This Thursday night our family will celebrate with a Christian Seder meal. We've found that this ceremony lends itself to children's participation, and it has great meaning to us adults too. When we started it, I decided to do a little research into it. What I found has changed my life.
During the Seder (which means "order"), four cups of wine are drunk (more on those tomorrow), and several pieces of unleavened bread are eaten. One piece of bread in particular is broken off, wrapped in a cloth napkin, and hidden. This piece is called the afikomen. It stands for the bread saved in their cloaks by the Israelite slaves--it represents servitude and freedom. The bread and wine are eaten and drunk throughout the ceremony, and in the middle a full meal is served. After the meal, the children participating in the Seder search and find the afikomen. After they find it, they are given a little present for it. Then it is broken and drunk with the third cup.
The gospels tell the narrative of Jesus sharing the Passover, which is known to us as The Last Supper, with his disciples. (Bear with me now, something interesting is coming!) Bible scholars believe that it is the afikomen that Jesus broke saying, "This is my body broken for you; do this in remembrance of me." After this Bread of Freedom is taken, nothing else is eaten that evening. Jesus was giving them (and us) a beautiful picture. Through His brokenness, through His servitude, we can be free.
We've had kind of an interesting year as a family. We discovered one of our friends was a pedophile, and we also got sort of involved with a con man (long story, not for this blog!) When I saw the newspaper article about our friend and his subsequent prison sentence, some sort of sick fascination propelled me to view the reader comments' associated with it. (I really don't know why I do this ever. I'm convinced that the reader/commenters on the Tribune are representative of the lowest common denominator of society.) It was so bizarre to read things such as, "Excellent. Another dirtbag white child molestor behind bars" and know that it was referring to someone I know. And when I ended up talking to a State's Attorney representative about the con man we met, she said, "He is a total piece of crap." Then I recently read an article in the paper about a man who murdered his brother for money, in cold blood. (We actually don't know this guy. Yet.) The judge said at his sentencing, "This is no hope for you."
I've been thinking those three people and those statements made about them a lot lately. Now, I am not like them at all. I am a nice mama with a good job who is a responsible member of society. I've had only one speeding ticket and one warning. I pay my taxes, and I don't steal other people's money. I'm kind to my neighbors. I go to church. I certainly don't harm children, and I've never murdered my brother or anybody else. I have (expensive) highlights in my hair, I use Crest whitestrips on my teeth, and I have a master's degree. Why, I'm pretty much your all-around dream citizen. No one would ever call me a "total piece of crap" or a "dirtbag."
But wait a minute. Scratch beneath my nice veneer. You will find someone hopelessly materialistic. Someone who has gossipped and slandered others many times. Someone who has held many grudges and taken offense at countless slights. I've cheated. I've lied. I've cursed. I've lost my temper. I've picked fights with my husband. I've hated. In elementary school, I joined in with the rest of the class as we laughed at poor David Reed, who repeated a grade and still couldn't read. (Something which, I would give all my money in the bank if it would buy me the chance to make amends with him.) I've stood aside many times and watched wrong being done, because I was too cowardly to do the right thing. I've laughed at things and people I should never have laughed at. My list could go on and on. Shame and a sense of self-preservation are preventing me from writing many of my other sins here. There are things I've done that I never want anyone else to know.
And after all that? I can easily hear the verdict being handed down on my own self, "There is no hope for you."
There is really one significant difference between me and those three men. It is this: I have thrown myself on the mercy of the court. I have confessed, broken-hearted, each of these things, all the others unprinted and unprintable, and any others I may have forgotten (I'm sure there are many). I have claimed His broken body as my own righteousness, the righteousness I could never possess on my own. And consequently? I am free. I am forgiven! There is nothing in the English language to convey the sweet grace and weightlessness of those words. I am by no means perfect. But I don't carry that guilt anymore (and by guilt, I don't mean sorrow. The sorrow over what I've done will only be eased when I get to heaven.) Today though--I live in freedom.
I wish I had a chance to say to those men, instead of the indictments that have been (rightly) passed down on them, the words of Isaiah 55 "Come, all who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare." Despite what they have done, they could be forgiven. They, too, could live in freedom because of what He has done.
Thursday night, as my little girls seek and find the afikomen and eagerly claim their gift, as we all partake of the Bread of Freedom broken for us, it is yet another chance for me to be grateful for the indescribable gift He has given me.