Yesterday our Jewish friends celebrated Passover. The Passover meal or Seder is an ancient celebration, remembering the escape of the Hebrew people from Egyptian slavery. Once the Hebrew people had safely made it across the Red Sea, away from the threat of the Egyptian armies, God instructs them to remember that night annually, when they gather to celebrate the Passover Seder. God instructs them to remember God’s mercy and grace and power, when confronted with those forces which would oppose God. The meal is called “seder” which means “order”, as in “the order of worship.” Perhaps order in the midst of chaos as well? Through the generations, the central feature of the entire Passover celebration has been this common meal, eaten by all the members of the family at the first full moon of spring. This meal was essentially a rite of family reunion, not only with the members of the family, but with the Jewish people as a whole (past, present and future), and even more importantly, with God.
Jesus was a Jew, so he gathered on the Thursday before his crucifixion to celebrate the Passover Seder with his disciples in Jerusalem. At the end of the meal, he took the bread and the cup and instituted what we celebrate as the Lord’s Supper. Our celebration of the Lord’s Supper has its roots in the Passover and the symbolism of the bread and the cup, in addition to our understanding of it being symbolic of the body and blood of Christ broken and shed for us, reminds us of God’s providential care as we wander in the wilderness, just as our Israelite ancestors did before us.
One of my favorite parts of the Passover Seder is the Prayer which is called “Dayenu”, meaning “it would have sufficed.” The prayer recounts all the ways in which the Jewish people have experienced God’s saving grace throughout the generations. No matter what present situation the people of God were living through, they were called to remember God’s salvation in the midst of that tribulation. In the recounting, the power of God once again becomes a present reality.
The celebration of the Passover, as families reunite and gather around the table to remember God’s goodness and grace, reminds me a bit of our family Thanksgiving celebrations. We always gathered at our family home in the North Georgia mountains. Before the blessing, my mother always insisted that we go around the table and share what we were thankful for, and there was no repeating what had been said previously.
Perhaps it would be good for us to practice our own prayer – the Dayenu – recounting all the ways in which God has provided for us in our individual lives, in our life as a church and community, and as a country. All the ways in which we have experienced God’s saving grace. And in the recounting/remembering it will become a present reality as we begin to look to the future.
Maybe this will be a time not just for survival – but a time of renewal and revival.
Reverend debbie osterhoudt
I am very excited to join in the ministry at Peace Presbyterian Church as interim pastor! I graduated from Vanderbilt University and received my Master of Divinity from Columbia Seminary in Decatur, GA. Before serving at Peace Presbyterian, I served in Triangle area churches as pastor, associate pastor and interim pastor for 33 years. I have a passion for my ministry and study, travel, walking, sailing (which I learned from my father) and gardening.