"Christian Seder"

At one time (prior to my arrival), the congregation where I serve hosted a "Christian Seder" as a part of Holy Week. People have asked me since my arrival if that is something we might do again, to which my usual reply is probably not. Don't get me wrong, the Seder is a moving and powerful ritual - but it is not our ritual. One of my friends recently wrote a very clear and articulate article about why he feels the same way that I do.

Some of the most important reasons why not to host a church Seder, for me:

First, there is the issue of respect for our Jewish brothers and sisters. Can you imagine the reaction if non-Christian groups did "re-enactments" of our Sacraments? What would the Christian community have to say about a Muslim Holy Communion? Or a group of atheists doing mock baptisms? I think we would be up in arms about the mis-appropriation of our sacred rituals. And, from my experience, Jews feel the same way about our appropriation of their sacred ritual. Here are two articles by Rabbis commenting on the problems with "Christian Seders".

Second, Jesus did not have a Seder meal, at least not as modern Jews understand it. The Haggadah, from which Jews tell the story of the Passover at the Seder, was not written until the second century after Christ. In fact, the Seder meal as a discrete ritual evolved in part to address the splintering Jewish community following the destruction of the Temple in 70 ad. Part of that splintering community? Jewish Christians. The Seder was - at least in part - a response to the developing Christian rituals. Jesus undoubtedly celebrated the Passover with a meal, but it is a historical anachronism to call it a Seder.

Third, Jesus did not have a Seder meal, at least not as modern Christians understand it. It was in that Passover meal that Jesus gave the bread and wine to his disciples, saying "This is my body ... this is my blood." What Jesus did, from our perspective, was the Eucharist - the sacrament of Holy Communion. If you want to better understand Jesus' last night with his disciples, don't have a Seder - instead, gather around the table and share in the sacrament.

Perhaps a congregation wants to better understand their Jewish neighbors, and that is commendable. Visit your local synagogue, and talk with the Rabbi about how you can facilitate that understanding with respect. Perhaps the Rabbi would talk to a group in your congregation about what a Seder entails and what it means in the Jewish congregation.

But the best way to understand the mysteries of Jesus' last days, above all else, is to participate in the liturgy of the Triduum - the Great Three Days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. It is there, in the experience of the powerful liturgy of those three days, that we encounter the meaning, depth, and power of our salvation. In the ritual of the Passover, the Jewish people recount their story of redemption. In the liturgies of the Great Three Days - and especially the Easter Vigil - the Christian community recounts and relives our story of redemption.

Here is a word of warning from the ELCA about the practice of Seder meals.