In the midst of all the unfolding drama surrounding the Israelites’ first celebration of the Passover, it is easy to overlook some of the finer details. Given the broader implications and far-reaching repercussions of the bigger story—the Exodus from Egypt—such oversights are understandable. Yet sometimes we do well to slow down and ease our way through such stories, for often we find great treasures we otherwise would have missed.
Such is the case with the Passover story in Exodus 12, a text which is often read as just one more step in the process of being delivered from slavery in Egypt. As I slow down, however, and read attentively and carefully, one easily overlooked theme jumps off of the page. The words community, family, household appear repeatedly in this text. It is as if their repetition is intended at making it absolutely clear that Passover is an intrinsically communal event. There are no individual Passover meals, no drive-thru celebrations. This is, at its core, a family affair. Not to leave anyone out, the Lord is intentional about instructing that those whose households are too small to hold their own meal are to share with their nearest neighbors. No one is to be left out. No one should be on his or her own. It’s a family affair.
The descendants of the participants in that first Passover seem to have struggled greatly to uphold this family value. The women of Bashan whom Amos confronts knew how to worship but didn’t care about their neighbors. The Corinthians faithfully partook of the Lord’s Supper, though the sharing-with-everyone part wasn’t exactly emphasized. More recent descendants of the first Passover participants hold private baptisms, partake of the Lord’s Supper in an artificially created atmosphere of isolation (even while sharing a room with others), and generally think of faith as a private matter. Sometimes circumstances necessitate privacy when it comes to such practices of faith and I dare not call into question the sincerity or the effectiveness of such practices. I do think, however, that when we try to find ways to privatize our faith or minimize its communal dimension, we rob ourselves of one of the great blessings of the life of faith. May God give us courage to embrace the reality that the life of faith is, at its core, a family affair that together we might press on!