Tuesday 26 March 2013

On Celebrating Pesach with the glory

from the blogpost by Velveteen Rabbi - Rachel Barenblatt
I always get caught up in the details of Pesach. The recipes, the matzah balls, the groceries, the cooking, the haggadah, the psalms, the songs. I always want to create a perfectly meaningful seder: for myself, for my family, for my guests. I love this holiday so fiercely that I want to share that love with everyone. I want everyone to come away from the table feeling nourished in all four worlds of body, heart, mind, and soul. I want to experience the spiritual peak of being magically swept up to the top of the mountain with God at Pesach -- so that as I begin the long climb back up to the spiritual heights of Shavuot, I'm inspired and enlivened by knowing just what joys await me once I get there again.

In my haggadah there is a poem by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, who is now a friend and colleague but who was known to me only by reputation when I first discovered her work many years ago. That poem speaks of the process of bedikat chametz, removing the leaven from our homes on the eve of Pesach. (Here's a short ritual for bedikat chametz, which also includes that poem: BedikatChametz.pdf) After we read that poem, at my seder, we sometimes go around the table and share an emotional or internal hametz which we want to relinquish as Pesach begins. Often, what I need to relinquish is my fantasy of the perfect seder -- my fantasy that I can create an experience which will sweep everyone up into ecstasy, which will wholly connect all who are present with our ancestors and our community and our God. 
I want to experience the spiritual peak of being magically swept up to the top of the mountain with God at Pesach -- so that as I begin the long climb back up to the spiritual heights of Shavuot, I'm inspired and enlivened by knowing just what joys await me once I get there again. 

 This yearning for seder perfection, bumping up against the inevitable realities of the world's natural imperfection, is something I've wrestled with for years. And it is, if anything, even more true now that we are parents. I want to create the perfect seder -- and I know the odds are good that at some point during the evening, our three-year-old will have an entirely age-appropriate tantrum because his usual routines are disrupted, or because we won't let him watch cartoons during the seder, or because he's overstimulated and up too late. I want to create the perfect seder -- and I know that there is no such thing; that the childhood seders I've enshrined in memory weren't perfect; that even if I could fill my table with scholars and sages who love the tradition even more than I do, the seder wouldn't achieve perfection.
Far better to learn to find the perfection in what is, instead of wishing for a kind of perfection we can never attain. The seder isn't just about doing, although there are certainly a lot of things to do in order for the evening to be complete. (The fifteen steps from kadesh to nirtzah, the songs and prayers and psalms, the food rituals of hardboiled egg and matzah ball soup...) The seder is also about being. It's a chance to experience being free. To be in the moment, to be with friends and family, to be blessed by the light of the full moon of Nisan in 5773 which will never shine again after this night. It's a chance to be joyful even when the glass breaks, or the kugel burns, or the children don't pay attention. After all the flurry of work and preparations -- cleaning, cooking, studying, readying -- it's a chance to just be.
Chag Pesach sameach to one and all. May this holiday be whatever you need it to be.

Celebrating Pesach together doesn't get any easier in Christ either. But at this stage, periodically we hit a zapper of a seder. I think once Jews fully "get it" and Christians fully "get what it was" we'll probably continually have fantastic seders from thereon in. Each without the other is currently incomplete. A bit like the two loaves at Pentecost. Not only Israel and Judah were divided, like two original denominations or something, but Jews and Christians have been two divided houses around the same table, around the same God.

All we ever need to know about the "code" that unlocks everything are in the two passages...the original in Exodus 12 which describes the first flight from Egypt, and the second which is in the New Testament chapters John 13 through 17, and in particular John 15 to 17.

At the moment Jews are afraid to look into the second sequence because they think in terms of an angry God....if they get that far....usually long before that they have dismissed the Christian's God as another God entirely anyway and therefore pitched the necessity of ever looking into it.

If you speak to your average Jew on the street, it hasn't occurred to them that each and every one of the first ever disciples of Jesus IS EXACTLY THE SAME as everyone else at the second main Pesach. The Pesach that was really what the first Pesach was the mirror of.  What do I mean?
Everybody. I mean everybody....except perhaps Jesus mother and John....upped and walked out on Jesus as he was condemned to death.If the whole thing had been staged in England now. Or the USA now. Or Russia now. The same thing would have happened. If God had chosen China to be the sovereign country carrying His Name in all the earth, then Jesus Himself as God the son had been Chinese....the Chinese would have been just the same.
Isaiah 53 and psalm 22 indicate that there was nothing different about the man Jesus. He just looked normal. He didn't look like Robert Redford or Brad Pitt.

