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Posts Tagged ‘Passover’

passover angelBack in the day when the Israelites were finally released from Egypt, it happened at great cost, the lives of all firstborn children and animals throughout the land (not to mention the previous nine plagues), except for those protected by God in Goshen: the chosen ones were passed over. How often are we passed over, thinking it’s a bad thing, when in reality, it is for a greater good?

On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. [Exodus 12:12-13]

So often, God’s timing is unclear in the moment. Only in hindsight, can we see the consequences.

I remember how disappointed I was when I was passed over for promotion after promotion in my work. And yet, looking back, the outcomes had their own blessings. In one case, a less challenging position offered me the opportunity to get a second Master’s degree. In another case, I was able to learn and grow in the cyber world and non-traditional librarianship (at the time). I learned what it meant to become an early adopter and to forge new paths in the computerized world. And later, another loss, merely opened a door that brought me back to my own community, where I now live, work, and worship. I am content here.

Perhaps it is a wisdom that comes with age and experience. The very thing that appears to be a calamity transforms into a grace.

Of course, in the Exodus time, the Israelites were saved from the grief of losing their firstborn children, but then they also left everything they knew to flee into a desert that challenged them daily. Not everyone was so sure that this passing over would come to good. Not all could not see that promised land of milk and honey; only those who embraced their faith in God.

It is no different today. I must believe in God’s ultimate plan for my good, or at the least, the good that may come after me because of where I live or how I live or the children I send forth into the world.

Today, in the New York Times, I read an OpEd piece by Frank Bruni, and although this piece was driven by his observations about age and wisdom in sports, specifically Peyton Manning, he included additional observations about maturity and our response to life events.

And it’s no accident that many of us, while remembering and sometimes yearning for the electricity of first loves and the metabolism of our salad days, don’t really want to turn back the clock. We know that for everything that’s been taken away from us, something else has been given. . . . We’re short on flat-out exuberance. We’re long on perspective. . . . Life is about learning to look past what’s lost to what’s found in the process . . . [Frank Bruni, Maturity’s Victories]

 

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LazarusSix days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. [John 12:1-2]

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, not only to celebrate the Passover, but undoubtedly he knew, he was going to his suffering and death. On the way, he stopped to be with friends. These were not necessarily disciples as we have no record that Lazarus and and his sisters followed Jesus in his travels. They were, instead, a home base, a place of rest.

I find it amusing that John would mention that Martha served, this very same Martha who Jesus chastised for becoming overly upset about serving while her sister sat at his feet listening (that would have been weeks earlier). I believe it is mentioned intentionally because this was still Martha’s way. Jesus never intended for Martha to stop being Martha, but to simply stop comparing herself to others and stop stressing. She was good at what she did but Jesus wanted her to check her priorities. I can relate to that, the Martha that I am. And so, on this final trip, his  final visit to their home, Martha served her Rabbi and Lord.

But the continuing story of Lazarus has always fascinated me the most (undoubtedly because of my love for fantasy and science fiction). In Romans 6:9, Paul writes about Jesus, “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.” And I cannot help but wonder, what happened to the ones Jesus raised from the dead (Lazarus was not the only one, there were a few others)? What was life like afterwards? Did they have awareness of death and then life again? Was there a sense of destiny, a role that needed to be fulfilled by coming back? Did Jesus charge them with a job to do? Did Lazarus die again? Did the widow’s son or Jairus’s daughter, Tabitha, die again?

I’m just asking.

And why did Jesus weep at the death of Lazarus? He delayed coming to the sick bed of Lazarus on purpose. He knew Lazarus was dying. And yet, when Jesus finally arrived in the midst of the raw grief and shock of Mary and Martha, Jesus weeps (John 11:35). So much is assumed is about his weeping, but I am not so sure it is merely for his love for Lazarus. Instead, I believe (and this is pure conjecture on my part) that Jesus wept because of the symbolism that Lazarus’s raising implied. Jesus was seeing himself, for he too would walk from a grave and the stone rolled away.

But Lazarus did not come out with a different body, at least, there is no indication that he could transport himself or walk through walls. In fact, this is the last time we hear of Lazarus at all, reclining at table with his friend, his Rabbi, his Lord.

Is Lazarus still here? I don’t know. But what a story that would be, what an adventure. It’s on my list of tales to write.

 

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After 70 years, when Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem and the Second Temple reconstruction was completed and dedicated by the shedding of much animal blood, they celebrated the Passover, eager to seek God through their age-old rituals and traditions. They were home.

Ezra 6:21
So the Israelites who had returned from the exile ate it [Passover lamb], together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors in order to seek the LORD, the God of Israel.

What is my first order of business upon returning home from a long absence? Although I have no hard and fast religious practices to resume, I am anxious to get back into my routine. There is comfort in the familiar. I am happy to greet my dogs and take them outside. I peruse the mail, I make a cup of tea.

There are very few things that I can only do at home and yet, when I do, I am more contented. I can pray anywhere, but when I sit in my favorite chair, I fall into a quick communion with Christ. I can read scripture when I am away, any access will get me there, but my well-worn black leather Bible still comforts me by feel and sound, as the thin pages crackle.

Returning to church after a time away is also consoling with the familiar music and warm engagement with friends. For me, even my work, which can feel redundant and tedious sometimes, breathes into me when I walk through the door, breathes welcome.

There are amazing stories of families who have been separated by years and years through political insanity, such as the Berlin wall that divided East and West Germany or the Iron Curtain or the North Korean Demilitarized Zone, still active today. But when those barriers came down, families found one another again and fell upon each other joy and weeping. The touch of a beloved one.

Even I, when I met my half sister (who lives in Estonia) for the first time in 1996, we embraced fiercely, for we were bound by blood, the same father, and it sustained us. On the same trip, I met my aunt, my mother’s sister for the first time, and her heart exploded when we clung to each other. I was in foreign lands where I did not speak the language well, where homes were completely different from my own, where the culture had suffered from the cruel and powerful through communism, and yet, I was also home.

In May of this year, I will be retracing my steps and re-uniting again my half-sister and aunt. And my heart craves for that time together.

This is a type of longing that God wants me to have for the Holy Spirit every day.

“Come away, my beloved . . . ” [Song of Solomon 8:14a]; come home.

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