Sermon about your loins

 Exodus 12:1-11 (NRSVA)

The First Passover Instituted

12 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbour in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. 10 You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. 11 This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord.

Going into action
So, you are now all up to speed on how to gird up your loins.  It might not be what you think you came for – but knowledge is always a good thing, and you never know!
With your loins girded, you are ready for action.
But what kind of action?
Warriers would gird up their loins and charge into battle.  Though the church has been very fond of battle-imagery and soldier-metaphors – soldiers, armies, battle-cries often appear in hymns – I’ve never been that keen on it.
Soldiers are not the only ones who would have girded up their loins.
The farmer who went out to sow in jesus’ parable would have girded his loins
The fishermen who went out to fish would have girded their loins…
The loving father who spotted his prodigal son coming home would have girded his loins before running down the road to greet him…
Keep that last picture in mind – the father whose son had run off with the family silver – abandoned them – keeps a daily lookout, desperate for a glimpse of his return – and when he sees him – still far off – girds up his loins and runs down the road…
He’s geared up – he readies himself for action – and that action is to act in love!
Remember the words we heard from Romans:  
 “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”  Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Or..  from the Message translation:
“Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.”
Jesus uses the imagery too…  remember his story about the bridesmaids and their lamps?

“Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning”
Christ commands us to gird up our loins and be ready to act in love.
To gird up your loins, to roll up your sleeves, to take of your jacket – to put down your phone (that REALLY shows you mean business!) – and be ready to act in love.
Are you confused or worried about how to do that?  Who/where/what/how to love my neighbour? 
You wouldn’t be the first to ask… 
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27 He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ 28 And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’
And you all know what comes next…
If you’re still puzzled and confused, I have a tip for you.  It’s 100% guaranteed.  Not many tips are as good as this one – this is the best I have!
Sit down tonight – or in the morning and pray this simple prayer:
“Lord, show me clearly an opportunity I have to love my neighbour.”
And keep praying it, and meaning it.  If you do – then you won’t lack for opportunities – you will see them all around you.
So…  are you ready?
I wonder if we shouldn’t make far more of the end of our services…
Maybe they should be a bit more like the instructions for that Passover meal.  Maybe our communion meals should be more like that – after all – at least part of the roots of our communion meal are in precisely that Passover meal…
Sometimes the end of a church service feels like it is the end of the week’s work (I confess it sometimes literally does for me!) – rather than the beginning of the week’s work.
The instructions are stark – that Passover meal was not to be a leisurely 4-course affair with the men retiring for brandy and cigars in the drawing room whilst the ladies retire to do whatever ladies did when they retired to the other room!
It was to be eaten hurriedly whilst fully dressed for action.  You didn’t take your coat off or put your umbrella in the umbrella stand.  You didn’t take off your sandals and have your feet washed – you kept them on – ready to go.
I once attended a church in Scotland where the minister pronounced the blessing, and me and my holidaying family bowed our heads politely at the end (as you do) – and when we looked up – everyone was gone!
I almost wonder if at the end of the service I should do the blessing  – GO in peace! – and you all leap up and run out into Bideford all ready to love the town and the people in it and beyond it – lights left on, coffee undrunk, doors left ajar – because you were so eager to get out there now that you had been fed with God’s Word and built up by the power of God’s People worshipping together that you just could not wait to get out there and make a start at loving your neighbour again this week.
Peter – we think of him as the impetuous man of action from among the disciples, don’t we?  I his first letter, he takes on this same theme…
1 Peter chapter 1 (Message version)
So gird up your loins, roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy.”
I think that’s a great phrase – let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness.
That’s it!   Go in peace!  Amen! 

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