"We give you thanks that through the waters of the Red Sea you led your people out of slavery into freedom, and brought them through the river Jordan to new life in the land of promise."
And I could think of all this without trying - just shows how much there is. And consider the influence of the Exodus on Western culture generally, with our proclivity toward freedom from slavery, and all the liberation movements sprung from the basic metaphor of the movement from slavery to liberation and life in the promised land. Not to mention the Jewish/Christian insight that the voice of the victim is the voice of God, pre-eminently shown in the crucifixion, but also in the Exodus.
As the basic metaphor of the Christian life, the story of the Exodus should be taken seriously.
For example, everyone wants to go to the promised land, but rarely do we think that we should go there via the desert. And even when we do go via the desert, we seem to think we have left there before we really have. Life in Christ does not allow us to avoid the basic structure of the movement from liberation to the promised land. This is one of the basic insights from the desert tradition of the church with its discipline and asceticism. (Literally, for many of them, in the desert. See inset, St Catherine's Monastery at the foot of one possible site for Sinai.) The desert is where we learn to rely on God, and where our desires for the 'fleshpots of Egypt' can be purged. Here we will hear the voice of God, live into the convenant and hear the call of God wooing us and preparing us for entry into the promised land.
Isn't this so much our experience now? While we have whiffs of the promised land, our life now is to be thought more a preparation for the promised land, a land we have not yet reached. (Rowan Williams spends some time on this idea of the church as preparatory for heaven in Tokens of Trust, Chapter 6, focussing on the idea of becoming familiar with the truth so that, on the day of judgment, our experience is not quite so terrifying! On the theme of not yet reaching the promised land, see Heb 11:39-40) It is important to realise this, as it can prevent misunderstanding our experience, as though because we are not continually experiencing complete and unhindered intimacy with God we are somehow losing our faith, or worse, think that there isn't really a God! Or because we question and complain at times we are somehow alien to the Christian experience. None of this is true. The desert can be hard, we can hanker after Egypt, wonder where God is, yet in the midst of this have a deep sense of God's care for us and guidance toward the promised land. And even, at some point, realise the way in which God provided for us through the desert.
[Pentecost 20(A), September 28, 2008]