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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Night at the Jewish Temple

Displaying IMG_5499.jpg Last night I was at Temple Israel in Omaha for its Family Seder meal. When I was first invited a month or so ago I had little intention of attending. A Seder meal commemorates Jewish liberty from slavery, and it is the last meal Jesus of Nazareth had before he died. What this means for a Christian pastor is that Passover, and the Haggadah, occur during the busiest of weeks for us. So, although I appreciate the seders I have been to over the years, they are not usually convenient...which is the point.

However, when that crazy guy down in Kansas City on Sunday tried to shoot up the Jews down there, (he tragically killed three people, none of whom were Jewish.) I made it a point to rearrange my schedule to be there. My Hebrew professor, himself forced to leave Germany during World War II because of his Jewish ancestors, once told me, "I will become Jewish if the world takes the last one." I'm in that mindset too. Because my wife is famous, we were sat at a front table with the oldest person at the meal. This is were the story starts...

You see, a seder is not convenient. It's not suppose to be. It remembers a time when people, mired in centuries of slavery, escaped at the spur of moment, so quickly that they didn't have time to let their bread rise. (This is where the matzoh comes from, the ubiquitous cracker-like bread.)  So although this seder was not convenient for me, I figured it was not too convenient for the folks that I'm remembering, so I went.

And the meal was not convenient for the elderly gentleman at the table with me either. He was a World War II veteran (think about that for a moment...got it? Yeah. This meal was clearly more than just something to do. He once risked his life in war so he could celebrate a seder.) As we sang the songs, and prayed the prayers, and heard the story, and ate the food at many times he was overwhelmed with emotion. How could he not be? His son and daughter-in-law were there, but what about all his Jewish family that had died over his lifetime? What about all the "slaveries" that bound his heart, his mind, and his soul. Although he was still in good health, his sight and hearing unimpaired, as they said of Moses on Nebo, the tears were real for this gentleman. But they were not convenient...

Now, the story of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt is not the primary story I have for God. Mine involves a Jew, who blessed us with his Spirit, who died on a cross so that we are free eternally, beyond even the exodus from Egypt. We are free to do the scary stuff of life, like love our enemies, trust our friends, and weep with strangers. I realized, about half-way through the meal (and its 2 hours), that were I to die there...well, my daughters would be able to say their dad died in the presence of the God who was good enough for Jesus of Nazareth. And I hope good enough for us all.

May your tables be full, and your conversations be true.

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