Last night at men’s Bible study, one of my friends ended his prayer by thanking God for this “first day after the resurrection of Christ.” I knew he was referring to Easter, but it caught me completely off guard. For my family, we had celebrated the resurrection of Christ a week ago.
There were no field of hidden pastel colored eggs. No waking up to milk-chocolate shaped rabbits tucked quietly away in baskets of artificial grass. We did not drop tablets of dye into miniature vats of vinegar to stain eggs. I did not force myself to watch Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ to the point of weeping alone, behind a closed, locked door. And for the first time in my life, at least as far as I can remember, I did not go to a church service on Easter.
Two years ago, we decided as a family that we would celebrate the holidays outlined in scripture, one of which was Passover. During the transition, we held onto our traditional celebrations and dabbled in the Jewish traditions surrounding those holidays.
This year we had the opportunity to celebrate Passover with a Hebrew Roots congregation. It changed us.
On Monday night, we gathered with strangers around tables, each plated with the traditional seder elements: parsley (karpas), a shank bone (zeroa), horseradish (maror) and a sweet apple dish whose name I can not pronounce, let alone remember. (Edit: It is called charoset). Among the seder dishes, were plates containing unleavened bread (matzah), small bowls of salt water, bottles of wine, and one cup for each participant.
At the beginning of the celebration, we were instructed to dip our karpas in the salt water and eat them. This was to remind us of the tears shed by our ancestors while they were in slavery. Next, we examined the matzah and read the commandment where God instructed the Israelites to eat with their shoes on, and not to wait for leaven bread. He was going to rescue them and they needed to be ready. Interestingly enough, there are stripes and holes along the matzah to prevent it from rising. These attributes, for us Christians, was a reflection of Christ and what he endured on the cross.
After examining the matzah, we were instructed to dip it in horseradish and eat. A bitter reminder of slavery caused by sin & disobedience to God. We dipped it a second time in the maror, but before eating it, dipped it in the apple dish. This symbolized the sweetness of God’s presence, covering our sins.
Wine was poured 4 times followed by the reciting of Exodus 6:6-7, where in God promised to take Israel out, rescue them, redeem them, and make them his own people.
As we recounted the Passover story in Exodus, we cited a blessing after each plague. That blessing is called teh Deyenu:
O Lord Our God, may this be sufficient enough to turn us from our wicked ways.
By the 3rd plague, I realized what I was saying. By the 5th plague, I took note of my stubbornness, the wickedness that infected me through my deliberate choice to participate in sin. By the 7th plague, I was ready to weep, feeling unworthy to be in the presence of Christ. The plagues were not enough and it ultimate cost Christ his life.
There was really no theological difference between hearing a traditional Easter sermon and participating in the Passover seder. It was, however, a more tangible way, to reflect on my faith. The celebration seemed to solidify my understanding of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:7
Clean out the old leaven that you be be a new lump, as you are really unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
We walked away changed, stunned by the weight of each element’s significance. Convicted, we decided we could never again associate colored eggs and cheap candy with the weight of the Cross. The family egg hunts, the parties, the opening of Easter baskets..they all lost their significance over night.