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Should Christians hold Seders?

Should Christians hold Seders?

Every Holy Week and Passover, the question comes up, “Should Christians hold Seders?”

Many Christians think holding a Seder increases their understanding of Jesus’ Jewishness and the Jewish roots of Christianity. Others believe that Christians holding a Seder, especially when they Christianize it, does violence to another religion’s traditions.

RNS takes a look:

Darr has hosted his own seder, using a copy of the church’s Haggadah (the book with the seder liturgy), for the past seven years — since he moved to Missouri, where he now attends The Crossing, part of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

To him, the Passover story is a story of spiritual freedom, and the four cups, a reminder to him of God’s promises fulfilled in Jesus.

“It provides a rich context for Communion, and it helps to explain Jesus’ words,” he said, referring to the sacramental meal of bread and wine Jesus instituted at his Last Supper, which many believe was a Passover meal.

“I think there’s a lot to be gained just in understanding what Communion means and it really is a form of taking it. … It’s been celebrated for a very long time in similar forms, and Jesus did it, so what’s not to like?”

Well, apparently quite a bit. Not all Jews, or even all Christians, think it is appropriate for gentiles to host their own dinners.

The Rev. Ann Fontaine, priest associate at St. Catherine of Alexandria Episcopal Church in Nehalem, Ore., [And member of the Episcopal Cafe newsteam… ed.] points to the work her denomination’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music has done in recent years to counter what it calls “Christian anti-Judaism.” That includes language often used during the Easter season that make Jews out to be the “bad guys” who killed Jesus, she said.

To Fontaine, Passover “comes from a history of people who have suffered at Christian hands.”

“It’s a lot like people doing a sweat lodge or sun dance that are not Native American. To me, you haven’t walked that path with that people. You’re taking the benefits without having suffered,” she said. “I don’t mind if a Jewish family invites you to a seder or if a Native American group invited you to a sweat lodge — that’s OK. But to start one yourself, that’s stealing.”

So…remembrance or theft? What?




Image: Public Domain


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Brian Adler

I’m a Jew, currently celebrating Passover, and still enjoying the taste of matzah (although it’s only been since Friday night…). When I taught at a Catholic college many years ago, I put on a seder for all, even rewrote the Haggada to be more gentile-friendly (and shorter!). While not a scholar of religion (my own or any other), I accept that the current Passover celebration is no doubt a creation of the rabbis, post-diaspora, but given that the commandment to observe the Exodus is biblical, I also have no doubt that Jesus and the disciples were observing the Passover, and that Jesus and his family no doubt had done so for 30 plus years (in one way or another). As far as I’m concerned, Passover is Passover; it’s not a “type” or pre-figuration of anything (or anybody) else. Jews were once slaves in the land of Egypt, but now we are free. That’s one important lesson. The other, which appears to me to be biblical and not rabbinic, is that God rescued an entire group of people, placing value in a community over that of individuals. That God denied Moses’ crossing into the Promised Land and supposedly buried him in a place we can never find is part of that lesson–communities matter. Community interaction, how WE interact with others, matters supremely. If sharing the seder with our Christian friends can lead to stronger communities, then I am all for it.

Jos. S. Laughon

This entire “controversy” seems strange from all sides. On the one hand it seems like it is born out of a strange evangelical obsession for all things Jewish without much knowledge about Judaism today. (Though I would not mind attending a seder put on by, say, the Association of Hebrew Catholics or the CoE’s CMJ Association)

Secondly much of the handwringing comes from very unhealthy places in the Church. Of course we can proclaim the superiority of the New Covenant of Christ over the old. That was the point of the new covenant in the first place. To refuse evangelize is a bizarre post modern version of Jonah who refuses this time, not out of prejudice but out of misguided “love.”

Paul Woodrum

That makes three Pauls who agree.

Marshall Scott

See, Paul, that’s the problem with humor. There was in the days of Norman Vincent Peale an old saw that was, “Why is it that Paul is appealing but Peale is appalling?” So, indeed, all good to David. The second is just my slipping into obscurity.

Marshall Scott

Not appealing? (but, then, that’s an old joke that really reflects American culture of half a century ago; which, I suppose, tells you something about my limitations of humor….)

Paul Powers

I believe David was making a pun on the reference to 3 Pauls. [By the way, good job, David. It isn’t always easy to make a pun in a second language].

David Allen

That’s appalling.

Paul Powers

The synoptic gospels indicate that the last supper was the first night of Passover meal, but John suggests that it was the supper before the first night, and in I Corinthians 11, Paul makes no reference to it being a Passover meal. All we know with certainty is that there was bread and there was wine. And perhaps that’s all that matters. We have our own Passover meal. Its called the Eucharist. There’s no reason to co-opt the traditions of our Jewish sisters and brothers.

Richard G. Elliott

Having a Passover Seder is nothing “like people doing a sweat lodge or sun dance that are not Native American.” Most Episcopalians have nothing in common with those traditions. Tragic as relations became, and as divergent from them as the church became, our roots are ultimately Jewish.
Our Seder, and I cannot believe we are unique is observed to make a positive link between Holy Week observances and Jewish traditions.
Over the years we have had a number of, admittedly non-observant, Jewish families attend our Seder as their Seder observance (culturally Jewish but socially Episcopalian as one put it).

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