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Wednesday and Thursday of Hold Week –April 8 & 9

  • Posted on Apr 9, 2009

Reclining at table with Jesus

One of the disciples–the one whom Jesus loved–was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” John 13:23-26

Yesterday evening, I attended a Passover Seder dinner at close friends. We sat at a long table all together. I sat next to the grandfather and grandmother. The grandfather grew up in a conservative and orthodox family in Brooklyn, New York. Our hosts and friends are reform Jews. So, the grandfather gave me a fascinating commentary about how the Seder how changed over the years–both in language (inclusive), food (much more kosher offerings), and actions.
When we reached a certain part of the Seder haggadah, we spoke about reclining at table. Grandfather D said, “It’s time for a footnote.” We stopped the Seder liturgy and listened. He recounted that when he was growing up, there were always large pillows near the table during the Seder. At certain points of the service and dinner, the men would recline at table. The women were working hard in the kitchen. We went on to talk about the Last Supper. Grandmother D asked me: “Some folks believe that there were women at table at the Last Supper. What do you think?” At another part of the Haggadah, we paused as our host asked us to reflect on the bondage of the Hebrews in Egypt. He asked us each to answer this question: How are we bound in slavery in our lives today? It was a fascinating evening. Pausing in the Seder liturgy to talk about our lives today.

Overall, I was struck by the intimate, serious yet playful nature of the Seder meal. Although we did not lie down on pillows, I felt a part of the gathered family. There was the familiar exodus story interwoven with Grandmother D’s famous matzoh ball chicken soup and gelfite fish with horseradish. Both young daughters of the family read from the Haggadah–the youngest asking the four questions. There was bedlam in the house when they searched for the hidden piece of matzoh. There was giggling when we opened the door for Elijah. At one point in the service, Grandfather D reminded me that this is the ONE special holy day of the year that Jews celebrate at home.

All evening, I kept thinking about Jesus with his disciples that night of the Last Supper. Just as we gathered at my friends’ home, Jesus had gathered with his disciples. It was intimate, serious yet light-hearted. And in that light-hearted, relaxed moment, when the disciple Jesus loved lay his head on Jesus, his body heavy with a full stomach, Jesus revealed who was to betray him. Jesus left the Seder liturgy to reveal an important part of his life right then. Into this loving atmosphere, dread appeared. Given the disciples inability to listen to Jesus on the road, perhaps this is the only place that they could hear what Jesus had to tell them. On a quiet evening. At the Passover meal. In an intimate setting of family, Jesus told them the news that would change their lives.

Where do you tell important news to those you love?