Skip to comments.Christian seders draw concern
Posted on 03/29/2010 7:48:52 AM PDT by Between the Lines
At a traditional Passover seder, you'll find the broken matzo, taste the bitter herbs and listen to a retelling of the Exodus story.
You won't hear a mention of Jesus. But some churches -- including an East Manchester Township congregation -- are now hosting Christian seders, adding Christian symbolism to a 3,000-year-old Jewish ritual of remembrance.
At these seders, the stripes and holes in the matzo are said to represent Jesus' whipped and pierced body. The matzo is broken and wrapped in a white cloth, as was Jesus' body for burial.
Some Jews consider such seders to be offensive and a trespassing of sorts. They fear that Christians -- however well-meaning -- are infringing on Jewish liturgical territory.
"It registers as a certain hostile takeover from a Jewish perspective, as well as a betrayal of Jewish history and the Jewish community," said the Rev. Christopher Leighton, executive director of the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies in Baltimore.
Jews also say churches are using the Christian seder to proselytize among them. They note such seders are often led by Messianic Jews, who believe Jesus was the Messiah, or groups such as Jews for Jesus that work to bring Jews into the Christian church.
Rabbi Jeffrey Astrachan of Temple Beth Israel in York Township pointed out that religions have borrowed and adopted rituals and ideas from one another before; however, they usually incorporate them into the context of their own faith. In this case, the church has borrowed a Jewish ritual and "manipulated" its symbolism without detaching it from Judaism, he said.
"I wouldn't go so far as to say I am offended by the borrowing," Astrachan said by e-mail. "I am, however, disturbed that some fringe groups can't leave others alone to select a faith of their own choosing. If the Messianics want to be true at all to their Jewish roots, they would understand that Jews do not proselytize."
The Rev. Chuck Sprenkle of St. Paul United Methodist Church in East Manchester Township said Jews are invited to his church's Messiah in the Passover seder on Tuesday, but the aim isn't an evangelistic one.
"The purpose is not to convert them -- although that would be a nice thing -- but to show how our faiths do connect," Sprenkle said. "I also think it's a very good opportunity for Christians to deepen the history of their faith. . . . They're seeing the presence of Christ's life in the seder."
Several Christian seders led by Messianic groups are planned at midstate churches this week.
The Rev. Israel Cohen, who will lead the seder demonstration at Sprenkle's church on Tuesday, serves as a missionary for the Messianic organization Chosen People Ministries. His presentation at 100 churches a year explains how each part of the Passover seder "points to the Messiah," he said.
"I'm challenging the churches to be praying for the salvation of the Jewish people and encouraging them to witness to the Jewish people," said Cohen, who lives in Kissimmee, Fla., but has nine seder events in Pennsylvania this week.
Passover, which begins Monday night, commemorates the freedom of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt under the leadership of Moses, who was directed by God.
The Jewish seder (which means "order" in Hebrew) has a set structure, and its symbols (such as the foods on the seder plate) hold great meaning for Jews. For example, the matzo recalls the unleavened bread the Israelites ate in their flight from Egypt. The roasted shank bone is a reminder of the sacrificial lamb offered to God at Passover.
"The story of the Exodus from Egypt is particularly important because that is when the Jewish people became a nation," said Rabbi Elazar Green of the Chabad Jewish Enrichment Center of Lancaster and York. "We're commanded in the Torah to celebrate and retell the story of the Exodus every year."
Sprenkle acknowledged that some Jews might be turned off by the idea of a Christian seder but said it could at least start a conversation about the differences between the faiths.
"In many ways, every religion is offensive to someone else," he said. "That won't stop me from trying to share with them something that they might not have seen before."
For decades, Catholics, Presbyterians and other churches have held seders as a tool of interfaith dialogue.
"Those intentions were noble at first and continue to be if they were inviting a rabbi or other knowledgable Jew to explain a Jewish practice, for example," said Leighton, a Presbyterian minister.
