Sermon: Your Sandals on your Feet

September 10, 2023

Exodus 12:1-14
Matthew 18:15-20

There is a difference between last week’s command, “Take off your shoes,” and this week’s command, “Have your sandals on your feet.” The difference, of course, is urgency.

The story of Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush has a considered, unhurried feel. Contrast that with some other prophets. Isaiah described his call from God in thirteen verses, Jeremiah in seven. Elijah’s call gets no text at all. Moses, in contrast, got a chapter and a half, thirty-nine verses.

In one sense, God was in a hurry. It was time and past time to free the Israelites from slavery. That didn’t mean, however, that there wasn’t time to get the necessary leader fully committed to the project. Moses’ commitment took a lot of convincing.

In Exodus 12, however, we do not find God in persuasion and instruction mode. The time has come. The day is here – rather, this is the night before the day, and things may easily begin moving before the sun rises.

As they did.

So some things make sense. Get your clothes ready for hard work and long walking (that’s pretty much what it means to “gird your loins,” which is to knot the long skirts of your tunic so that they don’t obstruct your legs). Keep your walking stick in your hand, you’ll need it. Eat a good meal and don’t plan on leftovers, because we’re moving fast and heaven knows when we can stop safely to eat again. Make bread that will keep. And, of course, have your shoes on your feet.

But as Kimberly D. Russaw writes at Working Preacher, “As the severity of the plagues escalates, and the sense of intrigue heightens, readers of the biblical text stand on virtual tiptoe looking over into the 12th chapter of the book to see how the great god of the Israelites will execute the next plague only to find the Lord giving Moses and Aaron instructions regarding the institution of a community ritual.”

Passover is one of the holiest days in Judaism, the celebration of God’s great gift of freedom from slavery and oppression. In this moment of tense expectation, God issued directions not just for preparation of an emergency meal, but for the annual memorial of the day to come. In other words, they got instructions for the holiday they’d use to celebrate the freedom they hadn’t actually attained.

That’s pretty self-confident, but when you’re God, I guess that comes with self-confidence.

There is a parallel with our own experience. The keyed-up descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had a hurried celebration of the freedom they hadn’t received. We in the Church of Jesus Christ celebrate an eternal life that also lies ahead of us.

But there is another way in which Christianity closely resembles the situation of the anxious people hastily eating their first Passover. God asked those ancient Israelites to prepare. God also asks us to prepare.

To have our sandals on our feet.

Jesus had a fair amount to say about being ready. He told the parable about the bridesmaids and their oil flasks about being ready. He told the parable about the wedding feast about being ready. He told the parable about the rich fool and various prepared or unprepared servants about… being ready.

I don’t know that Jesus had anything to do with Robert Baden-Powell selecting the motto, “Be Prepared,” for the Boy Scouts, but I think he would have approved.

Have your sandals on your feet.

As Michael J. Chan writes at Working Preacher, “Passover also ritualizes readiness, urgency, and vulnerability, and asks its participants to do so in a fully embodied manner: ‘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’ (verse 11). Passover is meant to be practiced with a sense of haste and disquietude, with the awareness that liberation may arrive like a thief in the night. The participant’s entire body is drawn into the experience.”

How shall we prepare ourselves in 2023?

The last few years, even the last few weeks, have provided abundant reason to prepare for disaster. Since taking on the volunteer appointment of the Hawai’i Conference UCC’s Disaster Response Coordinator a few years ago, Danny Tengan has been extremely busy. He was involved in helping with the Puna eruption five years ago and the recovery from Hurricane Lane. He has helped organize water shipments to Tonga after the 2022 explosive eruption there and food drives and vaccination clinics during the pandemic. He’s been helping our churches on Maui receive resources as they serve the people of Lahaina. Danny Tengan would very much like me to encourage you to be prepared for a disaster.

Given our vulnerability to storm, tsunami, earthquake, and volcanic eruption, I’d say he makes a good point. I’ll point you to, which has solid guidance on preparing a disaster kit, safely keeping important documents, and storing it properly.

In 2018 we in the faith community found that our ability to respond to the Puna eruption was dramatically increased by the fact that many of us already knew one another. Through interfaith Communities in Action and some other regular meetings, we not only knew of one another’s existence but had a sense of one another’s strengths and resources. It really helped a lot. We were able to avoid a lot of duplication of effort and we were able to find gaps in services provided by others so that people had access to things they really needed.

I’ll observe that the Hebrews in ancient Egypt were told to gather with their neighbors in preparation for their flight. Knowing your neighbors on that night may have been the difference between slavery and freedom.

Building relationships, however, isn’t just a preparation for disaster or exodus. It’s a preparation for richer, more meaningful living. It’s vital to be involved with one another within a household and within an extended family group. The old institution of the kumiai knit neighbors together for celebrations and for times of loss. However much we may grumble about governments, they do unite people into common expectations of behavior and safe practices. And, of course, there’s households of faith. In our communities we teach and learn, we comfort and encourage, we make mistakes and are forgiven for them, we serve one another and those around us.

Together, we’ve got our sandals on our feet.

We’re also called to prepare our spirits. That was important for the ancient Israelites, because although they were being freed from slavery they were also heading into the harsh environment of the Sinai. They would face innumerable challenges to their capacity for hope, confidence, generosity with one another, and faith. Much of the book of Exodus is about how hard that was, because much of it describes the times of failure.

The same is true for us. Yes, we’re celebrating the advent of eternal life, a life we have not yet attained, but that also demands preparation. The distractions of this life are beyond counting, including temptations of wealth, sex, power, and pride. It’s often difficult to distinguish between the good of each of these – it’s good to have a robust sense of self-worth, for example – and the extensions which don’t serve us – when self-worth becomes something that disregards every opinion but its own.

Preparation of spirit begins with that fundamental understanding that we have been created in the image of God, loved and wanted. It follows with realizing that no one of us is the center of the universe, that we have a place and a role but not rule. We need to have the humility to acknowledge our limitations and our mistakes. We need to have the integrity to make our apologies and restitution.

We prepare for this with lifelong learning. We prepare with participation in religious community – I’m not going to argue that’s the only way to prepare our spirits, but the reason people have done this for thousands of years is that this is easier to do with others than it is to do alone. We prepare our spirits with regular prayer practices, with reading and reflecting on Scripture, and with meditation. We prepare our spirits by deliberately opening them to God. We prepare our spirits with regular worship of God.

That gets the sandals on our feet.

We’ve seen lava in Leilani and water along the Hilo Bayfront. We’ve seen wildfires in Canada and in Lahaina. We’ve seen earthquakes in Japan and in Morocco. We’ve seen wars in Myanmar and Ukraine. We’ve seen all these things that have tested our preparedness, and sometimes we’ve scrambled.

Make sure to prepare your spirit, friends, both to face the trials of life, but also to rejoice in the celebrations of life. There with your staff in your hand you can savor the promise and its fulfillment. There with your sandals on your feet.


by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Sermon

Pastor Eric preaches from a text identical to what you’ve just read. And then he improvises.

Drawing of a sandal by David Ring – Drawing made by David Ring, commissioned by Europeana Fashion, scanned by team of MoMu – Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp., CC0,

Categories Sermons | Tags: , | Posted on September 10, 2023

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