Last month I shared that my personal focus for Lent was upon the spiritual fruit of self-control, and certainly, I had plenty of opportunity to prayerfully exercise that gift. Lent began with a controversial article about us that appeared on the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Lent is ending with a new controversy, albeit somewhat less in importance but interesting in its perspective.
During Lent I traveled a lot of miles…Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Portland (Oregon), Atwood (Kansas), and Southern Illinois. I finished all that travel with a wonderful Passover Seder here in St. Louis where we had 123 guests, including many Jewish people, and a lot of children! It was a blessing. One of our “regular critics” is a Jewish lady who came to the Seder and told me afterward that it was the best Seder she had been to. Many others shared that they were similarly blessed.
During the week prior to our Seder here in St. Louis, I got plenty of opportunities to talk to Jewish people about Jesus. One of many calls I took during the week before our Seder was with a Jewish man who was looking for a community Seder. As we talked, I could tell that he was not aware that we were Christian, so I let him know right away that we were a congregation of Jewish and non-Jewish people who believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and that believing that is the most Jewish thing one can do. He was truly interested, and felt safe over the phone, so we talked. He shared that he had a friend who was Jewish and became a Christian, moved to Israel, and is “missionizing” the Jewish people there. I got to share with him some of the important aspects of Passover that so clearly point to Jesus. I don’t think he was ready to meet me in person, but seeds were clearly planted, and I suspect we will talk again. But even if we don’t, he has something to think about!
All in all, about 400 people in those various cities celebrated the Passover Seder with me. In addition to the Passover Seders that I led, Alan led two in south Florida, one of our ministry advocates attended one in central Florida and Rev. Mark Schumm, new to our board but not to us, led a Seder in the Green Bay area as well. Of course, our Detroit branch participated in Seders in Detroit and Saginaw. And one of our friends in Cedar Rapids, Iowa let me know how their Seder went too. So our entire ministry celebrated the Seder with about 650 people!
As you can no doubt imagine, our Passover Seder is a celebration of its fulfillment in Y’shua, and we celebrate the Seder through the lens of the Passover recorded in the New Testament Scriptures. It is a wonderful opportunity to put the blessed sacrament in the context of an historic celebration, rejoicing in our deliverance from the bondage of sin, while at the same time remembering too God’s deliverance of His people from bondage in Egypt, the prophetic foretelling of Jesus. It is also a wonderful opportunity to witness our faith to Jewish guests invited to celebrate with us. Please pray with us for Misha, Harry, Ellen, Saul, Rose, and so many others who came face to face with Jesus.
After our Seder, in the afterglow of a wonderful evening, a couple of our guests were contacted by folks who instructed them that they should not be celebrating Passover, and were pointed to a blog by Paul McCain entitled “Why Christian Congregations Should Not Celebrate a Passover Seder.” While that blog was closed to comments, there ensued a spirited debate on Facebook, a debate that I didn’t participate much in but was carried well by a woman who had attended our Seder here in St. Louis. (Well done Letitia!)
I normally wouldn’t give such an article much consideration, because it expresses such a minority view in our church body, and frankly, the objections raised are easily dealt with. But I felt a need to comment on it because some of our guests were confronted with it, and the article itself took a shot at our ministry specifically, criticizing a publication of our ministry written by our Founder, Rev. Bruce Lieske (“A Passover Haggadah for Christians” published by the Synod’s Board of Evangelism).
This whole thing illustrates the interesting position of our ministry. I often talk about the fine line that we have to walk between the Jewish people and the Lutheran Church, neither one fully “getting” our ministry. That fine line sometimes feels like the edge of a skillet, trying not to fall into the frying pan or the fire! But we are blessed that many do “get it.” And they help us balance on that edge. I’m sure glad that Lent is over. I’m hoping not to have so many opportunities to exercise self-control…(I usually fail anyway). Praise God for His Holy Spirit, that continues to purify us by fire! Christ is risen!