SWARTZ CREEK – It’s one of Judaism‘s many evocative and long-lived traditions, a ritual meal that recalls the way God delivered the Jewish people from slavery in ancient Egypt.
But some Christian churches are putting their own stamp on the Seder.
A number of area churches will serve Seder meals this pre-Easter season leading up to the Jewish Passover (Good Friday for Christians), the traditional time for the Seder.
“It’s a growing thing,” said the Rev. David Krueger, pastor of Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church, 7399 Miller Road, Swartz Creek. “More and more churches are doing it.”
Hope will play host to a three-hour Seder for churchgoers and the public Sunday that will head in a nontraditional direction, showing what Krueger calls parallels between the Jewish ritual and the death of Jesus.
“There are a lot of strong parallels,” Krueger said. “They are not just chance things; they are something set up by God and put in the Jewish ceremonies and festivals to point to things that would point to Jesus.”
Meanwhile, the evangelical group Jews for Jesus will present a Seder as part of services at 9:30 and 11 a.m. Sunday at Flushing Community Church of the Nazarene, 9500 W. Pierson Road, Flushing Township.
And messianic Rabbi Roger Roussel of Ann Arbor will lead a Seder at Peace Presbyterian Church, 1521 N. Elms Road, Clayton Township, at 6 p.m. Saturday. A messianic rabbi is one who follows Jewish traditions but believes in Jesus’ divinity.
Historically, Christianity sprang from Judaism, but where Christians believe Jesus is the Messiah, or savior, Jews do not.
Rabbi Karen Companez of Temple Beth El in Flint Township chose her words carefully when asked about Christian Seders.
“The Passover originated in the Hebrew Bible,” she said. “The Seder is a Jewish ritual.”
Even so, she doesn’t mind respectfully sharing the tradition. About 115 people from more than a dozen religious denominations Tuesday night attended an annual interfaith Seder on at Temple Beth El in Flint Township, experiencing a shortened version of the meal. Members of the Girls Glee Club from Grand Blanc High School sang parts of the ceremony.
The Rev. Johnny Reed, pastor of Life Enrichment Center in Flint Township, said the event was an education for him, not an attempt to usurp the Jewish rite.
“A lot of the Old Testament can be seen in the New Testament,” said Reed, who is part of an area interfaith clergy group.
“It’s an honoring,” added Gloria Philips of Grand Blanc, a Life Enrichment member.
“I loved it. It was a very potent experience,” said Jalal Mohtashami, 20, a member of the Baha’i faith currently staying at the Louhelen Center in Davison Township.
“As someone who is of a faith that recognizes both the Bible and the Torah (the entire body of Jewish religious literature), it shows that God has always been with us.”
Krueger, 58, pastor of Hope Evangelical for 29 years, said he thinks interest in Seders among Christians came with the Jews for Jesus movement.
In fact, Congregation Shema Yisrael, a messianic synagogue in Southfield, has sent letters to Christian pastors offering presentations on the Passover, Seders and Jesus in the Jewish holidays.
“It makes incredible connections,” said Shema Yisrael’s Rabbi Loren Jacobs, a former traditional Jewish believer who also used to work with Jews for Jesus.
Lapeer Free Methodist Church, 1621 N. Saginaw St. in Mayfield Township, will hold a “Christ in the Passover” presentation Wednesday, put on by Shaun Buchhalter, a member of Jews for Jesus.
But not every Christian Seder appears to have an intentional evangelical leaning.
At Peace Presbyterian, the Rev. David Galbraith said church members decided the meal would be educational.
“It will tell us more about Christ and what he was doing at that time,” the pastor said. “After all, the Last Supper was on the Passover.”
And Rabbi Yisroel Weingarten of Chabad House Lubavitch of Eastern Michigan in Flint Township said the more people are involved in Bible teaching, the better.
“The more people learn about God, the Bible, humanity and social needs will be to the betterment of our society,” he said. “The more the merrier.”