It was beautiful. Jew and Gentile. Adults and children. Worshipping. Celebrating. Eating together at the table of fellowship.
That is how it was in the nascent, first-century church after Jesus ascended. And is happening again.
I’m still pinching myself. I keep seeing scenes of the event in my mind. The “Dayenu” song tune keeps playing in my ears. And I’m still breathing the excitement of celebrating the first of many Passover Seders.
Over twenty centuries ago, both Jew and Gentile celebrated Passover, Shabbat, and other feasts together. When the Roman emperor Constantine the Great (306-337) made Christianity a state religion of Rome, concerted efforts took place that deliberately separated the church from its Jewish origins.
It started with the First Council of Nicaea in 325 of the current era, which cut the Jewish holy days. In 341, the Council of Antioch banned Gentile Christians from celebrating Passover with the Jews, that is, Messianic Jews, followers of Yeshua (Jesus). And around 363, the Council of Laodicea, prohibited Gentile Christians from keeping the Sabbath.
Isn’t it interesting that the two key observances that keep us connected to God and family are the first two holidays that Gentile Christians were banned from observing? Passover, the Feast of Matzah (unleavened bread), commemorates the freedom of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, and believers in Jesus make parallel references to Yeshua, the Passover Lamb of the New Covenant. Shabbat is a weekly celebration of God, family, and rest.
Passover is a celebration of freedom. Just like the Israelites were set free from the bondage of Egypt, Jesus set us free from the bondage of sin and death. It is worthy of celebrating at the appointed time determined by God.
Shabbat is a celebration of family. Imagine if every household in the world experienced a weekly gathering to pause and acknowledge God for our sustenance, a special moment when every member of the family received a blessing from the father and enjoyed time together—both young and old—communing, talking, and sharing. What a different world it would be! Wouldn’t it? Imagine if every Christian household did this! What healthier families we would have! Wouldn’t we?
Today we see the effects of having been cut off from Biblical holidays that connect us to God and family. Globally as a church, we’ve experienced the pain of separation from our Jewish brethren and understanding our spiritual heritage. Similarly, we’ve experienced the pain of separation and disintegration of the family.
But things are changing.
We are seeing an awakening in the Body of Christ, comprised of every tribe and every nation, that is breaking dogmas and correcting distorted views calling believers in Jesus—both Jew and Gentile—to a deeper relationship with God and each other.
We are as living stones that the Holy Spirit is shifting, polishing, and moving around to partner with God to complete His purposes on Earth.
The nascent church was comprised of both Jew and Gentile doing life together. Celebrating Shabbat together. Keeping the feasts together. It was a picture of the “one new man.”
The tear is being repaired by the Holy Spirit wooing us into a deeper connection to experience the power of Jesus’ resurrection:
For He is our shalom [peace], the One who made the two into one and broke down the middle wall of separation… He did this in order to create within Himself one new man from the two groups, making shalom.Ephesians 2:14-15 TLV
Because it is our spiritual inheritance.
One of my favorite moments at our Seder was after reading the words of the “Dayenu” song. Following each “If” statement read by our leader, Ps. Nestor, we all replied, “Dayeinu, it would have been enough!” My husband then asked for people to share some of their own “Dayeinu’s”. It touched my heart to see young and old participate.
Without guilt and shame, people felt free to share their own “Dayenu’s”:
- “Saved me from depression”
- “Delivered me from immorality”
- “Healed me from cancer”
- And my favorite from six-year old Naomi, “Helped me to not be scared of the dark!”
Jesus commanded us to remember His sacrifice that bought our eternal freedom:
“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise, the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”Luke 22:19-20
(See also: Mark 14:22-25, 1 Corinthians 11:23-25)
Every time we drink the fruit of the vine and eat the bread, we remember the sacrifice of Jesus. It keeps us connected to God. It keeps us humble and grateful.
If you observe Shabbat and welcome it with your family on Friday evenings, it is a blessing to pause and acknowledge God for His faithfulness and sustenance with a greater understanding of the symbolism and meaning of the bread and the wine.
Celebrating Passover is special because it is an appointed time set by God where we cease from the busyness of life and take time to remember Jesus’ sacrifice, the Passover Lamb of the New Covenant.
Pass it On
Exodus 12:26-27 says, “And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’”
God is a generational God and desires to bless us and our children and our grandchildren. Recounting and re-telling stories of God’s faithfulness is much more fun with food around a table of fellowship.
The Biblical feasts are an ingenious idea! They keep us bonded to God and family. Eating together around the dinner table is the perfect environment for conversations, exchange of ideas, and impartation of Biblical values.
Learning is better with food!
And it is memorable.
In many passages of the Old Testament, the Bible repeatedly states to “remember” to teach God’s instructions to our children and grandchildren so that they learn to do the same.
We must pass on our Biblical values and a strong foundation to our children while they are young. The devil is after them like a predator seeking to devour our next generation.
We must think generationally as God does. He is a generational God. He wants to be our God, and also be the God of our offspring.
I am so glad that at Shalom Church we welcomed families with their children to celebrate Passover with us. It is a phenomenal opportunity for children to receive a godly heritage. How else can our children learn about God if we don’t have them in the same room learning with us? Is it a bit inconvenient? Yes. Is it worth the sacrifice? Absolutely.
God has given parents the huge responsibility to pass on a spiritual heritage to their children. Pastors are the spiritual parents of our churches and must make every effort to reach the next generation. Yep, those same kids running around our hallways and sometimes interrupting during service!
These wonderful experiences mark children for life. They will never forget them. And they will repeat them to their children.
Some of my favorite pictures from our Passover Seder are the following. Study each picture. Each one tells its own story. As the old adage says, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
What can you tell from each picture?
Can you sense the impact this event had on them?
Celebrating our first Passover Seder with our church, family, and friends was amazing. We are grateful to everyone who chipped in before, during, and after the event. We are also thankful to everyone for bringing delicious food dishes to share. We had plenty of food!
I will let some of the attendees share in their own words how the whole event was:
“We’re all still talking about last night. We enjoyed it so much. Thank you for the invitation.” -Maryleen C.
“Thank you. AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE and A SUPERNATURAL BLESSING.” -Bobby P.
“The evening was a great success!!! Excellent all the way around. We were honored to be a part. This was such a blessing to God and us. God met us at our appointed time and planted seeds in our next generation. Praise his mighty name! In the car Josh said ‘Mom, I felt Elisha enter the room. He was there!’” -Stacey H.
“My expectations were very high for the Passover Seder. Somehow you managed to exceed them. Seriously, a phenomenal job. Thank you again.” -Debbie S.
“Thank you again for Passover. I was so blessed. Enjoyed the brothers and sisters at the table. Such a sweet presence.” -Susan S.
“Oh, Dina, yesterday was amazing. Hats off to you and Nestor and your girls. It was a great pleasure to, in a very small way, ‘put my shoulder to the wheel.’” -Tim A.
“The service was perfect in time (not too long), elegant, the Haggadah was beautiful and to the point, and Ps. Nestor’s leading and things he said pointing to the Lord, it did not feel liturgical, and the food was all so delicious! I cannot say enough of the amazing Passover Seder! Most importantly, The Lord showed up and I felt we were sitting with Him at the table, cause it’s all about Him. Thank you for such an unforgettable evening.” -Judith C.
CLICK HERE to view more photos on Shalom Church Facebook page.