Relieve the trouble of my heart.
Forgive all my sins. (from Psalm 25:16-22)
The Hebrew people are still in Egypt. Pharaoh has not yet admitted defeat. He is still refusing to listen. Things don't seem to be getting better. Things don't seem to be changed.
Yet, the Lord says to Moses, "This is the beginning. This is the first month of a new year." Then, the Lord gives what seems to me to be a surprising instruction, "Have a feast. Have a big feast. And put on your traveling clothes."
We may be living in the midst of trouble, of sadness, of disappointment. We may feel stuck in a situation that is painful and seems impossible to escape. We may wonder if God has forgotten us.
What is the purpose of the feast? Is it to help them forget how bad things are? I don't think so.
Can we learn anything from this passage to help us face our troubled times? Can we hold onto hope through difficult times?
The Lord tells them to remember this day, to celebrate it as a festival. Remember those days when hunger drove you from your home. Remember those days that you were slaves to Pharaoh. Remember that I sent a savior to deliver you, to bring you home.
Not just one meal but a perpetual ordinance. Perpetual--this isn't something that happened once way back then to a bunch of other people--this continues to affect us right now. Ordinance--do it
Along with the directions for what had to be done before they left Egypt were commands for what they were to do when they came to the place that had been promise to them. They were to remember and tell what they remembered.
That night the Lord struck down every firstborn son in the land of Egypt, including the son of Pharaoh, of prisoners, of sheep and cattle. In despair and panic, Pharaoh told Moses to leave.
The Israelites were given silver and gold ornaments by the Egyptians. A throng of non-Israelites accompanied them.
How do we remember the times that we were rescued from troublesome situations and difficulties? Think about the hard times that your congregation (or congregants) have gone through. What event got you through? Do you have a way of recalling, and sharing your experiences of rescue?
What could possibly go wrong now? They're following the directions the prophets had laid out.
Matthew describes the entrance in language evoking Zechariah,
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, you king cones to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (9:9)
A very large crowd welcomes them enthusiastically. Were they thinking of the next verses in Zechariah?
He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the warhorse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth (9:10).He's being welcomed in Jerusalem, the capital city founded by King David. Of course, now it has been centuries since Jerusalem was ruled by Jews. Now, Rome is in charge. And Rome does not want anyone wanting a new king. Rome favored peace, but a peace in which Rome was totally in charge.
Let's not be Rome for a while. Let us instead welcome the new king into our dominion, a king who is a prophet.
Wesley White describes what is difficult about prophets: They preach change. They tell us some uncomfortable things. He sums up by saying "Prophets get stoned, not throned, and in the end are spit upon, not smiled upon." (Wrestling Year A)
Prayer for Today: Lord, as we read about the Hebrew people preparing to leave Egypt and about Jesus entering Jerusalem, we think about our leavings and our arrivals. Forgive us for those misdeeds and missed deeds that we were guilty of during our past. Guide us now to a new life, one in which we do your will. The good we do, your work we participate in, is often down through the church, through our specific congregation. Inspire us to support that congregation so that we can continue to do what the world needs from Christians. Amen.