Pastor’s Pen for April 2017

This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the Passover of the LORD.

– Exodus 12:11

Beloved of God,

After hiking five miles in the snow through fields of standing corn and over frozen lakes in the dead of a Minnesota winter, every one of us in Troop 72 was famished. But we all knew there would be nothing to eat until a fire was going. So, gathering wood quickly, we built a kindling tipi over thin strips of birch bark, put a match to it, and waited—all eight pairs of eyes eager and focused—for smoke and flame to rise. What we were after, what we needed for cooking, were hot coals, so we tended the growing fire with studious care, feeding ever larger pieces into the flames at careful intervals, until the crack and pop of the wood and the enveloping warmth convinced us the fire would succeed.

Then, reaching into our green canvas knapsacks, we took out the foil pouches we’d packed at home before our journey began; pouches filled with chunks of carrot, potato, and onion, and seasoned with pepper and salt, with a large paddy of hamburger in the middle. And as soon as the flames were low enough, we tossed our treasures onto the coals, sat back, and waited for the sizzle and the mouthwatering aroma that signaled dinner was on its way. When the meal was ready we pulled the pouches off the coals with pairs of sticks, opened them up, and dug in to what—even 45 years after the fact—was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.

Meals to remember. What’s on your list? Some meals stand out from the rest. The first date; the wedding feast; the last taste of home before going away; the first meal alone after years of living together. Sometimes the menu or the occasion are everything. Other times it’s neither the menu nor the occasion but the company we keep that’s memorable; or the setting. At the first Passover it’s all of the above. God’s people are poised on the edge of something that they cannot fully grasp, and won’t for many years. The menu is lamb and unleavened bread; the occasion is their last meal together in Egypt; the company they keep is all whose doorposts have been marked with the blood of the lamb; the setting is the land of captivity—Pharaoh’s land—which they will soon be seeing in the rearview mirror.

There’s urgency in the air in this story from Exodus:

This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the Passover of the LORD.

There’s no time for yeast; no time to boil water. No time to prepare the animal in the usual way—just roast it quickly over the fire. Make certain your shoes are laced, your staff is in hand, your clothes are on, your pack is ready; for the time for which you have been waiting, is at hand. In the morning, you will be on your way.

Our Lenten journey comes to a culmination with the Three Days—Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil. We’ll mark the final meal Jesus shared with his disciples with two elements: bread and wine. It’s the old meal; a meal celebrating liberation from bondage. And it’s the new meal, the new covenant Jesus instituted on the night he was betrayed.  We take Jesus at his word when he says, THIS IS MY BODY, THIS IS MY BLOOD—trusting he is fully present with us, offering himself with the bread and wine. In his Large Catechism Luther compares the benefit of the Lord’s Supper to a remedy that heals sin’s disease. It is “a pure, wholesome, soothing medicine that aids you and gives life in both soul and body. For where the soul is healed, the body is helped as well.” In other words, forgiveness and healing.

As we cross the threshold together from Good Friday to Easter, the feast of remembrance becomes a Feast of Victory for our God. God’s greatest surprise of raising Jesus from death animates our life together. There is urgency here, too, and energy enough to carry us and our mission forward. Let’s make the journey together, and find our lives renewed.

Pastor Erik

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