Thursday, March 28, 2013

Our Rescuer

Tonight is Maundy Thursday, when we remember the events of the night Jesus was betrayed into the hands of the crowds.  (The chief priests and elders were cowards and would not come for him themselves.)

As I thought today about the coming Easter weekend, I found myself craving liturgy and solemn observance--and even anonymity.  {When you work at a church, sometimes you long to be an anonymous worshiper.} And so I went to a Maundy Thursday service tonight at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Newtown, where the pastor is a Gordon-Conwell graduate and the former pastor of my close friends on the North Shore.

It is a solemn night, and all the collects are all solemn.  We recite the confession together, declaring: "we have sinned in thought, word, and deed, and we cannot free ourselves from our sinful condition." And I am weeping already, kneeling on the pew kneelers and remembering that I need rescuing.

We take communion and remember that Jesus prepared this meal for his disciples so that they would have assurance of his grace and his presence with them.  Even after his crucifixion.  Even after everything had changed.

But this meal is not just any meal--it is inextricably linked to the Passover, which is taking place this very week.

Fittingly, I talked with students this past Sunday about Moses and the first Passover.
{{I outline the curriculum and even write the material for our 9:00 a.m. small groups, but this timing had not been intentional--at least not on my part.}}

As I prepared last week to speak to students about Moses and the burning bush (before they split up to discuss the story in their groups), the verses that stood out to me were Exodus 3:7-8:

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

"Can't you just imagine it?" I asked my sophomore girls after we had split up from the larger group.  "God looks down on you and on me, and He says, I have indeed seen the misery of my people...I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them! and He sends Jesus.  Our Rescuer.

Paul puts it this way in Titus 3:3-5:

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

Like the Israelites, we too have been enslaved.  Our passions and pleasures have held us captive to sin.  Our Enemy has kept us in bondage.  But God has indeed seen our misery, has been concerned about our suffering.  And He himself has come down to rescue us.

In the first Passover meal, God rescued His people from the hand of their oppressors.  In this Passover, He has rescued us from ours.