Sunday, September 7, 2014

“Marking Time” (Exodus 12:1-14)

“This is the day you are to commemorate;
for the generations to come you shall celebrate it . . .”
(Exodus 12:14, NIV)

Today marks the celebration of independence in Brazil.  In China and South Korea it is the start of the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday.  In New Zealand they are observing Father’s Day today.  In India it is the holiday of Onam.  And, in the good old United States of America today is set aside as National Grandparents Day. 

As the human race across the planet we are a people who pause, remember, celebrate, and hope.  We are a people who mark time with periods of time that are set aside as holidays.  In our nation alone, the year 2014, we have set aside approximately two-hundred holidays as a nation or as states to observe.  Two-hundred . . . and this does not even include those of our communities, churches, and families . . . does not include personal days of remembrance and celebration like birthdays, anniversaries, and everything between. 
The word “holiday” is derived from the 12th century Old English word haligdaeg.  When broken down halig means “holy”, and daeg means “day”.  Thus, in its simplest terms holiday is a “holy day” that is set aside as an observance and celebration . . . as a time of remembrance . . . and, as a time of hope.  And, it is a means of “marking time”.

In our reading this morning Moses and Aaron are told that the Children of God—the Israelites—are to mark time to the event that is about to happen as it will become the symbol of their freedom out of the bondage of Egypt.  God gives to Moses and Aaron specific instructions as to what they are to do in preparation for the final plague upon the Egyptians . . . to mark the doorways of their homes with the blood of a lamb as a sign to God to “pass over” in the killing spree upon the Egyptians.  And, God tells them that are to remember this day for generations to come as a symbol of their freedom.  They are to “mark time” in their lives and in their journey . . . physically and spiritually.

And, thus it came to be.

God’s final plague accomplished its goal . . . the Egyptians, tired of the plagues . . . freed God’s people and demanded that they leave at once.  Immediately the exodus began . . . immediately the people found their freedom . . . received their salvation.  It was an event to remember . . . it was a day to never forget.  Thus the words of God became practice and the observance of this “holy day”—what we refer to as the Passover—is set aside, celebrated, and remembered for what it represented and for what it promised.

As a people of faith we to are called to remembrance and hope . . . we, too, are called to “mark time” in the journey of life.  And, for most of us, we do.  We do set aside days in which we celebrate those special moments and movements in our lives.  We celebrate birthdays . . . anniversaries . . . graduations . . . days in which special things happened.  We do set aside time to remember and to celebrate.  Actually we all do it in our own unique and 
special ways as individuals and families. 

Even within the church family we set aside those “holy days”—those holidays—in which we remember and hope.  Our gathering on Sunday morning as the followers of Jesus is a time set aside to remember and hope.  Our gathering around the table to break the bread and lift the cup is a time of holiness in which we remember and hope.  We set aside the seasons of the liturgical year . . . the time of the movement of the Spirit in our lives . . . so we can remember from where we have come, where we are, and where we yet hope to go.  We are a people who “mark time”.

To “mark time” should be an important part of our practice of faith as the followers of Jesus.  For Moses and the children of God, the “Passover” became a symbol of God’s presence in their lives . . . it became a time set aside to remember God’s presence and actions to free them from bondage . . . a time to re-affirm God’s promise to never abandon them—then or forever.  And, even more importantly it is a time set aside to hope . . . to hope for what is yet to come in God’s presence . . . to dream of the kingdom.

A major part of this “holy day” for Moses and the Israelites was to be marked by thanksgiving . . . the act of giving “thanks”.  Knowing the story we can understand exactly what it is that the people of Israel were thankful for . . . freedom . . . existence . . . and affirmation as the “children of God”.  So it should be for us as we “mark time” in our own lives and journeys . . . we should have thanksgiving . . . after all, a holiday should be a “holy day” and not merely another day off from work.

For many I think that the act of giving thanks is often the forgotten ingredient . . . the missing part.  We are not always good about giving “thanks” in our lives for the presence of God in our lives.  We do not always remember to pause and say, “Thank you, Lord!”  But, we should.  In the “good” and “bad’ the presence of God is always with us.  God never abandons us.

To acknowledge the “holy” is to acknowledge the presence of God.  To acknowledge the “holy” is to create a moment of “holiness” . . . to create a “holy day” . . . a holiday.  We do not do this enough in our lives on a daily basis.  We could blame the busyness of our lives for our forgetfulness, but I think that it is more of matter of that we have just not cultivated this ability of “marking time” . . . this discipline of giving thanks.

It is true that not everything that happens is worthy of its own special day and celebration . . . not every day is Christmas or Easter or even the Passover; but, a lot of the life that happens to us is worthy of “marking time” . . . of pausing to remember, reflect, and give “thanks”.  How many times have you given “thanks” since you climbed out of bed this morning?  How many times have you paused in the moment to receive the gift of God’s presence in the morning coffee you drank . . . in reading the morning newspaper . . . in stepping out into the day and embracing the gift that it could be?  How many times have you “marked time” in your life since you got out of bed this morning?

Like the children of God before us, let us “mark time” when we pause to reflect upon the presence of God in our lives and in our journeys.  Let us pause, remember, reflect, and give “thanks”.  Let us truly make our days to be “holy days” . . . to be holidays.  As the psalmist said in Psalm 118:24: "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." (KJV)  Amen.

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