Is This Seat Taken? My night as the welcomed stranger among the even stranger at a Passover Seder.

English: Passover Seder Table, Jewish holidays...
English: Passover Seder Table, Jewish holidays עברית: שולחן הסדר, Original Image Name:סדר פסח, Location:חיפה (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Tonight I realized how much laundry had to be done and my mind immediately started looking for other things to do.  My newsfeed on FaceBook kept informing me that a good portion of my friends (most of them burners) were either confirming or canceling their RSVP to attend a Passover celebration that some someone was holding somewhere.   It turned out the someone was a indeed a fellow burner with whom I had many mutual friends and the somewhere was his house.  So I did what any self respecting burner and experienced procrastinator would do, …I invited myself over.

In truth I wasn’t just procrastinating. I had wanted to attend a Seder this year anyway but didn’t have any connections to someone who I knew was hosting a Seder so I was truly excited about this last minute opportunity.  And my experience with burners at religious celebrations to this point in my life has, so far, been pretty exhilarating.  That awkward part about me just inviting myself over without provocation is true though, and fortunately, the host was gracious and welcomed me kindly.  …and not just me.

Evil Sock Monkey
Evil Sock Monkey (Photo credit: docoverachiever)

Considerably more than half the people there had never been to a Seder before.  The small den was packed well over 30 people were crammed up against each other, shoulder to shoulder, around five small folding tables and we still managed to save a seat for Elijah, even after I showed up.  There were 3, maybe 4,  yarmulkes total amongst us so instead the men were covered respectfully with hard hats, snow gear, a toy fire fighter hat, a covered costume crown and one sock monkey mask.   Kosher, hopefully …barely.  Orthodox, no

We stammered and stuttered through the Hebrew, of course.   We shouted out page numbers to each other as we tried to make sense of using two entirely different versions of the Haggadah (liturgy books).  And then we stuffed ourselves with Kugel, gefelte fish, Hillel sandwiches and…. brisket of course (this particular part of the diaspora is taking place in Texas after all).

It was mildly chaotic, accidentally joyful, unfittingly fun, genuinely warm and full of hope. It was a room full of hope.   That part fits. Hope fits this story.

We didn’t “get” it all but we did get a chance to hear our host, my brand new friend, say something to the affect of this:  This is not just our suffering that God sees, but God sees the suffering of everyone.

The story of the Passover and the ritual of the Seder meal is rich and  it is filled with an innumerable amount of insights into who God is and who God’s people are supposed to be.   But tonight I simply heard this: God cares about all this suffering.

It was oddly nice to show up as something of a unexpected guest tonight.  I hear things differently when I am the welcomed stranger. There was just an assumption that, of course, we would have enough.   There would surely be enough room, enough wine, enough chairs, enough food.  Enough.

And while sitting as a stranger and eating my fill at a table I never even knew existed,  I heard someone say suffering matters to God, therefore let us give thanks.

I did.  I gave thanks to God for that moment, for the story, for the food, and for the welcome.   I gave thanks and said, “If it matters to You, please God, help it matter to me.”

I do not know entirely what to do with all of the suffering in the world but tonight we had a good head start: tell the story, keep one seat open, and do the best you can with what you have… oh, and above all, always trust that there will be enough.




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  • singertenor

    “There would surely be enough room, enough wine, enough chairs, enough food. Enough.”

    Jesus’ message of Jubilee comes to mind just as I realize the link between Sabbath, Passover, and the Kingdom of God.

    Sabbath was mandated in Exodus 16 through strict provisions on how to handle manna to assure that the Israelites understood their dependence on God was for their needs. Here, “enough” means that God provides and that our own efforts are null and void if they are not done within the boundaries of this way of life.

    While passover is a feast for the remembrance of God’s liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, the meal is mandated with the inclusion of non-Jewish friends and strangers as well.

    The Kingdom of God is relevant to Passover and Sabbath in terms of our dependence on God. As John Michael Talbot sings in the song by the same name, “God Alone is Enough,” not as an excuse to avoid human labor and intellect, but is a statement that what we think that we can do ourselves, we are soon to be corrected. For, in the end, when the Lord returns to bring heaven onto the earth, God’s providence will be the only thing worth depending on.

    Hence, what is most fascinating to me is what I learned last night while attending a class called, Theology of Work. In Theology of Work, which is taught by Fletcher Tink at Nazarene Theological Seminary, the Sabbath rest is a time to rest in the Lord’s “sufficient” nature. To ‘rest in the Lord’ is not so much a statement about bed time, as it is a time to explore our nature of enjoying God through the means of enjoying fellowship and selfLESS things that remind me that “I” am not the one who matters here. What matters is our common identity in God.

    Thanks for sparking some thoughts on this. In a culture for whom accumulation of “stuff” is the god, it’s really exciting to think about the simplicity that is found in accepting God’s gift of others and of food as something that is “enough.”

  • Bill

    Sounds like a great experience. But too bad you didn’t take a photo of the crew with the motley assortment of head coverings. 🙂