I know it is frowned upon in many circles today. But, this evening, as we have for at least thirty years, the community in which I serve will observe a Seder Supper.

Here is my understanding of why this feels like a legitimate practice for Christians:

Seder is a Jewish ritual meal observed every year most often in family units by Jewish believers at the time of Passover. It follows the Haggadah which is an outline for ritually observing the instruction given to Moses in Exodus 13:8 that “You shall tell your child on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’”

The celebration of Seder by Christians is in no way intended to be disrespectful to the Jewish people among whom this ritual has its origins and to whom it uniquely belongs.

When, as Christian we celebrate Seder, we are not pretending to be Jews. We are also not suggesting that the events of the Passover and Exodus of the Hebrew people simply point forward to their fulfillment in the coming of Jesus, as if the events in the history of the Hebrew people were lacking something in their original meaning and purpose. Christians believe that God is truly and deeply revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the stories that tell the history of the Jews.

When we celebrate Seder, just as when we read the Old Testament, we seek to honour the deep and rich heritage of our roots in Jewish faith and tradition. The first Christians all came from Jewish origins. The early church was shaped by the culture, liturgy, theology, and spirituality of Judaism.

Christianity was born in the Jewish faith. It is impossible to enter deeply into the spirit of Christianity without having some awareness of the Jewish soil out of which Christian faith was born and in which it was first nurtured.

Jesus was a devout Jew throughout his life. Although he would never have celebrated Seder as it is now observed (Seder evolved into its current form between the destruction of the temple in 70 CE and the thirteenth century CE), Jesus certainly would have observed Passover and heard and told the stories of the Hebrew peoples’ liberation from slavery in Egypt.

The words and symbols used in Seder tell a universal story of bondage and freedom.  They tell of the reality that we often find ourselves feeling lost and cut off from the wisdom and light of God, but that no one has ever been forsaken by God.  The Seder speaks of God’s abundant provision for all people in times of need and struggle. The Seder story points to the reality of sorrow and the abiding promise of new life born even in the wilderness periods of our lives.

Seder speaks of truths we all share regardless of how we express them in our particular tradition. In Seder we celebrate the enduring power of life and the steady faithfulness of God’s mercy.  We hold these deep convictions in common with our Jewish brothers and sisters and with people of all faiths.

As Christians we see these themes embodied in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Our unique celebration of these great truths is the supper Jesus left his followers during the last Passover he shared with them just before his death.

Seder is not Eucharist. But for Christians, Seder points to the root out of which the meal we share at the table of Christ emerged and reminds us of the gratitude and respect we owe to the Jewish forbearers of our faith.

In a world so often tragically divided a ritual that can be shared across faith traditions is a great gift and sign of hope and peace for all people.