"It becomes an altogether different phenomenon when the purpose is not to understand or appreciate our Jewish neighbors better, but to say 'We really know what's going on in the ritual or practice, and Jews would, too, if they only understood the symbolism is pointing to (Jesus).'"
Astrachan of Temple Beth Israel noted that Passover is a celebration of freedom.
"As Jews the world-over recall the freedoms granted them by God, let us also pray for the freedom to be true to our own religious beliefs, free from the desires and wishes of those who can't seem to leave others alone," he said.
Messianic Jews believe that Jesus is the messiah and savior of the world.
They are active in groups such as Jews for Jesus and the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, which is headquartered in Springfield, Delaware County, and is a network of synagogues that proclaim faith in Yeshua (Jesus of Nazareth) while maintaining their Jewish identity.
The synagogues are not recognized as Jewish by mainstream Jewish bodies -- many of whom consider Messianic Judaism deceptive and do not want such converts to call themselves Jews.
Messianic Jews generally teach that God is a compound entity that exists in three forms (father, son and Holy Spirit).
They also believe in God's eternal covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and so follow the traditional Jewish calendar and religious observances (as Jesus did).
I personally see no reason to “update” or change the traditional Jewish seder meal.
After all, Jesus himself had it as his last meal.
Well, Jesus did add a little something to the end of it.
He revealed at that last passover that the meal was actually about HIM ...It was a celebration of the passover, and He was the true passover lamb
So, if Christ show Christina the meaning behind the meal in regards to the New Covenant, I don't think that it is an issue for Christians to celebrate the Seder in this fashion.
Christina = Christian. Sorry, I need another cup of coffee, and the spell check did not catch this. :-O
Our church routinely does a seder dinner. And it was led by our Jewish pastor.
The entire original Jewish Seder has a lot to teach anyone.
Passover is the original Emancipation of man by G-d.
I believe it is the first event and G-dly directive that governments may not enslave mankind, that we are obligated to resist enslavement, that the natural G-d given right is to be free.
Christians would do well to merely repeat perfectly the story of Exodus, and join Jews in celebrating G-d’s gift of freedom from oppression.
Jesus need not be involved. He wasn’t around yet.
If they are so against the Christian seder, why don’t they invite Christians to a traditional seder?
Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I AM".
Agreed. I attended a Jewish Seder last year and didn’t find anything that ‘offended’ my Catholic faith.
Why would any Jews be outraged by Christian seders?
Maybe it’ll embarrass my liberal Obama loving compatriots to actually finish the second half
I have celebrated seder for a few years now.....
I HIGHLY recommend anyone having the chance to experience a seder to do so...
it is a profound and moving experience, let alone the knowledge and history....
I better understand the how precious it is to be adopted or grafted into God’s family through Jesus...
I have a richer and deeper appreciation for the Jewish people and their faith....
Their history is MY Family history....
Thank you Jesus for your great sacrifice....
I hate it when that happens.
To my Jewish friends I say: Have a Good Passover.
There is an empty place set with a glass of wine at Hebrerw Seder meals. It is reserved for Elijah ... who traditions says will come to usher in the messianic age.
When the NT says:
Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
he took THE cup.
So why doesn't he? Leave these supposed "fringe groups" alone, that is.
It was not my intention to post something to create contention. I had never heard before that Jews dissaproved of this sort of thing. Although the article seems to imply that they are more upset with the Messianics than with the Christians.
He most certainly was. Christ was around in the first sentence of Genesis which talks about him creating the world. The whole point of the Exodus was to foreshadow Christ's future deliverance of his people from the slavery of sin and reunification of them with the father. Every event and ritual in the Torah is all about Christ.
Yes, behold the LAMB OF GOD.
Catholics call this “Christian seder” the Eucharist, the body of Christ, celebrated at every Mass.
So if this practice among some Christians is offensive to the Jewish people, are they offended by our Mass as well?
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