I first wrote this piece in April 2015 after attending a Seder meal. Tonight, my husband and I are hosting one. As I mark my blessings in April 2019, I remember that any one of them would have been enough.
On Maundy Thursday, we attended a Messianic Seder. We have, in the past, been privileged to attended an authentic Jewish Seder in the home of friends. During the Seder, the story of the Passover is retold around a table where participants taste foods that signify the journey of the Israelites out of Egypt. The matzah reminds us that the Israelites had to flee so quickly that they didn’t even have time to add yeast and allow their bread to rise. The bitter herbs remind us of their suffering. The salty water reminds us of their tears. The lamb shank reminds us that the blood of the lamb was placed over their doorposts so that the angel of death would ‘pass over’ and not kill their firstborn sons.
I grew up listening to the story — as though it were mythical, as though it didn’t really happen. As though it didn’t have anything to do with me. As though I hadn’t been rescued, too. But I have been rescued from my own personal Egypt. I’ve been to real-life Israel. I recognize that the story is no myth, rather, it has a transcendent power that resonates with me.
The Jewish celebration of Passover, written in the Haggadah, includes a section titled ‘dayenu’ which literally means, “it would have been enough.” The leader of the family says, “If He had brought us out of Egypt,” and the family responds, “dayenu.” It would have been enough.
He says, “If He had executed justice against the Egyptians,”
“If He had split the sea for us,”
“If He had fed us manna,”
The sentiment, of course, is that God did so much more. He did bring the Israelites out of Egypt after hundreds of years of slavery. He did execute justice against the Egyptians — killing many with the rushing waters of the Red Sea as they pursued the Israelites who had made it safely to dry ground on the other side. He had provided manna so they never went without food. He rescued them. He provided for them. He made their descendants many. He took them to a land flowing with milk and honey. Any one of those actions would have been enough to elicit the thanks of the Israelites, but God did so much more.
Our Passover Seder on Thursday was different than the Jewish Passover we attended years ago, but very familiar. We shared the matzah. We ate the bitter herbs. We enjoyed the charoset — a sweet mixture of nuts, apples, honey, wine, and cinnamon. Those parts were just like I remembered. The difference was that our pastor highlighted all the areas of the Passover that pointed to the Messiah. Just as the matzah is broken and hidden away to be brought out later, the body of Jesus was broken for us, hidden for three days, and brought back. Just as Moses led the Israelites out of slavery to exacting task masters, Jesus has offered us freedom from slavery to sin and the need to earn God’s favor. Just as the blood of the lamb protected the Israelites from the angel of death, the blood of the Lamb covers our imperfections and protects us from our punishment — our death.
When we got to the ‘dayenu’ portion of our Seder on Thursday, I read along with the others from the Haggadah, but in my mind, I was thinking,
“If you had just rescued me from my own intentions,”
“If you had just provided for my physical needs,”
“If you had just given me a husband who is a partner,”
“If you had just provided me with children,”
My sentiment, of course, is that God has done so much more for me. He has saved me, and that would have been enough. But He also has blessed me beyond what I could have ever asked or imagined with family, friends, community, meaningful work, and so much more.
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe.
The Israelites, the Jewish people, demonstrate intentionality in marking their thankfulness for their rescue. They remember where they once were, and they have chosen never to forget who rescued them and by what means.
Having seen, we can go and do likewise.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church, and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations, forever and ever. AmenEphesians 3:20
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