11 April 2012Exodus 12:40-51
"At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the companies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. That was for the Lord a night of vigil, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. That same night is a vigil to be kept for the Lord by all the Israelites throughout their generations." (vv. 41-42)
Rituals define a community. I was struck one Saturday when
visiting a local synagogue by the children's re-enactment of the
Exodus stories as they sung action songs about the crossing of the
Red Sea, and adults joined in - at their level with more mature
songs and prayers. I noted how the story seemed to unite the
community, giving them purpose, joy, identity and belonging. And I
came away convinced that this common story was something we needed
to find again in Christianity.
At a later date my church invited members from the synagogue to join us for worship on a Sunday when we shared in Holy Communion. As the service progressed, I talked about the meaning of Communion and the reason why we participated in it. We came to the sharing of the bread and wine, and I simply explained that this was the way Christians approached God, through the remembering of what Jesus had said and done at his last supper with his disciples before his arrest. I spoke about the Methodist 'open table' - that in our own community this was a huge symbol of inclusiveness, where rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight, people with and without disabilities are welcome to join together at God's table - through Jesus. I explained that Holy Communion was a symbol that all were equally loved, exactly as they were, by God.
I invited our Jewish guests simply to sit and watch how we did it, giving the usual invitation to those who loved or who wanted to love Jesus. The Rabbi commented afterwards on how spiritual he had found this - the whole community approaching God, as one, altogether. What's more, many of my church members thanked me for the teaching aspect of the service: we too had understood more of our own story.
Cultures and groups are made by our stories. We choose to enter in as a sign that what we believe is real, important and meaningful enough to us.
That's what Jews did and do as they remember the Passover and that is what members of all the other religions also do now in their own stories in their own communities.
What spiritual insights have you received from stories from religions and cultures different to your own?
If you were going to tell the Christian story to members of another faith, what would you emphasise?
Is it acceptable for the rituals of one religion to exclude members of another? Why?