The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Sharing the Passover

"Jesus said to his disciples, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you ..." (Luke 22:15). As latter-day followers of Jesus, many Christian churches attempt to fulfill this request by holding a seder meal during Holy Week — re-enacting Christ's Last Supper with his 12 disciples — and following the haggadah, Hebrew for "the telling," which is the ritual Jews use to recall the story of the exodus of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt.

Often congregations invite a rabbi to participate and to explain the significance of the seder. Rabbi Rami Shapiro of One River Foundation, Nashville, Tenn., is one. Though impressed by the Christians' sincerity, he was saddened, he says, adding, "They did their best to follow the Jewish seder rituals but could not make them their own."

The core of the Passover is experience, Shapiro points out. "I wanted to help Christians re-connect with Jesus as a Jew, to experience what was second nature to him," he says. So he decided to write a haggadah especially for Christians and turned to a colleague, Mike Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, Tenn., for collaboration. Their book is Let Us Break Bread Together (Paraclete Press, 2005; www.paracletepress.com). Here's an excerpt, using the traditional question-and-answer format:

"Why wash our hands before continuing with our seder?"

"Washing the hands reminds us that we are entering a sacred space. The rabbis taught that with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and the ending of sacrifice, the dinner table became the new altar, the central place of communing with God. Jesus, too, made table fellowship a central act of his ministry. This banquet, each table around which we sit, is a tabernacle to God. Let us cleanse our hearts and minds even as we cleanse our hands."


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February issue


Embracing diversity