Last night River Road hosted a Passover Seder. Rabbi Royi Shaffin from Congregation Or Atid presided. For it being the first time I’ve ever decided to host a Seder for 100 people, I think it went fairly well. I’m already making a list of lessons learned in anticipation of this becoming if not an annual event at least a biennial one (like the choir singing Handel’s Messiah every other year). We’ll see. After the Seder, Rabbi Shaffin asked me what it was that prompted me to suggest that the church host a Seder. Three things came to mind.
First, River Road has a rich history of being a congregation that enjoys learning and sees and understands the value of learning. At its heart, the Seder is a teaching event, teaching our children the story of how God delivered the Israelites out of slavery and into freedom, teaching us to experience again the story and see it with fresh eyes. Such an event seemed a perfect fit to me for our congregation.
Second, I am a firm believer in Interfaith dialog. I believe as Christians we need to learn about and understand other faiths. And I think that kind of learning comes best through experience. How much better are we able to understand the lessons of the Seder by participating in one than simply hearing about it? The rich spiritual history of the Jewish people is our spiritual history, too. In dialog, we can begin to recognize common themes and perhaps better understand them for ourselves in the context of our own faith tradition.
Which leads me to the third reason. While this was not intended to be a Christian appropriation or reinterpretation of a Jewish ritual – it was as authentically Jewish as we could muster – my hope is that those who participated will make the connections between the story of Passover and the story we will be telling next week during Holy Week. When you take the bread of communion you will recognize it as the bread of Passover, the matzah. When you drink from the cup, you will be reminded of the four cups we drank to represent our redemption and freedom. And for those unable to attend, I hope it might prompt them to re-examine the story of the Exodus and consider afresh what it tells us about the love of God.
Most important takeaway for me is that the story of God’s redemption did not begin at the cross and empty tomb. And it does not end there, either. God is still in the business of redeeming us, of moving us from whatever enslaves us – consumerism, ambition, apathy, rivalry, busyness, lethargy – into the perfect freedom which comes from being about the work of God’s Kingdom here on earth.
What does God’s redemption look like in your life?