Christians celebrate Passover with Seder banquet
The congregation of The Good Shepherd church celebrated Seder on March 24 with a traditional banquet.
The practice of celebrating Seder marks the beginning of the Jewish Festival of Passover.
For most Christians the Seder is a complete mystery. The essence of Passover is celebrating with a big meal called Seder which means “order” in Hebrew.
The Biblical Book of Exodus tells us how the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. God we are told, parted the Red Sea and the Prophet Moses led them to freedom. They wandered through the desert to the Holy Land and along the way God gave them Jewish law.
So Passover is the story of the Jewish peoples going from degradation to redemption, and the ceremony mirrors their own personal journey. When Jews are asked, ‘What is the most important part of your Jewish identity?’ the dominant answer is, ‘standing up for equality, pursuing justice and standing up for the rights of the marginalized’ These are the core Jewish commitments. The Passover is the ritual that teaches these commitments.
Why are Christians at Good Shepherd even holding a Seder to celebrate Passover?
Celebrating Seder helps Christians understand the Jewish roots of the Christian faith and helps us to explore the Jewish background of the Last Supper celebrated by Jesus, whom we know was a First century Jewish teacher. His disciples, who were also Jewish, would have grown up observing the Passover in whatever fashion the Jewish people living at that time observed. The first century Jewish background to the sacrament of Communion drives many Christians to identify with the Jewishness of their faith. For many years the schism between Christians and Jews was wide and antagonistic, but progress is being made in many ways such as local Christians celebrating Passover. There is now a greater appreciation and respect among Christians for the Jewish faith. When Christians see identification with the Jewish people and the Jewish background to their own faith their Christian faith cannot be robbed of its heritage, especially the events of the Last Supper which is arguably some type of Passover celebration.
The Seder meal is a banquet that includes reading, drinking wine, telling stories, eating special foods and other Passover traditions. Passover this year begins on March 31.
What’s on the menu?
During the meal you will have four cups of wine, veggies dipped in salt water, a flat dry bread called matzoh, bitter herbs (often horseradish) dipped into charoset which is a paste of nuts, apples, pears and wine. This festive meal may also contain time honoured favourites like chicken soup and Gefilte fish.
Each item has a place in a 15-step choreographed combination of tastes, sounds, sensations, and aromas that have been with the Jewish people for millenniums.
The rituals of this meal are performed step-by-step. Each participant gets a copy of the haggadah (recounts the Exodus) and follows along with family and friends as the symbolism of the food on the table is explained. But why is this holiday called Passover? Is is because God in Exodus 12;13 visits 10 plagues upon the Egyptians to convince Pharaoh to free the Israelites. During the last of the plagues, the smiting of the first born sons, God “passes over” the Israelites sparing them.