Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lenten Series #35: Passover Seder

This evening I had the opportunity to share in the Passover Seder, hosted by our Rabbi and my coworker, Howie along with his wife Debbie. What a great time of fellowship, learning, and sharing with a few members of the Grinnell Jewish community. I had never participated in a Seder celebration, and was pleasantly surprised at how much of the language of the liturgy translated into my own Christian understanding of Passover, and of God. There were some clear distinction  (eg, language that surrounded the desire for the coming of  the Messiah who has yet to come), but for the most part I felt a deep connection to the service, and was  fully able to worship and see the God of Israel as the same God of my ancestors. There was a key part of the liturgy that stood out to me. There were clear emphasizes on seeing the Passover as a celebration of not just the past, but he present and the future.  I went not knowing what to expect, and found myself in the midst of great people, celebrating a Great God! 

This experience got me to thinking... our churches are celebrating holy week, but many of us never fully take time to observe Passover, as Jesus did before he was taken to the cross. In our desire to be like Christ, we often forget to acknowledge his heritage as a Jewish man.  As I sat at the table, sang song in the Hebrew alliteration, and /or listened to the prayers lifted by those who spoke Hebrew. As I read the English translation, as we broke the matzo (unleavened bread), I could not help but feel a deeper connection with Jesus, who in human flesh dwelt among us as a Jew.  I thought about Jesus and the host of ancestors who have come before us. As we sat around the table, I thought of Easter dinner when my grandmother was alive, and how she served as a testament of the love of God through generations. I honor and respect Passover as a Jewish tradition, but I also recognized the same God who brought the Israelites out of Egypt , is the same God who  brought black folks out of enslavement, and continues to set free/liberates those who remain in a variety of bondages. Just as we often forget that Jesus was a Jew, we at times neglect to recognize our own heritage and how integral it is in who we are.

This got me to think about another part of the Seder liturgy that intrigued me. There was a clear call for each of us to go forth and be the Liberators.  I left knowing that the God that empowered Moses to go to Pharaoh, is the same God who has empowered me to Go and set the captives free by standing up to the modern day Pharaoh (whatever/whomever they may be).  In the liturgy we used, it actually called for the singing of a spiritual that I knew quite well, “Go Down Moses” (probably the only time that I was able to sing with confidence). I leave you with these words, and with this question… Did God not move for the Jewish People? Did God not move for the Black People? Will God not move for You?  Will you not GO?

When Israel was in Egypt's land,
let my people go;
oppressed so hard they could not stand,
let my people go.
Go down, (go down) Moses, (Moses)
way down in Egypt's land;
tell old Pharaoh
to let my people go!

2. "Thus saith the Lord," bold Moses said,
let my people go;
"if not, I'll smite your first-born dead,"
let my people go.

3. No more shall they in bondage toil,
let my people go;
let them come out with Egypt's spoil,
let my people go.

4. We need not always weep and mourn,
let my people go;
and wear those slavery chains forlorn,
let my people go.

Peace, Love, and Prosperity,

1 comment:

River Cocytus said...

The Resurrection, which is called 'Easter' these days, is also traditionally called 'Pascha', which simply means 'passover'. The Orthodox have a hymn that goes:

(in each mention of Pascha, consider that we mean passover. The italic parts represent the 'call' part and the others the 'response')

Paschal Stichera

Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; let those who hate Him flee from before His face!

Today, a sacred Pascha is revealed to us:
a new and holy Pascha,
a mystical Pascha,
a Pascha worthy of veneration,
a Pascha which is Christ the Redeemer,
a blameless Pascha,
a great Pascha,
a Pascha of the faithful,
a Pascha which has opened to us the gates of Paradise,
a Pascha which sanctifies all the faithful.

As smoke vanishes so let them vanish; as wax melts before the fire!

Come from that scene, O women bearers of glad tidings,
and say to Zion:
“Receive from us the glad tidings of joy,
of Christ’s Resurrection!
Exult and be glad,
and rejoice, O Jerusalem,
seeing Christ the King, Who comes forth from the tomb
like a bridegroom in procession!”

So the sinners will perish before the face of God. But let the righteous be glad!

The myrrh-bearing women,
at the break of dawn,
drew near to the tomb of the Life-giver.
There they found an Angel
sitting upon the stone.
He greeted them with these words:
“Why do you seek the Living among the dead?
Why do you mourn the Incorrupt amid corruption?
Go, proclaim the glad tidings to His disciples!”

This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Pascha of beauty,
the Pascha of the Lord,
a Pascha worthy of honor has dawned for us.
Let us embrace each other joyously!
Pascha, ransom from affliction!
For today, as from a bridal chamber,
Christ has shown forth from the tomb,
and filled the women with joy saying:
“Proclaim the glad tidings to the Apostles!”

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

This is the day of resurrection!
Let us be illumined by the feast!
Let us embrace each other!
Let us call “brothers” even those that hate us,
and forgive all by the resurrection,
and so let us cry:

"Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death,and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!"

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