The Passover of the Lord

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Preached at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church – Tifton, Georgia

Exodus 12:1-14      Mark 14:1-11

Good morning everyone.
I want to welcome you all to St. Anne’s,
especially if you are an out-of-town guest
seeking refuge from Hurricane Irma.

Whatever brings you here, please know
that you are welcome and loved,
and we are glad to have you with us
as we worship, pray,
and prepare for this storm.

* * *

Over in our Ministry Center
we are housing about 30 health care workers.
These are mostly the same folks
who came to us during Hurricane Matthew.

They arrived from Brunswick on Friday
along with their elderly patients
who are being housed at Maple Court
and the Rehab Center on 20th & Tift.

Their plan was to get away from Hurricane Irma,
but now it seems all of us are directly in its path.

At any rate, they are using our Ministry Center
as a home base to rest, shower, and sleep
when they aren’t on duty taking care of their patients.

At this time they have everything they need.
We will let you know if that changes.

* * *

Of all the readings we could have had today,
I find it interesting that we get this story from Exodus.
This is the Passover of the Lord.

You could say it’s the original
disaster preparedness plan.

By the time we get to this story in Exodus,
the people of Israel
have been enslaved in Egypt
for generations.

Moses has gone to Pharaoh and said,
“Let my people go,”
but Pharaoh will not budge.

For that reason
God has sent plague after plague,
and the worst is about to happen.
Every firstborn son in Egypt is about to die.

So God says to the Israelites:

“On this night,
take a lamb,
kill it,
eat it,
and smear its blood
over your doorposts.

Do not wait.
Do not dally.
Do not procrastinate.

For on this night,
I will come and strike down
all the firstborn sons
of the houses of Egypt.

The blood on your doors
will be a sign for you,
and when I see it
I will pass over your homes
as I destroy all the rest.”

This is the Passover of the Lord,
and it’s about as Old Testament as it gets.

It is life for life.
It is blood for blood.
To spare the life of their household,
another life—the life of a lamb—
had to pay the price.

On days like today,
and at times such as these,
it is tempting to wonder
if it could still work that way.

If we just knew the right formula,
if we just had
the right instructions,
the right words,
the right plan—
if we just had the right blood to paint over our doors—
then maybe God might pass us over
and spare us from the hurricanes,
the floods,
the tempests,
and the fear.

But it doesn’t work that way.
Not anymore.

It doesn’t work that way because
our life is about something different now.

* * *

Every Easter you and I come to this place,
and we remember not just the Passover,
but the greatest Passover.

Every Easter—
and, for that matter, every Sunday
we remember how
two-thousand-and-something years ago,
life was given for life,
blood was given for blood.

We remember that fateful day when
instead of taking our firstborn sons,
God turned it all upside down
and he gave his firstborn Son . . .

to spare us,
to save us,
to show us the way.

On that Passover,
God gave us everything he has,
and ever since then,
our perspectives are changed,
our priorities are changed,
and our life is about something different.

* * *

This past week in our staff meeting
we found ourselves reading the story
of when Mary goes to Jesus,
breaks open her jar of costly perfume,
and pours it all over his feet
in an act of wasteful, extravagant love.

Judas sees this and is appalled.
“This is absurd!” he says.
“She is wasting it!
We should save it,
and sell it,
and dole out the money
in drips and drabs.”

But Jesus knows the Passover that is about to come.
Jesus knows that the time for drips and drabs is over.
Jesus knows that the time for stinginess and self-motivation has come and gone.

Jesus knows that he is about to go to the cross
and that he is about to give nothing less
than the fullness of his own self with
utter wastefulness,
utter sacrifice,
utter extravagance,
utter love for the sake of us all.

“No,” he says. “Let her do it.”
As Rev. Ellen said during our staff meeting,
“The time for drips and drabs is over.
The time for extravagance and love is here.”

* * *

The truth is,
I do not know what this hurricane will bring.
I do not know whom it will pass over and whom it will not.
I do not know how our friends in Florida will fare.
I do not know what will happen to us.

But I do know this.

I know that we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ,
and that he is the captain
and the Lord
and the lover of our souls.

I know that the era of stinginess has long been over.
I know that the era of extravagant love is here.
I know that as we make our way through this,
there is only one thing that matters,
and that is to love,
and to help,
and to pour ourselves out for others
with extravagance and love,
for that is what has been done for us.

* * *

They say that hurricanes like Harvey and Irma
“equalize” us and make us all the same.
We’ve seen this in the news footage
of all the people helping one another . . .
black, brown, and white,
rich, middle class, and poor.

But, O Christian, don’t you know?
Don’t you know that we were equalized long ago?
The blood of the Lamb has rescued us all.
The blood of the Lamb has made us one.
God give us the courage to act that way
and to love others with the same selfless abandon.

The time for drips and drabs is over.
The time for extravagance and love is here.

This is the Passover of the Lord.