Monday, April 6, 2009

Seder Resource: "Pesach For the Rest of Us"

When I was a teenager in the late 70's and early 80's, I remember being at several churches that did a Seder meal. Why would a Lutheran church create a Seder meal?

It's important to remember the Jewish roots of Jesus. Many religious traditions view the Last Supper, the origin of the Christian Eucharist, as a Seder meal, so why wouldn't we explore it?

It's important to remember the Jewish roots of Christianity, and the Seder has much to teach us. It's important to remember how central the Exodus story has been to the Jewish tradition, and how essential the Exodus story has been to many Christians, especially those that have been held in bondage.

Last year, I was still a member of my old church, and the Pastor, who had volunteered to create a Seder meal was having some trouble, so I volunteered to help. I found Marge Piercy's Pesach for the Rest of Us: Making the Passover Seder Your Own (Schocken Books, 2007) to be an invaluable resource.

Not only does Piercy discuss each individual element of the meal and offer recipes and prayers, she explores the theology behind each element. Piercy also does a wonderful job of explaining the importance of the Exodus story and how it continues to shape us. She reminds us, "Each person should find the work of redemption that touches their innermost values and sense of how things ought to be as opposed to how they are. That is part of the story of the Exodus, the rising in revolt against what is unfair and painful and unjust" (7).

It's probably too late to plan a Seder for a large group, although perhaps I underestimate the skills that individuals possess. But it's not too late to read this book and to ponder the importance of the Exodus story. It's not too late to buy some ingredients and to try a new recipe. It's not too late to add an Old Testament story to our Holy Week reading.

This week Passover begins on Maundy Thursday, which doesn't happen every year. Unfortunately, it means that most of us Christians won't be joining our Jewish friends at their Seders, since the days we would be most welcome would be Maundy Thursday and Good Friday (the first two days involve the ritual and the food, as one of my Jewish friends explained it to me, and are the days when non-Jews are most welcome). Still, for me the years when Holy Week twines around Passover are years that seem to have powerful symbolic opportunities, and it would be a shame to let this year go to waste.

So, explore the foods of Pesach and let yourself think about how those foods and symbols have found their way into Christianity, and indeed, into the non-religious sections of popular culture. Give yourself some meditation time as you prepare these ritual foods. Piercy ends her haggadah by saying, "Go in peace into the springtime and be renewed," which these religious rituals, the ones of Passover and Holy Week, are designed to help us do.

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