Spring—warm weather, daffodils, green grass, bright colors, blue skies and the promise of new life as the earth awakens from its long winter sleep. But wait? There’s no winter here, so how can you celebrate spring? We don’t celebrate spring but rather we have found a new tradition that helps remind us of who we really are and what we have in a much larger context.
One of the most important celebrations for the Jewish people is the Passover, beginning with the Passover Seder (ritual feast) on the first of the seven days of Passover. The ritual meal is a retelling of the Israelites leaving Egypt through God’s divine intervention. A special plate is prepared with very specific foods, each representing a part of the story of the exodus. A leader guides the retelling with specific prayers, explanations and questions according to an ancient script. Its purpose was to bind the community together in their common heritage while also instructing the next generation. The Passover Seder was the last meal Jesus ate with his disciples which has become known among Christians as the Last Supper.
Three years ago we were in Mombasa for Serge’s East Africa retreat over the time of Easter. Our leaders hosted a Messianic Passover Seder on the beach. For in the same way Jews are united in their heritage and community through the Seder, the Passover testifies to Christians of its fulfillment in Jesus. He became the sacrificial lamb that won our liberation from sin and death. It was a rich and meaningful experience; drawing a line of continuity spanning four thousand years of history and pointing to the promise of the great feast in heaven which Jesus alluded to at his last supper.
Each family received the booklet that was used for this Messianic Passover Seder so last year we decided to do it again with some of our fellow Christian believers here in Bujumbura. Dear friends, with a large table that could accommodate all of us, volunteer to host. Many had never been a part of a Seder before so it was a new experience.
Of the ten people gathered with us last year only one other couple still lives here, so this year we hosted and invited some new arrivals to Bujumbura. Again, many had never been a part of a Seder, which meant a lot of trust, or risk, to be willing to come and participate when they didn’t know what they were in for (eating bitter herbs!). We all agreed it gave us an appreciation for the heritage of our faith and a renewed assurance, especially as we represented a microcosm of different tribes, tongues and nations. We represented three races, born on four continents.
Having participated in a Messianic Seder three years in a row, I very much want it to become a part of our annual Easter observances. Did it take moving overseas to open me to this new tradition or was it just a fortunate side benefit of new opportunities? Whichever is not important, what matters is to experience the fuller awareness of being part of the people of God across history, ages and cultures, as we look to the promise of one day feasting with Jesus.