Participants in a Seder meal held on Maundy Thursday at First United Methodist Church in Carroll break bread during Communion.
Participants in a Seder meal held on Maundy Thursday at First United Methodist Church in Carroll break bread during Communion.
April 18, 2014



"Praised are you, the Eternal One, our God, Ruler of the Cosmos, who has kept us alive, sustained us and enabled us to reach this moment."

This liturgy began the prayer over each piece of the Seder meal at Carroll First United Methodist Church Thursday night. Each element of the Seder, or Passover meal, is symbolic, explained lead organizer Clay Winterboer.

The Maundy Thursday celebration sought to replicate the Last Supper between Jesus Christ and his disciples, beginning with Passover and ending with the Eucharist, or communion.

"It's a good bridge between the Old and New Testaments," said Pastor Dennis Bailey. "It helps to understand the traditions and Jewish heritage we came out of."

The Passover celebration recalls the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, as told in Exodus, the second book of the Bible.

The Passover lamb had to be young, male and unblemished, said Winterboer. It was sacrificed and bled to death at noon.

Christ was young, male and unblemished, and he was nailed to the cross - where he bled to death - at noon, said Winterboer.

"He represents deliverance, the same as the Passover lamb, but deliverance from sin instead of slavery," he said.

Through this act, God established a new covenant with his people; and during the Last Supper, Christ took two of the symbolic Passover foods - bread and wine - and gave them new meaning when he served his disciples the first communion.



THE SYMBOLIC MEAL

The Seder meal begins with the washing of hands, or the washing of feet, as Christ did for his disciples.

The first cup of wine represents sanctification - God's promise to bring his people out of Egypt.

The karpas - vegetable greens, in this case, parsley - represents renewal. But a product of spring, it is also a reminder of the harsh winter that precedes spring. The parsley is dipped in salt water - to represent "the tears that may need shed before joy can be experienced."

The matzah - unleavened bread - is broken next, representing the bread that was made in haste by Israelites "eager to experience the Lord's deliverance."

The second cup of wine is poured, and a spoon is dipped into the wine and "diminished" on a towel for each of the 10 plagues God wrought on Egypt - blood, frogs, vermin, wild beasts, cattle disease, boils, hail, locust, darkness, and death of the firstborn. Participants recall the Miracle at the Red Sea - when God split the sea to give the Israelites time to cross before closing the waters over the pursuing Egyptians. The second cup of wine represents Israel's deliverance from slavery.

After a song of thanks, the shank bone of the Passover lamb is prayed over. The blood from the Passover lamb was painted on the door posts of the Israelites' homes so "The Destroyer," the Angel of Death, that passed through Egypt during the final plague would not enter - would pass over - their homes and not claim their firstborns.

Other foods on the Seder plate, also referred to as the "Elijah plate," named for an Old Testament prophet, included charoseth - a mixture of chopped apples, nuts, wine and spices that represents the mortar the Israelites were forced to use to make bricks - and beitzah - a boiled egg, one of the only foods that gets harder when cooked.

The final food eaten is chazeret - grated horseradish - a very spicy food that leaves a "bad taste in the mouth" so as to better appreciate what is to come - for the ancestral Israelites, freedom; for modern Christians, forgiveness and redemption.

The third cup of wine in the Seder meal is a promise of redemption - and marks the point that the traditional Passover meal differs from Thursday night's Seder meal. In a traditional Passover meal, a chair is left empty, awaiting the return of the prophet Elijah, who will precede the Messiah.

But for those of the Christian faith, the wait for the Savior is over, said Winterboer. In Christianity, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ from the dead, three days after he died on the cross for the sins of the world.

During the Last Supper, Christ took the unleavened bread, and the wine, changing their meaning to that of the body broken, and blood shed, the pieces of the Christian communion ritual recalling Christ's sacrifice.

"We now know that Jesus has come - the Savior, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world," said Winterboer. "As in the hymn, 'Oh for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,' He breaks the power of cancelled sin, and sets the prisoner free."