I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.Exodus 12:12-13
This pandemic has forced us all to make a number of changes, and to give up many things right now, including being together in church on this holy night. But one of the things that it has not taken away from us is the ability to watch tv. And so, I was glad to see Cecil B. DeMille’s classic movie, “The Ten Commandments,” being shown again last week.
This year, as I watched that movie, one of the most memorable scenes was the night of the first passover. Moses, portrayed by Charlton Heston, and his family and friends are eating the passover meal. And as they do, they hear screams of agony and despair all around them. It was haunting to listen to those screams, especially this year.
The agony was due to the fact that the last of the plagues was visiting Egypt, and the worst of the plagues – when every firstborn was struck down in the land of Egypt. Every firstborn, except of course those in the houses that were being protected by the blood of the lamb. “When I see the blood,” the Lord said, “I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”
The blood of the lamb protected them from this terrible plague. Their homes were passed over. Imagine having something like that now. A mark that we could put on our house so that the coronavirus, our modern plague, would just pass over us? Unfortunately, there there is no such mark. And all of us are very aware that we have the potential to get it, no matter our faith. There is no mark that will magically save us from COVID-19. A vaccine will come eventually, I am sure, but until it does, we are all vulnerable. And so, we wash our hands, and we wear our masks, and we practice social distance, and we hope and pray that this virus will pass over our homes, and will pass altogether from this world.
For that plague in Egypt, it was the blood of the lamb that was the vaccine. “When I see the blood,” the Lord said, “I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you.” A friend pointed out to me this week that there are now reports that the blood of those who have recovered from the coronavirus is being used, experimentally, to protect and help those who are struggling with this illness. In an article published on Monday, it was reported that “for 10 patients severely ill with the new coronavirus, a single dose of antibodies drawn from the blood of people who had recovered from COVID-19 appeared to save lives, shorten the duration of symptoms, improve oxygen levels and speed up viral clearance.” That is encouraging news. That the blood of those who have recovered from this virus shows promise in offering hope to those who are severely ill.
But when we hear stories like this, how can we not think of the blood of the lambs on the doorposts of the Israelites in Egypt? “When I see the blood,” the Lord said, “I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you.” It is why this night is so different from all other nights, as our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrating the passover would tell you.
As Christians, this night is also different from all other nights. It is the night when Jesus celebrated the passover with his disciples. It is the night when he took the cup, and gave thanks and gave it for all to drink, declaring it to be the new covenant in his blood, shed for them and for us all, for the forgiveness of sin. “Do this,” he concluded, “for the remembrance of me.”
Tonight, we remember and give thanks that Jesus is the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Tonight, we remember and give thanks that we, too, have a lamb whose blood protects us. And the blood of this lamb – shed for us and for all people – promises to protect us from the last and greatest enemy, which is death. Tonight, we remember that there is no plague, there is no virus, that can destroy us or separate us from the love of God. Because of the blood shed by the lamb, and the gift of this sacrifice, we are promised life, and life eternal. “Everyone who believes in me,” Jesus said, “even though they die, will live. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
It is strange, to be sure, not to celebrate Holy Communion tonight, a sacrament that means so much to me, personally, and that reminds us of this promise. I dearly miss sharing that meal with you, and I know that you do, too. And I do look forward to the day when we can receive it again.
Our bishop has discouraged us from having virtual communion at this time, and I agree with him. It is best to wait, until we are together physically, to celebrate this physical sacrament in which we receive the body and blood of our Lord. But, in the meantime, we can remember the gift that this sacrament offers. We can remember that it is the blood of the lamb that offers a vaccine to death itself. It is the blood of Jesus that causes the plague of death to pass us over. By his blood – by his wounds, by his death, by his sacrifice – we are healed, we are loved, and we are promised everlasting life. Thanks be to God. Amen