St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Pentecost 13 Sermon 2014
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Rev. Joyce Avery

Two Russian surgeons and an anesthetist took turns laying on an operating table beside a critically-ill patient.  According to the government newspaper, they saved the patient’s life with direct transfusions of their own blood.  Fresh blood was needed because the patient’s own blood had ceased to coagulate.  In such a case, conserved blood, would not be effective.  The three women practitioners each gave what they could--a half pint of blood.

A television show depicts a traveler lost in the Sahara Desert and dying of thirst, he removes his dagger from its sheath, cuts the skin on the shoulder of his camel, sucks the blood, and his thirst is quenched and he is saved!

Blood is life. Loss of blood is death.

It is by the blood of a lamb painted on the door frame of a Hebrew home in Egypt, marking safety - a safe haven - that the firstborn Israelite child is saved.  The angel of death sees the red mark and passes over.

What has brought this situation to such a drastic event during the Hebrew’s enslavement in Egypt? Slavery.  No freedom. The mood is somber.  "We want to be free- - free at last"

Moses arrives on the scene, the dust of the desert caking his face, his hair stringy and wild from the wind, the smell of sheep in his robe.  He strides into the royal chamber and shakes his staff at might Pharaoh, "Let my people go!"

A mouse and a lion are no match when both seek the same cheese.  But when the mouse has God on his side, the lion must one day become but a meek little kitty cat.

Confronting the powers that be has always been the calling of a prophet.  The Christian, as salt and leaven and a light in society, must confront powerful policies that oppose the stewardship of the earth’s limited resources, or when governments and autocratic systems trample on justice and fairness to the poor the underdog, and the marginalized.

The tug of war between mighty Pharaoh and God’s Moses battles through ten terrible plagues.  The combatants gain and lose, then lose and gain, back and forth.  The first plague is blood as death.  A staff, once turned into a serpent and back again, slapped on the River Nile turns the water blood red.  Moses cries out, "Let my people go, so that they may worship God in the wilderness!"  The fish die and stink.  The polluted water is undrinkable.  The River Nile, all the other rivers, canals, and ponds turn into blood.  But Pharaoh’s heart is hardened.

So a second plague appears.  Frogs.  Frogs everywhere.  In houses, cupboards, and beds.  Pharaoh relents - - but quickly changes his mind.  The intensity of the tug of war grows between the two combatants - the mouse and the lion.

Then it’s gnats, then flies, sick livestock, boils, incessant thunder and hail, locusts and darkness.  The tug of war gets nasty back and forth.  "Yes , go. No, you can’t.  Yes, get out of here.  No, you’ve got to stay."

Finally the time is up.  No more games, no more tricks.  The final plague comes.  It’s the plague of death of the firstborn - the most devastating plague of all.  The Pharaoh/Hebrew clash began with the birth of Moses when the Pharaoh did not spare the firstborn of Israel.  Now Israel’s God will not spare those who opposed and oppressed God’s own people.

But God provides a way of escape. Blood!  "Paint the blood of a lamb on your doorpost and the angel of death will pass over and the firstborn will be saved in your household. "God institutes the first Passover. This Passover would have two purposes: to ward off the death of the firstborn plague and to commemorate the coming Exodus redemption.

The instructions were clear: Kill the lamb, roast it and eat it.  Take its blood and mark the posts of the household.  The blood will secure that home as a safe haven - a place of safety from the angel of death who comes at midnight.

Night comes.  A terrible wail is heard throughout Egypt.  The firstborn are killed, even the cattle.  But every household who observed the instructions and paints blood on the doorpost is saved.  The angle of death passes over.

Then God instructs the Israelites through Moses, "This day shall be a day of remembrance for you.  You shall celebrate it as a festival of the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance."  "The Passover" is a Jewish feast commemorating the night when God, smiting the first born of the Egyptians, "passed over" the houses of the children of Israel.

The poor little lamb takes center stage in this story, by his body & blood he saved a multitude of people.  Amen 


 
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