Judaism and Christianity overflow with imagery of a shared meal equaling sharing fellowship and one’s heart.
The Rev. Chad Foster understands that perhaps as well as anyone since he fully functions in the world of both of those faiths. At St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Columbus, he serves as the pastor of life and community. But he also serves as an ordained Messianic Jewish rabbi (Messianic Judaism combines the elements of Judaism and his history with Christianity and the belief that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.)
“There’s a unity to it all,” Foster often says. “And the reality is that both Christianity and Judaism need one another.”
Foster will highlight that connectedness when he leads a Messianic Passover Seder at 6 p.m. March 31 at the Hilton Garden Inn, 12210 N. Executive Drive in the Taylorsville/Edinburgh area. Seating is limited to about 150 people. Last year, about 125 people from a range of churches attended a Seder that Foster led at The Clarion Conference Center in Columbus.
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And in 2016, a class on The Torah that he led at St. Peter’s attracted nearly 250 people when it began.
“In the church, I see a resurgence of interest in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the Jewish roots of Christianity for several reasons — and one of them might be that people are tired of the same old message of church,” Foster said. “I see these as good, faithful people who truly want to connect to him and learn more about God.
“The Jewish mindset and the Hebraic worldview and the Eastern worldview is so new to them that it recharges them, like the spark they felt when they first came to faith. Some of them have not felt that excited about studying the Bible in years,” he added.
Another reason, according to Foster’s Orthodox rabbi friends: Isaiah and other prophets spoke of “a time when the nations would flow to Zion,” as Foster put it. Zion generally is a reference to Jerusalem.
At a Seder, Jews celebrate the Feast of Passover to commemorate the liberation of the children of Israel whom Moses led out of Egyptian slavery. Foster uses that history to draw parallels with Christian believers’ spiritual liberation from whatever may hold them in bondage, whether it’s a spiritual element such as unforgiveness or some physical element such as drugs or an emotional element such as an unruly temper.
Plus, Passover connects well to contemporary issues such as immigration and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students, Foster said.
“Throughout Scripture, God reminds the children of Israel to be kind to the strangers in their midst, telling them that they once were one of those in Egypt,” Foster said. “He reminds people to love their neighbor as themselves. What a powerful theme that is for all of us — and it’s more than just the traditional telling of the Passover story.”
Foster added that Hebraic celebrations and holy days always are about more than merely remembering the past.
“It’s also always about connection,” he said. “Those holy days have imbedded within them a special energy that we can connect into. So, for us, for example, Passover provides the chance to connect with God to break bondages and chains — and to break free from any Pharaoh we may happen to find ourselves serving.”
He links bitter herbs that are part of the Seder, for instance, with “crying out to God about the bitterness you’re facing and that you want it removed.”
Consequently, redemption becomes a table centerpiece of sorts at the supper.
“We all need redemption from something,” he said.
Longtime Columbus musician and worship leader Dale Sechrest led Hebraic songs during last year’s gathering. He will do the same again this year.
“What I enjoyed more than anything was finding the deeper spiritual meaning in everything presented,” Sechrest said, adding that much of the insight included with the meal was new to him. He acknowledged that he, like others, was touched how Foster guided nearly every aspect of symbolism to God’s longing love for people.
“He really brings a different perspective — a perspective that truly intrigues you,” Sechrest said.
What: A Messianic Passover Seder led by the Rev. Chad Foster of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Columbus. He also serves as a Messianic Jewish rabbi.
When: 6 p.m. March 31. Seating is limited to about 150 people. Reservations must be made by March 31.
Where: The Hilton Garden Inn, 12210 N. Executive Drive in Taylorsville.
At the event: Worship music led by Dale Sechrest and Passover and meal commentary and symbolism from Foster.
Cost: The full dinner is $30. Checks should be payable to St. Peter’s Lutheran Church with “Passover Seder in the memo line and mailed to 719 Fifth St., Columbus IN 47201. Spots are not reserved until payment is received.
Information: St. Peter’s Lutheran at 812-372-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.