Tag Archives: Seder

Maundy Thursday: Passover–The Lord’s Supper

The Israelites, which have gone from Egypt with angel of death, are eating the Easter lambIllustration:  “The Israelites, which have gone from Egypt with angel of death, are eating the Easter lamb (Exodus, XII, 11-14),” by Marc Chagall, etching on paper, c. 1934.

“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'” (Matthew 26:26-28).

This is an account that we have heard many times in our walk. Let’s examine it through the eyes of Jesus at the Passover Seder.

Jesus sends His disciples ahead of Him to prepare the Passover, probably to check the house for any signs of leaven. Presumably, the person to whose house Jesus is going has already cleaned it and removed the leavened bread, but the disciples must be sure.

That night, Jesus is reclining. We recline at Passover to show that we are no longer slaves in Egypt, but freed men. He then began the meal. When he remarked about Judas “dipping his hand in the bowl” with Him, He is probably referring to either the karpas, which is dipped in salt water, or the horseradish with is sometimes dipped into the charoseth.

He then took bread, broke it and gave it to His disciples. Jesus declared this bread, the matzoh, free of leaven, free of sin to be His body. Then he took wine. The Apostle Paul remarks that it is the cup “after supper” (1 Corinthians 11:17-26). This would be the third cup of four cups of wine taken during the Seder. This cup is called the cup of redemption, and Jesus declared it the new covenant in His blood. Then the disciples knew that the covenant prophesied by Jeremiah 600 years before has come to pass (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Through this same meal, God offers us forgiveness for our wickedness, and remembers our sins no more. The cup of redemption has redeemed us all.

Prayer:  God of our fathers, thank You for this gift of Your blood and body, which You have given to redeem me. May it always strengthen me in faith for works of service in Your kingdom. Guard my heart that I may never take this meal for granted. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  Tonight as you come for worship, go back in time to the upper room and see this meal the way that it was given. Pray that through Jesus’ eyes, this meal will have new meaning for you in the context of Passover.

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Passover–Deliverance

ExodusIllustration:  “Exodus,” by Marc Chagall, oil on canvas.  This work was begun in 1952, and completed in 1966 .

“And if a stranger sojourns among you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, according to the statute of the Passover and according to its rule, so shall he do. You shall have one statute, both for the sojourner and for the native” (Numbers 9:14).

God’s Word never limits deliverance to the Jewish people. His works of grace bring salvation to all who believe–whether alien or native born; wild or natural olive branch.  God chose the Jewish people to be a blessing to the gentiles, bringing forth the One who would be sacrificed for all people.

It is clear from Scripture that there were aliens living among the Jews who celebrated the Passover.  This has led to another tradition in Jewish homes. As a child, my family often invited a non-Jewish friend to share the Passover Seder with us. It was our attempt to include the “alien among us.” Often this friend was a Christian. Many who ate with us said they were blessed by the meal and the remembrance. When we finished the meal saying, “next year in Jerusalem,” that was a prayer of hope for the coming of Messiah. And yet, not one of these believers ever shared with us that He had indeed already come.

The first evening of Passover falls on Good Friday this year.  But we will remember that meal Thursday night as we  remember Jesus’ “new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).  As we come closer in our walk to this festival meal, we come closer to the truth that the Passover story also foretells the truth of Jesus as the Messiah. He is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.  How much more could we love people than to share that truth with them?

Prayer:  Father in Heaven, as we prepare for the last Passover your Son will eat, prepare our hearts to come to the table and receive his gifts. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path:  Are you perhaps the alien who has been invited to a friend’s Seder? If so, find ways to share the rest of the story. If not, how about inviting them to a Seder of your own.

http://www.BurningBushLCMS.org http://www.ChaivShalom.com

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From the frying pan into the fire?

UnknownLast 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!

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Symphony in the Flint Hills

shapeimage_2One of the things I really enjoy doing is to help other congregations with outreach ideas and training. This last month, I had the opportunity to help a group of churches in Eastern Kansas with an outreach they wanted to do during the “Symphony in the Flint Hills.”

It seems that every year, the Kansas City Symphony has a concert somewhere in rural Kansas. This year they played in the Flint Hills region of Eastern Kansas, with a concert that they titled “Music on the Prairie in harmony with Nature.”

Thousands of people come to these concerts, so it’s a good opportunity for rural churches to get the message out to the visitors, as well as to those local people who attend. One of my former students is a pastor in McFarland, KS, and he, along with four other churches, put together an outreach initiative that they accompanied with an opportunity to spread the gospel with an event they called, “Preaching on the Prairie.” They invited Rev. Wallace Schultz to preach, and invited me to write a couple of gospel tracts and to send a team to help them with the weekend.

So I wrote a tract for the “Preaching…” event, and one for the “Symphony…” event. (Both can be seen on our website if you are interested.) I had already been scheduled somewhere else for that weekend, but I sent Rev. Brad Aldrich and a team of volunteers to Eastern Kansas to help. (It is so nice to have other staff to rely on when I am not available!) Brad is an evangelist called to Lutherans in Jewish Evangelism, and helps coordinate outreach events here in St. Louis with our congregation. He and his team handed out about 2000 tracts during the weekend, and Brad engaged in “street preaching” during a festival in Alta Vista, KS that weekend.

