9 April 2012Exodus 12:14-27
"You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread, for on this very day I brought your companies out of Egypt: you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a perpetual ordinance." (v. 17)
Unleavened bread speaks of fear! The Israelites had long been in
slavery in Egypt and unleavened bread is a symbol of the speed at
which they had to escape once saved by God.
In the Jewish faith, salvation is about being freed from slavery - shown first in the events of the Passover and the Exodus. So great was the fear of God's children at the hands of the Egyptians, that they ran from Egypt taking with them only unleavened bread because there had been no time to allow it to rise.
This is the basic Jewish story of God saving his people. It is passed on from generation to generation. It is commemorated and explained in the Seder when the youngest is still encouraged to ask: "What is the meaning of this day? Why is this night not like any other?". And, in response, the story of God rescuing God's own children is retold.
A Jewish friend told me recently how, in her family, the ancient Passover story is retold alongside family recollections of people running in fear for their lives too. She told of her grandmother running in fear in Russia on the day that the Tzar's edict had been read in churches - an incitement to villagers to go out and to kill their Jewish neighbours.
Today, we too can sit alongside our Jewish neighbours, as we try to continue in God's work of salvation, freedom and life.
- We can remember and pray for gay and lesbian people fleeing in fear from those who wish to see them destroyed for being themselves. Or for their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in this country - and in our churches - running from exclusion and prejudice.
- We can remember and pray for people with disabilities who become victims of hate crimes, or who lose benefits on which they depend to live.
- We can remember and pray for Muslims in this country and abroad who become victims of fear and Islamophobia.
- We can remember the unemployed, the homeless, the single parent, the angry teenager - enslaved by circumstance and disadvantage.
And as we remember and pray, we are reminded that our
churches are intended to be places which reflect God's salvation -
God's freedom for all people. Our churches are places where all are
welcomed - but not just welcomed, also loved, accepted and nurtured
as the people God made them to be.
In what ways do you or your church community act to welcome and to embrace diversity - to stop people from running away in fear?
How do you, or your church, need to be challenged to be more accepting of all of God's children?