12 March 2013

Seder As A Missional Meal

I can understand the curiosity and odd feelings Christians might have about the Seder.  I’ve been asked a few times over the years “Why do you have a Seder Dinner?”  In conversations with local pastors I've gotten statements like“We’re not Jewish so I don’t get it.” and “I thought we were free from rituals and tradition.” 

What is the Seder?
The Seder is a practice performed by a community involving a retelling of the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in ancient Egypt.  This story is in the Book of Exodus.  Seder itself is based on the Biblical verse commanding the “People of God” to retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt: "You shall tell your child on that day, saying, 'It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.'" (Exodus 13:8)  Traditionally, families and friends gather in the evening to read the text of the Haggadah.  The Haggadah contains the narrative of the Israelite exodus from Egypt, special blessings, rituals and special Passover songs. 

Our Story & the Israelite Story.
When you read the Old Testament from Genesis to Chronicles you’re left with a sense that the story is supposed to be going somewhere, but hasn’t gotten there yet.  It is an unfinished narrative.  You cannot understand the climax of the story if you do not enter into the longings and expectations accumulated by the Hebrew people.  This project initiated by God tells a story with tales of glorious beginnings, rich vocations and then horrible failure and exile.  Our current identity is birthed out of God’s invitation and commission to Israel.  What God does for them is what God is doing in relation to the whole world.  To be Israel was to be the people who, for better and worse, carried the destiny of the world on their shoulders (The New Testament and the People of God by N.T. Wright)Grasp that, and you have a pathway into the heart of the New Testament Jesus movement.

Jesus is the Answer to the Drama
This journey through the Old Covenant is the drama filled back-story to Jesus’ arrival.   God’s action in Jesus seems like a new thing but it is what He has always promised “The time is fulfilled” (Mark 1:15).  Jesus is the one who will rescue Israel from its long continued nightmare.   He is the one that will “rescue his people from their exile.” (Matthew 1:21).  Jesus is the jubilee that the Israelite body had been groaning for.  When most westerns read the gospels they imply that the back-story is “everyman” sinning and dying and needing salvation.  But if you don’t root the story in Abraham, Moses, David and the cry of the prophets you cannot appreciate the identity of Jesus and what He came to complete and subsequently launch.  The journey of Israel breaks wide open in Jesus.  The Messiah begins a movement that started with an ethnic people but will continue with “Jews, Gentiles, male and female.”

A Missional Community Experience
Seder is a fun, dynamic, interactive communal story that I’ve offered many times in the past to give people entry points for getting a glimpse of God’s heart of loving kindness. Seder reminds us that despite appearances God is good, present, coming, moving and making beautiful things out of seemingly stalled things.  God is committed to the renewal of all things despite the drama of partnering with real people.  It is also meal that gives space for sojourners and the disillusioned to eat with and among Jesus-followers as we together enjoy an interesting feast.  The Seder meal gives room for mystery, exploration, laughter and questions.  For Easter, consider the missional opportunity in the sensory space of the Seder banquet.  Using food our imaginations are engaged with the faithfulness of God in an unassuming fashion. Ultimately, the Seder Meal whispers to us “don’t forget you’re a part of something much bigger than yourself.”


  1. I've always been interested in the Seder. I remember celebrating it once in church as a child. A group Jewish Christians came and did everything and explained the significance of each item. I've wonder later in life as I've ready scripture if Jesus added the cup and the bread that Christians celebrate or if they were a cup and a food item that already existed. Is our Eucharist/communion something new to the meal or something that was revealed in Christ. Anyway, don't really have an basis for it except the text says he took "the" cup and "the" bread rather than he took "a" cup and bread. anyway! being adopted sons it's good for us to celebrate and have a rich understanding of our families heritage. it's our family even though not by birth.

  2. Adam,
    I have added the Eucharist to my presentation of the Seder dinner in the last few years, as well as an emphasis on the in-breaking Kingdom of God inaugurated by Jesus.