Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Wednesday, March 4, 2020
Haggadah: The Telling - Lent Mid-week 2 - March 4, 2020 - Text: Deuteronomy 6:4-9; John 13:12-20
After the Children of Israel were delivered from bondage of slavery in Egypt, the Lord gave them the ordinance of celebrating the festival of the Passover, often times referred today as the Passover Seder. The word Seder simply means order, in other words it is the Passover order of service. This festival was given so that they would always remember and never forget what the Lord had done for them. In a similar manner, every year we work our way through the church year cycle in which we begin with Advent and our preparation for Christmas (remember how we use the Advent wreath to tell the story with the children?). Advent means coming and is the time we prepare, not only for Jesus first coming, but to remind us of His second coming as well. At Christmas we celebrate His first coming, His birth. We move from Christmas to Epiphany. Epiphany means appearing and we celebrate the appearing of the Savior to the Gentiles, those also promised a Savior. From Epiphany we move to celebrate Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, which we celebrated last Wednesday. Lent is the season of the church year that we take the time to contemplate our sins and the fact that it was our sins that drove Jesus to the cross. From Lent we move to Easter, celebrating the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. Easter is followed by Pentecost, our celebration of the giving of the Holy Spirit. The Sunday after Pentecost Sunday is Holy Trinity Sunday and then the season of Pentecost continues until the end of the church year. We do this year after year as a reminder to ourselves as well, lest we forget the goodness and mercy, the great and awesome gifts our Lord has given to us, gives to us and will continue to give to us.
As we said last week, as we were reminded, the original Passover was the deliverance of the Israelites from their bondage of slavery in Egypt. The Passover was the last plague the Lord sent on Egypt and was the passing over of the Angel of Death killing the first-born in the homes not marked with the blood of the lamb that was sacrificed so that its blood would mark those homes of the Children of Israel so that their first-born might be spared. After their safe departure from Egypt the Lord instituted the celebration of the Passover as a time to remember and, as we will see, a time to teach.
As the Passover celebration continues, at one point during the order four questions are asked and answered. The first question: “Why is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights we may eat either leavened or unleavened bread, but on this night why only the unleavened bread?” The answer: First, for the Children of Israel, we are reminded that the leaving from Egypt was a leaving in haste. Because leaven takes time to rise and because there was no time to allow it to rise, the leavening was left out. Second, for us today, as we await our Lord’s deliverance from this world, we are reminded of the importance of always being ready.
The second question: “On all other nights we eat all kinds of herbs, but on this night why only bitter herbs?” The answer: For the Children of Israel, the bitter herbs are a reminder of the bitterness of slavery. The children of Israel were God’s chosen people, who should have been slaves to no one, yet they had become slaves and as slaves they were treated sorely. For us Christians, the bitter herbs remind us of the bitterness of our slavery to sin. Sin infects us all. We are conceived and born in sin. Every inclination of our hearts is to sin. And so, before being given faith, we were indeed slaves to sin.
The third question: “On all other nights we do not even once dip our herbs, but on this night why do we dip herbs twice?” The answer: First, for the Children of Israel, there is the dipping of the green vegetable in salt water to remember the sweat of slavery. To be a slave often means hard manual labor, it means working long hours in the heat of the sun. It means toil and sweat. The second dipping in horseradish brings tears to one’s eyes in remembrance of the affliction of slavery. At times a slave would suffer beatings and punishment. Such affliction brings tears to ones eyes. Second, for us as Christians, our slavery to sin brings tears of repentance because of the pain and hurt we have inflicted on ourselves, on others, and above all, mostly the pain and hurt we have inflicted on Jesus. As David said when confessing his sin with Bathsheba to Nathan the prophet, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psalm 51:4). Indeed, all our sins are ultimately sins against Jesus.
The fourth question: “On all other nights we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night why do we recline?” The answer: For the Children of Israel, the first Passover was complete, now is a time to remember, the rescue is complete, now is a time of relaxing. Now there is no need to rush. For us Christians, we celebrate the fact that our bondage to sin has been broken. Certainly temptations and sin may continue, but the hold of sin on us is broken.
Jesus celebrated the Passover and in particular we are reminded of this last sharing of the Passover with His disciples. It was out of this last Passover celebration that He gives us His Holy Supper, the complete fulfillment of His Passover. For Jesus and for us we continue to celebrate and remember. For Jesus, He and His apostles reclined at the table. For us, we kneel at the table. There is indeed no need to rush. The price for sin has been paid. The suffering has been completed. There is no need to rush, there is no need to be in a hurry. We come to savor the moment. We come to be given the gifts the Lord has to give out, the gifts He gives through His body and blood broken and poured out, shed for us for the forgiveness of sins.
Certainly as we approach His table we are reminded of our slavery to sin. But we have been delivered from that slavery. We have been forgiven our sins. We are free, free indeed.
Most importantly we are reminded of the forgiveness Jesus brings. Forgiveness is indeed the greatest blessings we are given. It is the greatest blessings because with forgiveness we know that we have life and salvation. Forgiveness is what brings us true peace, not simply a momentary peace, not a physical peace as in a calm and quite moment, but true peace, a peace which comes, not only from sins forgiven, but also from guilt removed. True forgiveness, true peace.
It is amazing how easily we forget things. Sometimes we forget because we have too much to remember. Sometimes we forget because of some medicine we may be taking. Sometimes our forgetting is caused by a sickness in the body. The fact of the matter is that we forget. How do we overcome our forgetfulness? We make a habit of what it is we want to remember. We repeat what we want to remember over and over again. How much more important is our spiritual life such that we want to remember and never forget, not only all that great things our Lord has done for us, but all the great and wonderful gifts He has to give. Thus, we too, see the importance of repeating, remembering, celebrating all the great deeds and gifts of our God. May our rehearsal of these great wonders serve as an instrument in our Lord pouring out even more of His blessings on us. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.