We’ve grown to three families together for our Messianic Seder, inviting whoever else might enjoy an extra place at our circus, errr table. Six adults, nine kids, and new friends abound. On Ann Voskamp’s table, “Goblets of juice of the vine flicker in the candle light, sprigs of lush green parsley circle a tray, water drops jewelling leaf tips.” Maybe we’ll get there someday, but at our gathering it’s anyone’s game whose kid will toot this year and kick over a plastic cup of grape juice on the way to an emergency potty situation. For now, the act of ritual arrangement is established well before the understanding of significance and symbolism in young minds.
My deepest desire is that our traditions that circle around the Resurrected Savior will cause Him to well up in their tiny hearts one day. But for now, we’re planting seeds of truth in the liturgy of celebrating, hoping they will raise up as mighty oaks of righteousness. Their wiggly selves ask goofy questions during family Bible reading, (“Was Lazarus naked when he came out of the tomb?”), but we keep planting seeds and cultivating the soil of our own hearts and theirs, waiting for true worship to spring up in new life someday.
We sit on the floor around the elements, each shouldering our crosses in varied degrees of rejoicing the victories and grieving the afflictions that the previous year held. Dead dreams. Sparkly rings promising a new covenant. Diseased bodies. Babies delivered to death months too early. Babies delivered to life passed around in cozy swaddles. The cross of Christ is a place of great mourning, and the empty grave is a place of wild elation. Our lives reflect both without threat to the other’s lot.
I’ve tasted varying cups this year too. Bitter disappointment. Giant belly laughs with a dimpled baby. Tears of anxiety and conflict. Quite contemplative peace. I asked myself days ago: “How do I celebrate a Resurrected Christ with my heart like this?” Is it an insincere, adult pretending to gather in worship after having spit venomous silence to my husband in the minivan? Do I wait until my heart is right in all of this? Then I never come at all…
“Come, ye thirsty, come and welcome
God’s free bounty glorify
True belief and true repentance
Every grace that brings you nigh
Come, ye weary, heavy-laden
Lost and ruined by the fall
If you tarry ’til you’re better
You will never come at all
I will arise and go to Jesus
He will embrace me in His arms
In the arms of my dear Savior
Oh, there are ten thousand charms.”
We come to this table as we come to any table. Poor. Needy. Overflowing with gratitude. Empty of earthly hope. Weighed down. Believing, yet needing help to believe.
So we pass the pricked matzah, for by His wounds we are healed. We split off the bitter herbs, worshiping that He who knew no sin became our bitter sin so that we might become the righteousness of God. We remember our spiritual pedigree, their bondage in Egypt, our bondage to sin, redeemed by the same delivering God. We dip the herbs in salt water, they painted with hyssop, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Christ’s in place of mine. We are happy for raisins and apple haroset at the end of a bitter and strange meal, souls pregnant with promise of the sweet hope at the end of this long, often bitter and strange life.
Our doxology toast closes our allegorical meal. Half singing, half cheering.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Praise Him who has set the captives free! The Tomb is Empty! He is Alive! The Lamb has come and taken away the sins of the world!
Our grape juice and wine raised, “Next year! In the New Jerusalem!”
So far it hasn’t come true. But all of His promises are true, we remember. The blood and water on the floor of Mary’s delivery room. The blood and water from His pierced side at Golgotha. The empty tomb. Joy and weeping interlaced, holding out hard hope. One of these years we WILL toast with Him in the New Jerusalem.