Saturday 22nd August 2020 From Ramases to Succoth
Exodus 12: 33 – 42
The Egyptians urged the people to hasten their departure from the land, for they said, ‘We shall all be dead.’ So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading-bowls wrapped up in their cloaks on their shoulders. The Israelites had done as Moses told them; they had asked the Egyptians for jewellery of silver and gold, and for clothing, 36 and the Lord had given the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. And so they plundered the Egyptians.
The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. A mixed crowd also went up with them, and livestock in great numbers, both flocks and herds. They baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt; it was not leavened, because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.
The time that the Israelites had lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. At the end of four hundred and thirty years, on that very day, all the companies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. That was for the Lord a night of vigil, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. That same night is a vigil to be kept for the Lord by all the Israelites throughout their generations.
One of the interesting things to emerge from our time indoors earlier this year was a renewed interest in baking bread at home. Some people have been doing it for ages, others had dropped the habit out of busyness or simply the availability of good bread on the High Street and others had never even thought about it as a possibility. But suddenly by the middle of April people were creating and nurturing ‘sourdough starters’ up and down the British Isles and publishing recipes for every variation of bread product you could imagine using these feisty little bowls of bubbling life. It even lead to a shortage of flour for some time. For those unfamiliar with the process a ‘starter’ is a mixture of flour and water which catches naturally occurring yeast from the air and starts to ferment. This fermentation is what makes bread rise and the starters can be kept and fed for years, with care, and each one can give rise to a new generation of bread. It was a process that Jesus was very familiar with judging by the number of times he uses bread and uses yeast as an illustration of his teaching.
This rising and fermenting takes time and patience neither of which the people leaving Egypt had on that fateful Passover night. The bread had been prepared for the next days but there was no time to let the yeast work and so it was unleavened. As they travelled they baked what we would now call flatbread. The utmost importance of this food is demonstrated by the list of things that were carried away including kneading troughs. Kept only for that purpose it was where the dough was pummelled into submission before baking in a hot oven or over a hot fire. Keeping 600,000 people (plus women and children and livestock) fed on the march would have been a challenge for anyone and it’s no wonder that there were often complaints and shortages as the wandering years unfolded in the wilderness. As I write this we are still wandering in our own wilderness not quite knowing where we are heading except that there is a promised land of a new normality out there somewhere. One thing is for sure, we all need bread for survival and the bread of life to feed us.
Some of us have made incalculable sacrifices and all of us have had to learn to adapt and think in new ways and to make do. By the time this is read no doubt we will have retrieved some golden moments and celebrated them but we will also be grieving the losses of people and the loss of the old ways. As we travel where we are led may the leaven of love help us rise to the occasion what ever may befall .
Take my gifts and let me love you,
God who first of all loved me,
gave me light and food and shelter,
gave me life and set me free.
Now because your love has touched me,
I have love to give away,
now the bread of love is rising,
loaves of love to multiply!
Shirley Erena Murray 1931-2020