Saturday, April 4, 2015

My Passover (Pesach) in Jerusalem

Some of you know that I am currently enjoying the gift of a Sabbatical from my work at PORTICO Community Church, something for which I will be eternally grateful.

On the tail end of a tour to the Holy Land that my wife and I co-hosted together with Pastor Doug and Laura Rhind, I have stayed on my own in Jerusalem for a couple of weeks to experience this city in a little more authentic way.

When our tour guide, Rachel, heard that I was staying on in Jerusalem, she kindly invited me to join her and her family for their traditional Jewish Seder, the beginning of the celebration of Pesach. I accepted.

So, on Friday when all of my family were at home celebrating Good Friday together, Rachel's son Doron picked me up around 6pm to go to their house in the suburbs outside Jerusalem. It was about a 25 minute drive or so.

Rachel's family was very warm and welcoming. And I was not the only guest. One of Doron's friends from work in Tel Aviv was there, Kevin, as well as two friends of her daughter Daphne from the boarding school where she is a soldier/teacher. It is the Jewish way to invite those in who have no other place to go for the holiday. We could maybe learn something.

I also met Rachel's husband Shimon along with his father whose name I can't remember, and their oldest daughter Norah who is home for holiday from medical school in Budapest.

We visited some and then went to the table. Before eating, the Haggadah is read together, which means 'the telling' and is the oral tradition of the 'pesach' or passover. There are toasts and blessings and songs to sing. This family is not a very religious or orthodox Jewish family, so for them the fun is in the keeping of the tradition and in being together. I need not have worried about having the Seder with them or making a mistake. The atmosphere was celebratory and everyone, including Shimon, who was leading the family in the Seder, was having a lot of fun with it. After the initial readings of the Haggadah, which took about an hour, came the food.

And there was lots of it. First the gefilte fish appetizer. Then came the chicken soup with matzoh balls. And then the main courses—roast beef, roast chicken, an array of salads and vegetables and pickled dishes—and it was all very good.

Then, more reading and boisterous singing from the Haggadah, and afterwards, dessert.

It was a wonderful evening and very nice to be with people for a change. I've been by myself since Sharon and the last of the PORTICO group left and this social interaction was a welcome change.

I feel enlightened and enriched by the experience. I am so impressed by a culture that does not forget their roots, where they came from and how they got here. The Jewish faith is based on God's story - God's story is their story. And each year at Pesach they remember. They remember what God did for them when they left Egypt, and how He delivered them and brought them through. I have deep respect for that.

I was consumed that evening with thoughts of how closely our faiths are aligned. The texts that we read together from the Haggadah are stories I have preached and taught for many years. But my thoughts of Pesach, or Passover, extend beyond their deliverance and exodus out of Egypt, to my deliverance from sin and death through the sacrifice of Jesus, the Passover Lamb who was slain on Calvary. I believe all of it points to Him and his once and for all sacrifice and His Resurrection from the dead that gives me eternal life!

Faiths closely aligned, yet far apart. I believe that Jewish people likely make some of the best Christians because when they finally get it, they really get it. They understand how it all works together, how that God orchestrated it all from the beginning to point to Jesus.

So, I pray. I pray for the peace of Jerusalem. And I pray for the Jewish people to come to faith in Yeshua, their true Messiah.

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