According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Monday, May 5, 2014

Tony Jones - Five Reasons You Probably Shouldn’t Attend a Christian Seder

Five Reasons You Probably Shouldn’t Attend a Christian Seder

by Tony Jones
April 15, 2014

The Seder plate at Rabbi Joseph Edelheit’s home, including oranges, olives, and tomatoes.

It’s Passover until this evening, and lots of Christians — especially evangelicals — are attending Passover Seder dinners. But they’re not traditional Seder dinners, with Jews. No, they’re a co-opted rite, sometimes hosted by a “messianic” Jew, and sometimes just by Christians who’ve read a Wikipedia entry.

I’ve been to a Seder for the past couple years. My family and I have been hosted by Rabbi Joseph Edelheit, a sometime contributor to this blog, and a dear friend. In his role as director of the religious studies program at St. Cloud State University, Joseph has hosted Seder dinners for Christian students — at the Lutheran campus ministry for instance — but the difference is that he’s really Jewish. He’s a rabbi. He’s not play-acting. This is really his thing.

Many Christians, particularly evangelicals, are drawn to primitive Christianity. They want to follow Jesus like those first Christians did, before Constantine and Charlemagne mucked everything up with Christendom. I personally think that’s a noble goal, and I’m not totally averse to it. However, having a Seder meal at your church or Christian college is not the way to do here. Here’s why:

1) We know very little about Jesus’ Passover meal. The Gospels themselves equivocate on the meal — either it took place on Passover, or on the night before Passover. In the Synoptics (and Paul), there is bread and wine, but in John only a cup into which both Judas and Jesus dipped their hands. Bread and wine, blessed and passed, was common for any Sabbath meal with family or friends. The Passover meal in the first century surely featured meat, but there’s no mention of that in the Gospels or Paul.

2) The Seder meal as we know it developed well after Jesus lived. Before 70 CE, Passover was a festival celebrated by going to Jerusalem, to the temple. That’s why Jesus and the disciples went there. It wasn’t until after the temple was razed that modern, rabbinic Judaism was born, and along with it the practices and rites we know now as synagogue worship and home-based practices like the Seder dinner. In other words, Jesus didn’t eat horseradish or sip salt water.

3) Early Christian eucharistic meals were not patterned after the Seder, but after the Greco-Roman symposium meal. At a symposium, family and friends would gather for a meal to discuss philosophy, the gods, government, and the like. Social distinctions were temporarily ignored; men and women ate together. The eucharistic meal in the early church took this concept and amplified it, even allowing slaves to join the company.

A funeral banquet

4) The early church often met for eucharist in cemeteries. In the Roman world, friends and relatives of a deceased person would meet at the person’s grace in the necropolis on the 3rd and 30th day after death and have a feast on the sarcophagus. The party was called a refrigerium, meaning “refreshment” for the dead, and the top of the sarcophagus even had a hole to pore food and wine into the casket.

Early Christians, often persecuted for gathering together, took up this practice because Roman officials had so much respect for the dead that the church could meet unmolested in the cemetery. So successful was this rite, that Christians began celebrating the anniversaries of martyrs by meeting at their graves and having an all-night party — one of the only times when women were allowed to be out past dark in the ancient world. The practice was still common in the late 4th century, so much that both Ambrose and Augustine preached against it, but to no avail.

5) How would you feel if a rabbi or imam performed a mock baptism? That’d be pretty weird, right? That’s pretty much how it is when Christians take a practice that is central to Judaism and attempt to recreate it with Christian meaning. Virtually every Jew I’ve ever asked about this finds the practice offensive.

So, if you want to recreate an early church practice, pack a lunch and bottle of wine and go have a party in a cemetery. Or hold a Greek symposium, inviting people who come from different races and classes than you. That’d be a great way to be true to the early church, without stepping on the practice of another religion.

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