A Reading on the History of the People of Israel for the Easter Vigil

Journeys are important for all of us.  They take us from the place where we have been, to the place that we are going to.  And the most interesting journeys (the really long ones which we take when we are going somewhere very special) have lots of stopping points with unexpected things to see and do on the way.

We have all been on a special journey this week.  We have journeyed with Jesus to his last supper with his friends, and then finally to the Cross.  And tonight we come to the most momentous part of his journey through death to life.

Thousands of years ago an ancient people who sought to follow God found themselves on a terrifying journey.  They were living in the land of Egypt, but that is not where they were from, so the Egyptians treated them like slaves, and made them work very hard without any rewards.

Then God called a man named Moses, who was the most unlikely leader possible, to be his spokesperson.  It did not matter that Moses had not been trained to be the leader, because God was really making the plans.

Moses went to the head of the Egyptians and told him that God had had enough of how he was treating the people, and that they were leaving.  At first Pharaoh said “no” but when it became clear that God was not going to take no for an answer, the people began their journey.

They wandered out of Egypt, but Pharaoh changed his mind and sent his soldiers after them to bring them back again, after all there was no one left to do all the nasty jobs which the Israelites had been doing.

When the Israelites reached the Red Sea it looked like their journey had come to an abrupt end.  But then God gave them a big surprise.  He moved the waters so that the people could cross where the sea had been, and he closed the waters again so that the Egyptians could not follow them.

At first the Israelites thought that their journey had come to an end, but they soon learnt that they would be travelling for a very long time.  They wandered in the wilderness for forty years, and God was with them the whole time, even though sometimes they did not remember that he was.

Finally they came to the River Jordan, that was the river which separated them from the land that they wanted to live in.  Again, God surprised them.  Just as had happened at the Red Sea forty years earlier, God made the River Jordan to stop, so that the people could cross on dry land.

We remember this evening that we are not the first people on a journey with God, and we are not the only people on that journey.  But just as God was with those ancient people, so too he is with us as well.

Many, many years after those ancient people crossed the River Jordan, Jesus went to the same place in the river so that he could be baptised.  It was from that river that he started the journey which ended with the events which we have journeyed through this week.

Bev is going to share with us two moments on her journey when God was especially present: her baptism and her confirmation.

Sometimes we will not realise that God is present with us, and at other times, (like this evening for those who will be baptised and confirmed) we will be at one of those special points in our journey when God is very present as he has been for people on journeys for a very long time.

And when God is here, the memory of all those journeys which people have had before us are here for us to celebrate as well.