Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas reminder by Gordon Atkinson

Real Live Preacher, Gordon Atkinson, recycles a great story about what happened when he invited two Jewish friends to host a Seder for his small mainline Protestant congregation. A timely reminder for the Christmas season of what the season is all about.

Jonah and Robert were both bound to wheelchairs, Jonah because of polio and Robert because of muscular dystrophy. For the next year or so, I would go to visit them, load them into their van – which was equipped with a wheelchair lift – and drive them around town. We talked about theology, the scriptures, and the relationship between our respective faith traditions. I liked them. Jonah could be a bit overbearing at times, and he was certainly manipulative. I was aware of how he always managed to talk me into doing things for them even as I was letting him get away with it. I had never had friends in wheelchairs before, and I was rather over-anxious to please them and be nice. And, as I said before, I was young and fairly na├»ve about a number of things.

That Spring I thought it would be nice for our church to have a Passover Seder together. The Passover meal is strictly a Jewish observance, but many Christian churches - recognizing our obvious historical and theological dependency on Judaism - will sometimes have a Seder meal as a kind of religious education exercise.

And, I thought, who better to lead us in this sacred meal than my own rabbi friend, Jonah? When I asked him, Jonah was obviously pleased and readily agreed. At the time Jonah was not serving a congregation, so I thought this would be nice for him. And I thought our church would benefit from the cultural and spiritual exchange. I admit that I was also hoping something like this would help solidify our sense of community as we continued to adjust to the loss of our pastor and the families who left with him. It was all good in my mind. There were no downsides that I could see.

Go see what happened. It may not be what you imagine.

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