For Sunday, Sept. 4, 2011: Proper 18, Year A

The Reading            Exodus 12:1-14

In last week’s reading from Exodus, Moses was startled by a burning bush and through it by God’s summons to to help bring the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt. Today’s reading skips over Moses and his brother Aaron in their first nine attempts to persuade Pharaoh to let Israel go. Here we have God’s commands for the very first Passover: prepare in holiness and eat in haste and fear, for it is time to go.

 

The Epistle            Romans 13:8-14

Like the reading from Exodus, the reading from Romans also urges us to act in holiness and to act now, for time is short. Paul differs from Exodus, though, for he tells us to act not in fear but in love to all around us.

 

Further notes

The commandments for dealing with the Passover lamb are very specific. This is not merely a meal but a priestly occasion: the lamb is to be physically perfect, as the priests of Israel were later to be physically perfect; it is to be slaughtered at twilight, the time of sacred sacrifice, and its blood is to be put to a special saving purpose; it is to be roasted and any leftovers burned up, just as Abraham offered up his sacrifice with fire. Significantly, the head of each household of the Israelites was to act as the priest. In later practice, of course, priestly functions, specifically including the act of sacrifice, were reserved for the Levites (and we may recall that Moses and his brother Aaron, the first priest, were the sons of a Levite man and woman). There is, however, scholarly disagreement as to whether levite originally meant ‘son of Levi’ and came to mean ‘priest’, or whether levite originally meant ‘priest’ and then came to denote a member of a particular tribe of Israel.

Jesus, who was not a Levite, is the ultimate high priest, having sacrificed himself to atone for sin literally “once and for all”. It is for this reason that the clergy in most Protestant churches are called ministers or pastors but not priests: since the sacrifice of Jesus, they say, there is no more need for a high priest than there is for a burnt offering.

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