Read Exodus 12:1-10
The struggle for freedom from bondage is rarely enacted without sacrifice. In early Israelite religion the sacrifice of animals held a routine place in the worshiping community. The sacrifice provided a sacred meal and an act of worship.
The Israelites would not be allowed to leave Egypt without significant sacrifice. The mystery and power of the plagues represent a part of the sacred struggle God will enact to release the Israelites from degrading slavery. While sacrifice may seem unnecessarily violent, it is, in this instance, an action that ends the greater violence of bondage and oppression. True sacrifice always entails the giving up of something valuable in order to realize something of greater and enduring value.
As the sacrifice necessary for the liberation of Israel from Egypt receded into history, the coming generations would be challenged to relive a crucial part of their formation as a community of faith. The blood of lambs that had marked the homes of the Israelites, saving them from the deadly plague, would become central in the celebration of this memory. By slaughtering specially selected lambs from the flock, the Israelite households would recall the sacrifice made with God to bring their freedom. In the annual observance, young and old alike would confront death: death to the animal selected for the Passover meal and, through that death, the recollection of the life and freedom gained by this holy sacrifice.
What sacrifices have we experienced in our journey with God as individuals or as a people of faith? In Jesus we receive courage to seek justice for others and for ourselves, risking comfort and familiarity in the sacrifice for liberating action. Our willingness for loving sacrifice empowers us to be a doorway, not a doormat, in our relationship with God and others.
God of the oppressed, open our hearts and lives to your liberating power, through the sacrificial love we see in Jesus. Amen.
Diane Luton Blum, an ordained United Methodist minister for 35 years, serves as a retreat leader and spiritual director in Nashville, TN. She and her husband, Jeff, have 2 adult sons who share their passion for justice, love of the outdoors, and delight in the performing arts.