Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Celebrating Passover

I have been to Seder meals before, but never have I celebrated Passover with Jews. How can this be? Well, in the 1970's and 1980's (and perhaps today?), it was fairly common for Lutheran youth groups to put together Seder meals so that we all understood the Last Supper in a more profound way. We reminded ourselves that Jesus was a Jew, and that in at least one Gospel, the Last Supper is a Passover meal.

Of course, I spent my youth deep in the U.S. South, where there aren't many Jews, so as we celebrated the Seder meal, it seemed like more of an ancient ritual, and less like a holiday observed by many people across the world. I don't think I met a Jew until graduate school.

Last night's Seder was different. I went to my Jewish friend's house, where we celebrated with her husband and son, her sister, her mom, her father-in-law. I felt honored to be included.

She invited us last year, but last year, the first two nights of Passover fell on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday--impossible to work in a Seder meal. I was thrilled when she invited us this year.

I worried that we might feel like religious tourists or that it might feel disrespectful somehow for us to be there. But my friend and her sister told us that in fact, it's important to invite people without a place to celebrate Passover to your Seder, and it's important that your Seder educate.

The Seder felt familiar, with its story of Moses and the deliverance out of Egypt. It felt familiar because I've been hearing it all my life, and it felt familiar because it reverberates through so many American stories and songs. It's hard to grow up singing Southern Gospel standards and avoid the Passover story.

The Seder felt familiar too, because it was a collection of family and friends, a mix of generations and backgrounds, a mash of religious folks. It reminded me of my childhood and adolescent holidays, where my Mom invited anyone in town to celebrate with us. I remember Christmases and Easters with a house full of students who couldn't make it home, seminarians, folks with no families. Those celebrations led to wonderful conversations about traditions and histories.

It was a gorgeous South Florida night, so we ate our Seder on the back deck. I could have sat under that full moon all night. But once the Passover candles melted all the way down, it was time to call it a night, especially since some of us had to work in the morning.

No comments: