Reading this morning from chapters 12-13 of Exodus, my spirit seemed reawakened to the importance of community. Some four hundred years had passed since Abraham began his adventure with God, struggling at first with the idea of a son in his old age. Out of that struggle came two “nations”; the lineage of Ishmael, and that of Isaac. The true significance of the Exodus story requires the reader to grasp the sovereign reality of multiple generations, ironically salvaged by the sins of siblings, willing to sell a young brother named Joseph into slavery. Joseph’s remains, his bones, becoming a testimony of that provision, and a tangible symbol of their heritage.
All this was in the providence God, now poised to deliver a multitude of Abraham’s offspring, after an undeniable intervention with Pharaoh, thus fulfilling an aged promise to this father of all Israel. The Passover celebration described herein would become the centerpiece of the Judeo-Christian faith, both a remembrance of that very moment of deliverance and a harbinger of a greater deliverance that would come to all mankind, as they would one day witness love’s greatest celebration, the sacrifice of God Himself.
Community, a spiritual bond between human beings, would be critical to our survival until such a day would come when we might again fully participate in the righteousness of God. Community would provide critical connective tissue, until the day that full residence of His Spirit could once again be housed in the hearts of men.
Celebration of the sacraments would be the medium around which this community would be knit. “Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month, each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are.” Ex. 12:2-4b NIV).
These first few lines set up a “scarlet thread’ for all future generations. One can even hear the heart of God, knitting together His people with an economy that left no one out, built in efficiencies and accountability to assure participation by even the least of one’s neighbors.
At one point, at least this ideal was true in America, captured in our stories about the pilgrims, their first thanksgiving, even the artwork of folks like Norman Rockwell. Yet even so, we now find our selves divided as a nation by those who have carved out religious, political and economic kingdoms for themselves, the result of our own national sin and neglect, justifying whatever means necessary to assure our prosperity. Now a widening gap of isolation, debt and poverty has gripped a nation once so blessed. Can we ever recover this spiritual fabric within our cities and towns?
Maybe its time for to revisit the core truths behind community, captured and preserved in this sacred script.