September 01, 2008

Looking Ahead to September 7, 2008 -- 17th Sunday After Epiphany

The Scripture readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Exodus 12:1-17
  • Psalm 149 (VU p.873)
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20
The Hymns this week are:
  • 222 Come Let Us Sing
  • 356 Seek Ye First
  • 343 I Love to Tell the Story
  • 646 We Are Marching

The Sermon title is Meal of Memory, Meal of Hope

Early Thoughts:Why have such a ritualized meal and tell the same story each time? Is it just to remember what happened long ago? Or is the remembering something else?

Here's what you need to do. Kill and roast a lamb and eat it. If your family can't eat a whole lamb have the neighbours over. Whatever is left over throw in the fire. And eat it quickly, ready to leave at a moments notice. And more than that, eat this meal every year at this time.

Thus begins the festival of Passover, the seminal event in the Jewish year, the Jewish story, the (according to some) Jewish identity. But the annual celebration of Passover is more than merely remembering a release from Egypt. It is a call to look forward to the next release from captivity.

Special meals are important. They are times for families (and/or friends) to gather together and share stories and laughter. Anniversary or commemorative meals are important. They give us a chance to remember the times and people who have gone before, to celebrate the triumphs and mourn the tragedies. Passover is one of those meals. It is a meal of memory, a time to remember the mighty act of God in bringing freedom. But a meal or ritual that only serves to remember the past can quickly grow stale and irrelevant in the present.

For rituals to remain relevant they need to speak to our present. For ages Passover has been a meal that does just that. In sharing the old story of how God was present in one place and time we can have our eyes opened to how God is present in the here and now. In sharing a ritual that our grandparents and their grandparents shared we remind ourselves that the present is part of a continuum, that our concerns are not the center of Creation. So now we have the past and present, what is left?

What is left? Why the future of course. Passover is not just a meal of memory, it is a meal of hope. Passover reminds Jews that they are God's people. It reminds them that there is the promise of freedom yet to come. For centuries Jews in dispersion have ended the Passover Seder with the phrase "Next year in Jerusalem". Next year we will celebrate the return of God's plan. Next year we will know that all is right with the world. A meal of hope allows us to be renewed in spirit, to look forward with promise to what will come.

Of course, those of us who follow the Christian faith don't celebrate Passover. But we have our own meal of memory and hope. Whenever we celebrate Communion (or the Lord's Supper or the Eucharist depending on your tradition) we too take part in this shared act of remembering what was and looking ahead to what is to come. Meals of memory and hope are banquets. Meals of memory and hope feed soul and spirit at least as much as they feed the body. Without memory we lose sight of who we are and how we got here. Without hope we have no sight of where we could be. As human communities we can't just live in the present. We can try but our lives are then made less than they could be. We need the times of memory and hope to bring colour and depth and meaning to our lives.

Join us this Sunday as we explore what it means to be people who share meals of memory and hope.

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