the hearts and minds and wills of God?s people are touched by God?s love today.

So bring something to God. As you open your hands to receive communion, open your heart to God. As you open your palms for the bread, bring to God all your hopes and dreams and fears and doubts. As you open your fingers, open your souls.

For our God is the God who satisfies and comforts and nourishes and strengthens.

For the Jewish people, the truth, the great truth that they came to share as a people and which they share with us through this story today is that God is with us in whatever might happen to us. God is with us in evacuation, God is with us when worlds seem to be falling apart and God is with us now and forever.

That sense of now and forever is an important thing to bring to mind sometimes as we share in this meal. For we eat in the here and now and we eat in God?s timeframe of forever.

Eating with those who are on the run, homeless and lost, eating with people of faith throughout the generations, eating with Jesus at table with his feckless disciples, eating with one another here and one another all around the world today, and eating with God in the eternal feast that we can only call heaven.

Today we celebrate a feast. Yesterday, today, forever, the feast is here and now.

And it is God who invites us, and all are welcome here.


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