On this Easter weekend, I want to honor the Jewish roots of Christianity by telling you about a wonderful seder meal that took place this past Tuesday evening in the building that houses my congregation, Second Presbyterian Church.
The leaders of Temple Israel of Greater Kansas City asked if the synagogue could hold its annual Passover, or Pesach, meal in our building, and we were happy to oblige.
Indeed, the T.I. congregation invited members of our Session, or board of ruling elders, and eight or 10 of our folks showed up to share in the meal and liturgy (called the Haggadah), as did our pastor, Dr. Paul T. Rock.
The seder meal's symbolism and ritual recalls the story told in the book of Exodus about how God freed the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. But it also focuses on the broader theme of freedom and takes note of the fact that there are many people on the planet even today who are not free.
The opening word, led by Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn (seen standing in the top photo), put it this way:
"Tonight we celebrate their freedom (the ancient Israelites) and ours. But we also remember all those of our generation who are not yet free. May this seder kindle in us the zeal to work for the freedom of all. May this seder inspire us to light the torch of freedom for all the world."
No doubt some of us Christians in attendance thought then of the first verse of the fifth chapter of the Apostle Paul's letters to the Galatians: "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."
The yoke of slavery need not refer to being in the kind of slavery system that entrapped the Hebrew people in Egypt and black people in the United States. It also can refer to all the idols that worm their way into our lives -- from wealth to power to reputation.
And, in fact, the seder liturgy referred to that as well this way:
"Idolatry has taken a different form in every age. In our own time, we have witnessed the results of idolatry when people place complete, unquestioning faith in someone or something other than God."
So as those of us who are Christian celebrate Christ's resurrection this Easter weekend and the meaning of our declaration that Jesus is Lord, let us give thanks for our Jewish heritage and remember all the ways in which Christians and Jews stand on common ground.
(The photo on the right above shows some of the T.I. children singing part of the seder liturgy.)
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TOO MUCH LOVE AND HUMILITY?
When Pope Francis I washed the feet of prisoners, including two women and two Muslims, the other day, much of the world expressed its admiration for his act of humility and love. But not all. As you can see at this traditionalist Catholic site, some people think the pope is breaking lots of good rules and running amok. As a non-Catholic, I'm with the pope on this one.
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P.S.: Again this year, through the AIDS Ministry of my church, Second Presbyterian of Kansas City, I'll be participating in the annual AIDSWalk KC. Please help me by making a pledge at this online site. Lots of folks are depending on your help for the AIDS Service Foundation of KC, which supports the work of several AIDS organizations in our region. In fact, after you pledge, make a note to come walk with us the morning of Saturday, April 27, starting at Theiss Memorial Park across from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Folks from my congregation this year will be joining up to walk with representatives of Hope Care Center, a 24-hour skilled nursing facility that my church helped start in 1996.