By Rachel Mash
This year the first week of Easter and Earth Day coincide. In light of this, and of the urgent call to ecological stewardship by Church leaders throughout the world, this week’s devotions will concentrate on the relationship between Easter and creation.
A Reading from Exodus 12:28-39
28 The Israelites went and did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron.
29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. 30 Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his officials and all the Egyptians; and there was a loud cry in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. 31 Then he summoned Moses and Aaron in the night, and said, “Rise up, go away from my people, both you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord, as you said. 32 Take your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be gone. And bring a blessing on me too!”
33 The Egyptians urged the people to hasten their departure from the land, for they said, “We shall all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls wrapped up in their cloaks on their shoulders. 35 The Israelites had done as Moses told them; they had asked the Egyptians for jewelry of silver and gold, and for clothing, 36 and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. And so they plundered the Egyptians.
37 The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. 38 A mixed crowd also went up with them, and livestock in great numbers, both flocks and herds. 39 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.
During lockdown in South Africa alcohol was banned for weeks (to take the pressure off the hospitals), and suddenly shops were seeing a huge run on little packets of yeast. It turned out that everyone was buying yeast to make pineapple beer out of pineapple juice! Yeast is a pretty miraculous substance!
As they fled Egypt, the Hebrews were asked to eat bread without yeast, not because there was something wrong with yeast, but because they were rushing to flee from Egypt, and there was no time to let the bread rise. The “sin” of yeast at Passover was the sin of not celebrating the incredible escape from slavery.
Wine and bread have something in common: wheat from the fields and grapes from the vines can both be transformed by yeast. That is probably why both are holy in many cultures.
We struggle to understand the symbolism of wine nowadays — we see it as a rather expensive middle-class drink. But in Jesus’ day you could not drink the water as readily. It could be too polluted and so they would often drink weak wine instead.
Then, at Passover, Jesus took a piece of bread and a goblet of wine and said, these are holy, these are my body and blood. He was showing us that even the humble grape and the humble grain of wheat can be transformed, for they represent his body and blood. At the Eucharist we pray:
Blessed are you, Lord God of All Creation, through your goodness we have this bread to offer which earth has given and human hands have made. For us it becomes the bread of life. (South African prayer book)
All of creation, no matter how humble, is sacred and to be treated as such. The fields are sacred, the vineyards are sacred, the rivers that watered them are sacred. They participate in God’s plan of salvation, and have since the time of our ancestors.
The Rev. Dr. Rachel Mash is the environmental Coordinator of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. She also works with the Green Anglicans Movement and is the secretary to the Anglican Communion Environmental Network.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Kwoi – The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)
St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Shreveport, La.