Whichever nation God had chosen, and had they been expecting a Messiah, there is no possible way for anyone to make the leap of the imagination required from whatever a "Messiah" should look like and then how Jesus "looked". Which was pretty much as your next rabbi.  And nobody aligned the suffering servant figure of Isaiah 53 with Jesus, and the concept of a Messiah. And Jews still don't. And secular people don't either.

But in the first church, every single leader had to face the fact that he had walked away from Jesus at precisely that time. That they hadn't done a thing to stop it all. Peter did initially. With a sword. Because Jesus was messing with his idea of a freedomfighter Messiah. But later, as Darkness squashed in....(much the same as later in Nazi Germany...when the lights went out of that once Christian nation) even Peter just tossed it all away. "Me...I never knew the guy". And he became the leader of the first church of Jesus Christ.

So we see that God is not an angry God. He was fully cognizant from the beginning that this would happen. He had to use a nation to demonstrate it. In the end it was Israel. But some nation somewhere had to be chosen to demonstrate the utter uselessness of religion to ever be up to the task of recognising a God who refers to Himself in the Old Testament scriptures in these words...

'Behold it says of me in the Book...."I come to do thy will....a body thou hast prepared for me".'
And David making a Trinity reference, well, Father to Son conversation..."The Lord said to my Lord..."

Every year the Pesach had been celebrated the same.
Every year Jesus had celebrated the Pesach in the same way with His disciples.
But the third year He changed the words. The disciples didn't really pick it up, but they remembered later.
This one time Jesus said...of the bread as He picked it up...This is My Body and of the cup...This is my Blood. Eat and drink of them.

And that was it.......
 Within hours and precisely coincident with the Pesach as celebrated as usual that year, that was Jesus killed as the Lamb, a sacrifice for every individual that has ever lived. It had to be somewhere at some time...but really He was the Lamb slain from before creation....the only difference was now it was enacted in spacetime. The whole sequence really began when a man, completely by faith, called Abraham, picked up a knife and was prepared to slaughter his own son Isaac. The son he had believed for against all odds for decades. And now he was fully grown. And precisely at this instant of willingness, a snapshot in heaven of total faithfulness and submissiveness was created, and God through an angel called to him to say....OK...that's far enough...now I know I've got a man, after whom to pattern a people...called Israel.
"Stay your hand Abraham and slaughter that sheep stuck in the bushes!"

Why would God then having chosen Jews, then allow them to fluff it up so badly?
OK...let's answer with another question.
Why would the main logo for a people be a circumcised penis?

Because God's calling just isnt in the pride of man. It is birthed...in the flesh...
as a sign that we could never boast off. We LIVE the STORY of GOD, but we must never boast
in the STORY OF GOD. Like a freshly hatched chicken, we can hardly boast in the way we have come.
We stand by one wrecked chicken egg shell that we have just bust. Can we say...hey....look at
how beautifully formed was my eggshell! It was one of the best! Errr....oooops....I just smashed it
to smithereens escaping to tell you.

See, that is circumcision. No one can go to another man of another faith and show them the Jewish logo! Rothschild may have invented the hexagram to get around that one. But the genuine Jewish logo is just
not something to show people. The importance of God's story is not the emblem of the story as it has been written. As it says in scripture...."lest any man should boast"....and "that every mouth should be stopped".
For in the end, dear Rachel...
what remains is the glory of the seder.You are absolutely right.
True seder's are God events.
We had one once, at the wrong time of year for a Jew. But we felt to have one on one summer's day on the grass outside someone's farmhouse. The presence of God....all but the Shekinah of God, came down amongst us, and I had a German penfriend with me. His Dad was a Lutheran pastor but in those days of the 70s all the youth were so cut off from their parents that he was a total atheist. None of the youth could identify with what their parents were even thinking about, honouring such a man as Hitler, so every youth made sure there was a complete break in all their values. And as the Lutheran church had been so instrumental in welcoming Hitler, as had the Catholics...nearly nobody was a Christian anymore. And into his vacuum of belief, suddenly that afternoon, in our little Pesach,outside all churchianity, on a lawn in Chesham Vale,Bucks  NW London, the glory of God came down and his whole frame broke.

Tears poured down his face. In that instance he knew this God, that had seemed so absent in a youth growing up in the shadow of 25 years previous, was real. He was the same God. Manifesting Himself in the same way, as countless years in Christian's breaking bread, and countless years before that among Jews in the seder. The same God. Faithful to His Word. Faithful to His promises.But the means by which we all got here...
the circumcised penis
the disciples' complete abandonment of Jesus
the rest of Israel being manipulated by chief priests in the crowd shouting "Let his blood
be upon us all our generations"
the complete fiasco of the church over centuries as Jesus prophesied it would be
in the parable of the farmer, and the rogue enemy sowing rogue seed...
all this total embarrassment of our "pride of life"....

but after all the shambles....the Presence of the Lord. And everyone just knows it's all OK.

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