How to Party (i.e. Give Thanks)

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Lev. 23:1-22; 2 Thess. 2:1-17; Matt. 7:1-12

The Passover is laid out in detail in Leviticus today.  So is the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  The Sabbath is expanded upon, and the Passover as a central focus for Sabbath observance is discussed. These days shape the identity of the people of Israel.  Just like our celebration of the Eucharist is a GREAT thanksgiving, so too the Passover is exalted and explained as a great thanksgiving.

Many think the Old Testament is just filled only with wars and conflicts.  These folks have not read the Old Testament!  Don’t believe them.  Genesis and Exodus, especially, are filled with juicy stories about God’s movement among the people.  Even Leviticus, with its many obscure and oddball rules, is still a joy to read.  Amidst the strange dietary laws is a Wilderness Survival Guide that includes how to maintain identity.

Today we get to one of my favorites: a detailed explanation of the grandest party of them all.  How fun that God lays out how to party!  Do we do it by drinking and getting raucous?  No, we do it by giving thanks to God.

Many churches celebrate Seder meals these days.  When they do it, my hope is always that a Rabbi come in to celebrate the meal, to get an authentic picture of a contemporary Seder meal feels like, and not to artificially insert Jesus in the conversation.  (There is a reason we don’t celebrate the Seder, but we celebrate the Eucharist!).  Maybe you saw the recent article in the Oklahoman after our Seder and read about Rabbi Abby and my thoughts on the matter. If not check it out: http://newsok.com/article/5487420

One of my favorite parts of the Seder meal is how the children are showcased.  The youngest asks “the Four Questions.”  The Afikomen (the large part of the broken matza) is hidden for the children, and a scavenger hunt ensues, held as a ransom to complete the meal.  The children often open the door for Elijah too.  Then they become central in the games, music, and dances.  It is a party to end all parties, with all generations at work.  The purpose of these feast days: 1) To give God thanks, and 2) To pass on the imprint of this event in the memory of the people.

My prayer is that the same is true for our children in the midst of the Eucharist.  How tragic that in some churches the children are not even present for the Lord’s Supper, ushered off for “childrens church” (what does that even mean?).  This becomes a time of imprint, and that they will always remember God’s activity in the lives of the community – from the Garden to the Cross, from Noah’s flood to their baptism.

As you read all the rules and regulations of Leviticus today, trust that God will use them to mark a divine impression of his grace in your spirit.  Use them to learn a bit about how to give thanks, just as the Lord’s Supper is a time to learn how to give thanks.

Matthew declares, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Every day I encounter the spiritual hunger of people.  I encounter people at the church and out on the town who are genuinely seeking God in their lives.  They want to come to know, and find meaning to their existence.  They are on the road to Emmaus, looking out for the divine presence in their lives, waiting for their eyes to be opened wide.

Of course my job is to help them articulate that hunger, so they can see the road ahead.  But often I find that it is at the table they need to be.  They are looking to be fed spiritually, but what it comes down to is table fellowship.  And I don’t just mean the Eucharist, although that is a representation of the true hunger.  What they need is to give thanks and gather around a table with people who are also seeking and hungry, and they need to bear their soul and find common ground with another.

Is that true for you too?

-Matt

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