Famously, the Passover is celebrated by faithful Jews in the present tense.
The youngest child is taught to ask the question, every Passover night, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The implication is that in an important sense, the celebration of Passover enters into the original Passover. It participates in God’s act of salvation.
Deuteronomy teaches parents this very thing as well. When your child asks you, ‘what is the meaning of these statutes and the judgments?’ The response is supposed to be, “We were slaves in Egypt, and He brought us out from there, and he commanded us to keep these commands…” (Dt. 6:20ff) These instructions are given by Moses to the generation after the forty years in the wilderness, some of whom would not have actually been alive during the enslavement in Egypt and the subsequent Exodus. But covenant identity means that in a more important sense they were there. The covenant that God made was with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their seed.
This makes the great redemptive acts of God part the memory of the covenant people. Israel is still Israel in the conquest is still Israel with kings is still Israel in exile is still Israel in Christ.
We, like that first generation entering the land of Canaan, must teach our children using the same words. We were slaves in Egypt. We were brought out with a strong arm. We were commanded to keep all these commands. We…
And that seems to reinforce the church’s instinct to celebrate the Christian Calendar. Covenant identification means that the life of Christ is our story, the history of redemption is our memory, the history of the church is our history. We were slaves in Egypt, we were despised, mocked, and spat upon, we were crucified, we were raised from the dead. We were persecuted and scattered from Jerusalem. We gathered together at Nicaea and proclaimed the glorious doctrine of the Trinity. We overran Europe with the gospel. The last 6000 years of God’s people is our story. And (re)enacting these events is one of the ways we assume them as our own, take them into our stories, and affirm in faith that we were slaves in Egypt and that God has delivered us out of bondage and made covenant with us.
Centrally, this is the action of the Eucharist, the great memorial of God’s greatest act of salvation, the Great Exodus, the High Passover in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Eucharist makes the death and resurrection of Jesus present tense. And partaking of the sacrament means communing in the body and blood of the Lord. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, we become that event. We participate in the Passover, the Exodus becomes our story, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday become days that we have lived through and experienced. This is at least part of what the covenant means.
Toby…we love this, and in terms that even the former pentecostal can understand! 🙂
Much Love and Peace to yours