Today was the culmination of a 3 week study of the traditions of a Passover Seder. Through our study we had discovered both the core traditions and some "new" contributions to the 3000 year old celebration. At the heart was an annual thanks to God for freeing the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. So we started there - and discussed what it would be like to have to work at the will of someone else. And then when Pharaoh took away the straw....what do you do then??
We discussed each of the plagues including the most terrible - the death of the firstborn. Since two of my 3 regular class members are the oldest in their family - I pointed out that they would be targeted. And then we talked about the specific instructions handed down to keep that from happening. And whether or not they thought their parents would follow the instructions!
So then we spent a couple of weeks looking at a Haggadah - which is the Seder service itself. The one that I chose was created by Jewish Voice Ministries who are Jews that believe Christ is the Messiah. I thought that was another interesting perspective because none of my class were aware that there were Jews who believed in Jesus Christ. In fact, until I worked with JVM as a client about 10 years ago...neither did I.
Today our class was joined by one junior high student - his teacher was out sick - and we explained what we were doing and why. He really embraced the event and was proud to be tapped as the youngest boy who reads the four questions. He was a little overwhelmed when I told him he had to read it in Hebrew...but quickly realized I was just kidding.
The class did a great job with the readings and didn't get too silly with the bitter herbs or the parsley dipped in tears (salt water). And when we got to the feast part of the Seder - they tried a lot of different dishes. We had matzo ball soup (um...didn't realize there would be only 3 balls in a can...but that was enough for everyone to have a taste, except me) and seasoned ground lamb. We had a few dishes that weren't Passover traditional - but were traditional to the Mediterranean area. And we did use Methodist Wine - Welch's Grape Juice. Methodist history tidbit: Welch's Grape Juice was actually developed as a substitute for wine in communion!
It was an interesting touch with an ancient tradition that continues in Jewish families to this day. I have a friend who is preparing to host her family's Seder right now. I know that her's will include a lot of foods and rituals that we didn't have time for in a class period - but I appreciated her encouragement. Next year we are hoping to include a larger group - maybe even inviting the whole church. When we got to the cup after the meal - one of our class said, this is just like the pastor says during communion "after supper he took the cup and blessed it".
Ah - the connection was made.
Perhaps if we all embraced our similarities instead of focusing on our differences...then world peace might be at our fingertips.
Food for thought.