By Christine Darg
This is a follow-up to my recent opinion piece decrying an American bishop’s ban on Christian Passover seders. The bishop claimed he was responding to rabbis who label Christian seders as cultural misappropriation.
In my previous article, I mentioned that the bishop’s ban is an irony of ironies because the Last Supper of Jesus was actually his Last Seder and therefore to understand our Judeo-Christian faith, Christians must understand the elements on the seder table and the Exodus back story.
Among the feedback to my article was a long email from a woman minister, the Rev. Charity Dell, in the USA who claims that Christian Passover celebrations have become so common that the nay-sayers cannot stop the momentum. In fact, Christian Passover celebrations are not a “trendy fad” but have become a staple feature of thousands of fellowships not only in North America but world-wide.
Charity wrote, “God has moved people in Christendom to return to the Jewish roots of the church, and this has mostly proven beneficial for the Body of Christ. For the last 50 years, this Passover phenomenon has continued to accelerate at a fast pace, and it was helped by the COVID pandemic! The lock-downs in various countries forced the Passover Seder back into its original Exodus setting–the home. Churches, fellowships, synagogues and organizations had to forego public settings, as worshipers had to prepare the Passover for small home groups. After the lockdown of 2020–2021, Passover bounced back that much harder, as groups could now celebrate in public settings. This was divinely ordained.” She believes no clergy can stop this movement.
“The very fact that there are more ‘complaint articles’ being written means that Passover is a resounding success as a Holy Week staple, and those who are just now finding out that Christians are ‘doing Passover’ are upset about its popularity among Christians,” Charity stated, adding that a Passover seder is one worship service that cannot be controlled by clergy, because it was meant to be celebrated in one’s own home:
“I noticed that all these clerics–Jewish and Christian–are trying to ‘regulate it’ and exert ecclesiastical dominance over its observance,” wrote Charity, who is the festival leader in her church for Palm Sunday/Passover; Shavuot/Pentecost; and Tabernacles/Sukkot.
Furthermore, the charge of “cultural misappropriation” rests on the faulty assumption that Passover is something only Jews are supposed to observe. However, the Exodus account clearly depicts that “the God of the spirits of all flesh” (Numbers 27:16) was determined to deliver ALL the slaves of Egypt, both Jewish and Gentile slaves.
“We believers are guilty of not emphasizing the fact that God used Moses to bring about the redemption and deliverance of the ‘mixed multitude’ of Exodus 12: 38. . . . we fail to see the Exodus event as God’s judgment against a society built on the backs of countless slaves,” Charity said.
So a mixed multitude went out with the Israelites—literally, “a great rabble” (רב ערב). According to various Bible commentaries, this mixed multitude included other slaves, persons in the lowest grades of society, partly natives and partly foreigners, who were all companions in misery. They gladly availed themselves of the opportunity to escape in the crowd.
The Ten Plagues convinced the Egyptians and their slaves that Moses’s God was sovereign over nature. The mixed multitude got out of Egypt the same way the Hebrews did—by placing the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintels of their houses or by visiting the blood-sheltered Hebrew homes on that fateful night.
Charity Dell also opined, “The deliverance of the mixed multitude–men, women, youth, children–was no less miraculous than what the Hebrews experienced! A God Who liberates slaves can be trusted to liberate sinners from sin, death and destruction. And YES, all humans have the right to celebrate the holiday in which the God of the universe executed judgment against human degradation and slavery, which springs from ‘the love of money; the root of all evil.’” (I Timothy 6:10)
Charity has drawn much inspiration from African-American pastor Rev. Nicholas Hood III who has published a Passover liturgy entitled “African-American Passover Celebration: From Bondage to Freedom.”
She believes some of the Jewish objections to Christian seders spring from the fact that both Messianic and Christian Passover celebrations may skimp on the Exodus account, with too little discussion of justice, slavery and liberation motifs of the Exodus. If Christians would lay a more thorough foundation in the Exodus event, there would probably be less complaints about cultural misappropriation, according to Charity.
“Jews and African-Americans had–and still have—joint interfaith freedom seders. This started in 1969–you can see this on YouTube. I believe Christians need to spend more time on the Exodus account, including discussing the divine liberation of the non-covenanted Gentile slaves and God’s judgement on civilizations built on slavery.”
“There is no greater joy for me,” wrote Charity Dell, “than seeing little eyes (and older eyes!) light up when the worshiper first bites into that roasted lamb meat, and realizes that they are literally eating the Bible stories they have read and learned about! Because the seder is a multi-sensory event, the worshipper sees the food, hears the Bible narratives, smells all the food items, touches and tastes everything. I’ve watched children eating the matzah, chewing the parsley and some liked the horseradish! Most loved the charoset, which I place separately AFTER eating the maror, to get the full contrast of the bitterness of slavery and longing for the sweetness of freedom while making Pharaoh’s bricks. The Exodus and the Last Supper come alive and not only do we step back in time and enter Passover, the Passover enters us and begins to transform us. There is no lecture, demonstration or sermon that substitutes for this worship. . . . Once you’ve been ‘sederized,’ Holy Communion is never the same!”
Christine Darg is founder/presenter at JerusalemChannel.tv and can be contacted at [email protected]
Charity Dell’s email is [email protected]
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