Wednesday, April 1

Celebrating Passover

As many are preparing for Easter, I am preparing for Passover and the following Feast of Unleavened Bread.  I sit down with a book that's been on my shelf for years- called God's Appointed Times: A Practical Guide for Understanding and Celebrating the Biblical Holidays.  I'm beginning to make a grocery list for making the special meal this Saturday night: lamb shank, horseradish, parsley, apples, raisins, Matzah, grape juice, wine... I also open a Word document with a script for the meal that we put together last year.  Last year- that was a good one.  We had the Passover meal with our family, and then we had friends over on Easter and read some scripture as we remembered the resurrection (and recognized the Feast of First Fruits) and... Kenny went to the emergency room.  He was moving a broken sink and cut his leg on the broken ceramic.  A few hours and a few stitches later, our celebration was back on. 

If you've never celebrated any of the Jewish feasts or weekly Sabbath, I cannot put into words how valuable this has been for our family.  Every feast points to Jesus, and makes the Old Testament come to life in a very practical way.  The ritual and tradition will be hallmarks in our children's lives, and each meal brings a special reflection and experience to bring our focus on God.  We are still learning how to put on this meal, and each year gets better and easier.  One thing that has been helpful for me in a world of Google is to look at the scripture to see how to celebrate this feast.  Looking in the Old and New Testament, I see just a few simple things.  (See Exodus 12, Leviticus 23:5-8, and Matthew 26:17-30)
  1. Remove all things with yeast in your home (bread, yeast in the cupboard, boxed food with yeast, etc)
  2. Share the story of the Passover and Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt
  3. Eat three things: roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs.
  4. Eat unleaved bread for 7 days following Passover
  5. Do not work on the first and last day, and recognize the first and last day in the feast
  6. Break bread, eat,  and remember Jesus' broken body for us
  7. Drink wine (or juice) and remember Jesus' shed blood us
Now, if you google Messianic Jewish Passover (or Seder), it can be boggling (or goggling- get it?! boggle + google) with things that have been added by Rabbis over the years.  Now, some of this is really neat and meaningful, but some of it will only serve to distract from the main idea of the night.  So add to this basic list as you feel comfortable, but know that you're not going to mess it up, God does not require you to do this to get more love or favor from Him, and that the main thing is to focus on Jesus.  For example, the first year we did this, I was looking for yeast in my cabinets and found little packages hiding in a basket.  It was a neat picture for me of letting God search my heart for sin.  The next year I was on Google, and found out some people remove all baking soda and powder from their homes because it is a leavening agent like yeast, and then I was on the hunt for more things I may have done "wrong" the previous year.  This searching for how other people did Passover went on and on until I totally lost my focus.  Type A's like me- do not let yourself turn this into a rule list that stresses you out like I did! Note: you can remove all leaven from your home, it may become really meaningful to have NO cookies or anything with any leaven whatsoever- like a yearly fast of sorts. But Exodus 12 says several times "bread made without yeast" and it's to remember how they didn't have time to let their bread rise in their haste to leave Egypt.  We are simple people and we are just leaving it at that.

I have put a link to a script that Kenny and I pieced together to use with a few families gathered together this Saturday night.  There are some traditions we like and have incorporated into our meal. We will let the children find a few pieces of bread hid around the room, let them ask four central questions, talk about symbolism seen in each element, and eat our meal on the ground. You can view the script here

So what about a big Easter meal? I do not want to make two big meals, but Easter is special too.  This day is the fulfillment of the Feast of First Fruits (or Harvest), and as a person who does not literally offer up the first of my grain harvest, I thought about what food I would buy that shows the first of the harvest.  I thought about strawberries and how they are just appearing in the store with seasonal prices.  So, I will find a nice recipe for Strawberry Cake to serve on Sunday in lieu of a big Easter meal.  We will read 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 and talk about how Jesus was raised from the dead and everyone who belongs to Him will be given new life.  At the center of it all, that's the central thought to guide us all during this special time.  Praise to God for just being close to us, pursuing us, revealing himself to us through the Bible and rituals like Passover.  Praise to God for redeeming us, and loving us more than we will ever comprehend.

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