I’ll likely never forget the final project I had to complete for my Hebrew class in seminary. The project included translating a portion of the Book of Exodus, writing a paper on some point of theological insight and then delivering a presentation on my work to the rest of the class. Even though I wasn’t taking the class for a grade (just “passing” would suffice), the instructor awarded me an A+ for my work. Perhaps the only A+ I’ve ever earned.
The text that the instructor assigned to me was Exodus 12:1-20. I encourage you to read it. It’s God’s instructions, given to Moses and Aaron, for how God’s people were to prepare for the 10th and final plague while still enslaved in Egypt. This is the institution of the Passover meal, the specific instructions for preparing a meal with lamb, bread and herbs. The instructor, knowing I was a restaurateur, expected I might enjoy working with this passage.
My Hebrew skills were admittedly quite poor but I did learn how to navigate my way around a piece of software called Bible Works which assists in translation for students of scripture. In my analysis of the text while translating, I took note of how the original Hebrew was ordered and patterned, like poetry, to emphasize the actor in each step God puts forth. As it is written, “you will…” do step A, then “you will…” do step B and so on. This structure is then repeated in verses 14-20. This pattern serves to emphasize that God’s people are invited into this holy meal and it’s responding to the invitation that allows for the meaning of God’s activity to be made most obvious.
Perched in between the two sections of directions, a place of importance in Hebrew writings, the pattern changes. In verses 12 & 13, God announces, “I will…” do this and then “I will… do this next thing. The declaration “I am the LORD” sits at the very center. Indeed, God’s core identity as one who loves and protects God’s people is illuminated in the process. Both God and God’s people must act for salvation to come. To be clear, I’m not the only reader to have taken note of this particular structure and its revelation is not what earned me an A+.
On the day of my class presentation, I dragged a large cooler into the classroom which everyone took note of. When my turn was announced, I dragged the cooler up front, slipped on a white apron and began to give instructions to a few of my classmates on how they were to assist in the preparation of a lamb meal. As I talked, I sharpened a large butcher knife against a steel. Once all the instructions were delivered, I reached into the cooler and pulled out a large… strawberry cheesecake. I sliced it up and then had my classmates follow the instructions I had given, making sure that everyone was able to enjoy this invitation to eat, and to remember who God is.
I think my instructor really liked the cheesecake. Know who you are. Know your gifts. God needs you to put them to work so that God might continue being God, loving and saving the world.
May God’s peace come to you this day. -Pastor Peter
Let us pray…
Birkat HaMazon (Hebrew) tr: Grace after Meals
Baruch Eloheinu she-achalnu mishelo uv’tuvo chayinu.
Baruch hu uvaruch sh’mo.
Tr: Praised be our God, of whose abundance we have eaten, and by whose goodness we live. Praised be the Eternal God.