Exodus! Easter Eve Confirmation 2016

2016-03-26 18.28.50

We celebrated the Easter Ceremonies in style at Ely Cathedral last night, welcomed into church by a pair of doves nestling in the stonework of the Galile porch above the main door: “O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.”

That’s from the Song of Songs, but our key readings were of course the accounts of the Passover and escape from Egypt in Exodus, and here is what I said in my sermon:

Exodus! It sounds like a film title – in fact it is, there are several of them – or a rock band – it’s one of those too; and you’ll be thrilled to know that is also a 1964 single by The Tornados and episode 42 in the anime TV series Bakugan Battle Brawlers: New Vestroia.

But of course hardened churchgoers like you know that it is all these things because it was first the Greek name for a Hebrew Great Escape from an Egyptian captivity that became the title of a book of the Latin and English Bible that tells us the story.

That would be enough.

And “That would be enough” happens also to be a refrain in the Seder liturgy that our Jewish cousins will have been using this week as they celebrated the Passover, the Feast of course of the original Exodus, when Moses led the people out of Israel, across the Red Sea, and into the Promised Land.

The liturgy is rather fun, and is meant to be: they’re not as po-faced as we are about these things. Let’s have a go at it. When I say “It would have been enough” you all shout “Dayenu!” which means just that in Hebrew. Let’s have a practice:

It would have been enough! Dayenu!

OK here we go. Try and keep up!

Had He brought us out from Egypt and not executed judgment against them,

Had He executed judgment against them and not destroyed their idols,
It would been enough! Dayenu!

Had He destroyed their idols and not slain their firstborn,
It would been enough! Dayenu!

Had He slain their first born and not given us their possessions,
It would have been enough! Dayenu!

Had He given us their possessions and not divided the sea for us,
It would have been enough! Dayenu!

Had He divided the sea for us and not brought us through it dry-shod,
It would have been enough! Dayenu!

Had He brought us through it dry-shod and not drowned our oppressors in it,
It would have been enough! Dayenu!

Had He drowned our oppressors in it and not sustained us in the wilderness for forty years,
It would have been enough! Dayenu!

Had He sustained us in the wilderness for forty years and not fed us manna,
It would have been enough! Dayenu!

Had He fed us manna and not given us the Sabbath,
It would have been enough! Dayenu!

Had He given us the Sabbath and not brought us to mount Sinai,
It would have been enough! Dayenu!

Had he brought us to Mount Sinai, and not given us the Torah,
It would have been enough! Dayenu!

Had he given us the Torah and not brought us in the land of Israel,
It would have been enough! Dayenu!

Had He brought us into the Land of Israel and not built the temple for us,
It would have been enough! Dayenu!

Dayenu! What a chant! And then to think that all of that as we now see it was just the beginning. That it was the first great revelation of God’s commitment to our salvation, one that would be echoed again and again in Jewish history – but one that would only reach its fulfilment, only finally come to a conclusion and break free of the cycle of freedom and frustration in the New Passover that we celebrate tonight, as Jesus goes through the deep waters of death itself and destroys their power not just for him but for all of us too.

Now we can live in hope. Now – for you, for me, for my dear mother-in-law who died last week, for countless others lost to us in this life now and long ago – now we can drink not to numb the pain and forget our troubles, but to remember our salvation and call down God’s blessing on the future.

That is the future, the good future, into which we and tonight’s candiadtes are baptised and confirmed. That is the reason for the season, why the bells ring out, why the flowers bloom: Christ is risen, death is defeated, and the kingdom of God and all that is good will come. Alleluia, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

But before we shout one last Alleluia, remember for a moment those who even tonight are making their Exodus, their Great Escape; who even tonight are passing over deep and deadly seas; who even tonight are seeking their Promised Land. Remember the refugees, for whom Exodus is not only a matter of faith, but a matter of simple survival.

Remember them; say a prayer for them; think how you can help them find safety, just as in Jesus Christ you have found salvation for yourself.

Then indeed we can rejoice. Then indeed we can shout with joy, because it is not only we who are becoming a people fully alive in Christ, but all of humanity whom with our help is being offered life in all its fulness too, beginning with the simple gifts of life and love. Now that is worth an Alleluia indeed. Alleluia, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!

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3 thoughts on “Exodus! Easter Eve Confirmation 2016

  1. When they coincide, the roots of our Easter traditions in Passover are extremely resonant. However because of the vagaries of the ecclesiastical calendar, this year Easter roughly coincided with Purim (another problematic festival of deliverance), and Jews will be celebrating Passover in late April.

    Next time you preach about passover traditions, you could mention that Jews from Iran whack each other over the head with spring onions while they sing dayenu. I’m sure the cathedral congregation would enjoy doing the same.

  2. Amen to all of this, and thank you, too for posting the information about the Cambridge initiative on Refugees for 15th April. I hope that a few of us from Waterbeach/Landbeach Living With Integrity Group will be able to attend. Wishing you and yours the Joy and Peace of Easter, AB

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