All in all, it was a good opportunity to show how ministries can work together to accomplish outreach goals. Brad is continuing to work in Eastern Kansas, partnering with campus ministries there to reach out to students, and I will be going back next spring to lead a regional Seder there. If you have any interest in doing something similar for events in your area, give me a call, and let’s talk about how we might work together for the sake of sharing the Gospel in your community. Be blessed and stay cool!

http://www.ChaivShalom.com http://www.BurningBushLCMS.org

Celebrating God’s Great Gifts

shapeimage_3-1I have just finished my seventh Passover Seder in six cities during Lent! And now, a short break as we prepare for the wonderful services of Holy Week. Wow!

Our Passover Seder was our least attended Seder in many years. We had 50+ reservations, which normally translate into 100-120 people, that show up, but this year we had 66 people come to our Seder. Needless to say we had tons of food left over, and spent much more than we needed to. As we begin the process of deconstructing the Seder and planning for next year, the inevitable questions arise, “Have we worn out our welcome here in St. Louis, or at least worn out the Church for there to be such a response?” “Shall we take a year or two off before doing this again?”

For as much work as the Seder is, it is always tempting to want to do a small, familial gathering here in our own space, with just our family. But then I am quick to admit that of the 66 that attended our Seder, 26 were first-timers. And two families who attended this year, and have attended before, told me that our Seder is part of their family tradition at Passover time. So what are we to do? When all is said and done, I know that we are blessed to celebrate Passover the way we do, and many are blessed to attend.

And the true blessing of the Passover Seder is that we so often get to share the gospel with Jewish people in a way that is truly unique and part of their culture. We had Jewish guests in nearly every Seder that I led this season, and I am so thankful that people in the churches where I go feel comfortable enough to invite their Jewish friends to experience Jesus in the Passover Seder.

This year is a special year for us, too. I turned 20 this year, and our congregation turns 13 while Lutherans in Jewish Evangelism turns 30. Twenty years ago I came to faith in Y’shua, and joined the church on April 15, 1991 at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Denver. Soon after, I began volunteering for Menorah Ministries in Denver, working to share the gospel with Jewish students on the campus of the University of Colorado at Denver. And later that year I began teaching at St. John’s Lutheran School. It was the beginning of a most wonderful life, in Christ, and I have you to thank for allowing me to continue in ministry to the end that we can celebrate the coming of age of our congregation and ministry.  On April 18, our congregation celebrates its 13th anniversary.  Time for a Bar-Mitzvah?

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Winter Blues

shapeimage_2If you know someone who is Jewish, or if you were brought up in a Jewish home, you know that the Jewish New Year actually begins in the Fall, on Rosh HaShannah.  But wait, in Lev. 23, Rosh HaShannah (the Feast of Trumpets) is “the first day of the seventh month.”  How can the first day of the seventh month be the beginning of a new year?

Actually, in Judaism there are many new years, just as in America there are many new years.  Jews celebrate a new year for trees at Tu B’Shevat (see the January issue of The Burning Bush in our archives), a new year for the tithing of animals in Elul (just before the celebration of Rosh HaShanah) and of course, in Exodus 12, in the Passover narrative, “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.”  That is Nissan and on the 10th day of Nissan we take the lamb into our homes to be cared for until the 14th day , when they are sacrificed.”  Everything is counted from Nissan 1, as the first month, but the years are advanced at Rosh HaShannah at 1 Tishri.

In America we mark new years as fiscal years, school years, and calendar years.  But, January seems the wrong time to celebrate a new year…gray skies, cold temps, short days (at least here in St. Louis), all three make for a season that makes you long for a truly new year, which in my mind begins in March!  Maybe even March 17 to be precise!

But this nice long season between Christmas and Lent (longer this year than most) is a good time to stay inside, get reorganized and catch up on some much needed planning.  Yesterday, my daughter and I sat down to begin planning worship services and the festival calendar for 2011.  As I looked at my calendar, I realized how much I will be traveling in March and April.  So many Passover Seders, and so few weeks to do them in.  Of course, it is during the season of Lent that many churches want me to come and celebrate a Passover Seder with them, and most churches who want to schedule a Seder with me do it a year in advance.  And suddenly, January seemed like a great time to celebrate a new year, because if gives us a runway to run on before we need to take off.  (And I just received a phone call from a pastor in rural Nebraska who wants to do a circuit-wide Seder this year…the only time available is the last week in February, before Lent even begins.  The season is getting shorter!)

In our climate, the “outreach season” is March to November.  Of course, we continue to try to spark conversations in coffee houses and malls around St. Louis, but nothing matches getting out in nice weather and talking to strangers about Jesus.  Fortunately, our Florida/Georgia branches have a different climate and a different schedule, but the same is true, regardless of the time of year, we want to get out and talk to people.  But Seders are also great opportunities to share the gospel with your friends and neighbors.  Check out our calendar and see if there is a Seder happening in your community, call the church and make reservations.  Our congregation’s Seder is always on Palm Sunday, and it would not be too soon to make reservations for that, if you’d like to attend and bring a friend.  And if nothing is happening around you, make it happen next year.  Just call the office and let’s talk.  I would love to come and celebrate Passover with you next year!

And of course, Purim is late this year too but you can have a great Purim party at your church with very little planning and it’s a lot of fun!  Purim falls during Lent on March 19 and it is a great time to share the gospel through the little read book of Esther.  Give me a call and I’ll tell you how.