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Being Disciples for Christ

October 7, 2007

Luke 19:28-34; 22:7-13

For our communion meditation this morning, I want to read two passages of Scripture, both from the Gospel of Luke. Hear now the Word of God for the people of God.

Luke 19:28-34:

After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, “The Lord needs it.’”

Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

They replied, “The Lord needs it.”

Luke 22:7-13:

Then came the day of the Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparation for us to eat the Passover.”

“Where do you want us to prepare it?” they asked.

He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.”

They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

Sometimes when I lead parenting seminars, people will ask me, “Did you spank your children?” My answer is the same one I heard Fred Rogers give, one I have copied ever since: “I didn’t want to.” That really is my answer. I never wanted to spank my children. I did spank all four of my boys, but I never spanked Betsy. I did not have to spank her. If she was doing something wrong, I just had to say, “Betsy.” She would melt into tears and say, “Daddy, don’t fuss at me. Please don’t be mad at me.” Clare did spank her, but I did not.

A difference exists between boys and girls. We may not want to believe that, I know, in our gender-equality world. We want to make politically correct statements. I know that we ought to treat boys and girls the same, but having a daughter was a very different kind of experience.

Sometimes when I came home from work, I became a wrestler, entering the rink. Clare had been in the rink all day. We had somewhat of a tag-team system where she would reach out, tag me, and say, “Please, fight this battle for a while.” I would stretch out on the floor, and all four boys would pile on top of me, beating on me and riding me like a horse while Clare did something luxurious, like fix supper.

After Betsy’s birth, I continued to play the same way with the boys; but Betsy had none of this pounding on me or riding me like a horse. She treated me differently. She would run get a hairbrush and a comb to fix my hair.

You can imagine how I responded when Betsy said, “Daddy, let’s have a tea party.” She was set up to have a wonderful tea party with a little teapot and cups. Her grandfather made her a table, using lumber that came from my grandmother’s home, located at 288 South Converse Street. When Spartanburg decided to begin urban renewal, the city demolished that house first. Urban renewal never got beyond that lot. Before the city could push the house into the basement and cover it with dirt, my dad retrieved as much of that wonderful lumber as he could. From the lumber used for the sub-flooring of that old house, he created a round table for Betsy.

The chairs came from Clare’s family. Clare’s grandfather had actually created those chairs in his workshop. He had built them for his daughter, Clare’s Aunt Frances, to use in her daycare business. I do not know how many chairs he made; but when Frances decided she was no longer going to operate the center, plenty of chairs went to members of the family. Betsy got four for the table my dad had made for her.

She said one day, “Daddy, let’s have a tea party, but you will have to help. You will have to get the box of Triscuits.” I went to the pantry, got the box, and opened it. She placed those crackers on the plate and then said, “I can’t reach the water. You will have to help me fill the teapot with water.” Just the two of us, along with an American Girl doll and a Cabbage Patch doll, sat together at the table. I had a place of honor between the two dolls. Clare was away doing something luxurious, like buying groceries.

When I picked up one of my Triscuits and started to eat it, Betsy said, “No, Daddy. You have to wait. I am the hostess. You have to wait until the hostess eats.” I remembered that we must observe table manners at every meal, at every tea party, and at this Table.

Last week as I was thinking ahead to our time together this morning, I reflected on that tea party with Betsy. That meal of Triscuits and water looked like the Lord’s Supper.

What does it mean to come to the Table of the Lord? We come as disciples, of course, just as disciples have come to this Table for centuries. We come as honored guests, but the truth is that we have to do some preparation.

Did you hear the meaning of the word disciple in the two previous passages of Scripture? Being a disciple means that you fetch the donkey. You go into the city, do something that resembles horse stealing, and try to explain it, based on what the Lord has said to you. Your job is tending, fetching, and taking the donkey to the Lord so that he can enter the city. Several days later, your job is to walk into the city and follow a man carrying a jar of water. Men rarely carried jars of water during the time of Jesus, as they considered it woman’s work. The disciples would have no difficulty finding this particular man. Once they located him, the disciples received no argument. They followed him to the home of John Mark. That man was probably John Mark’s father. Apparently, some arrangements, preparations, had been made ahead of time. Now, the disciples, in this case Peter and John, actually have to prepare the Passover meal.

What does it mean to be a disciple? In a way, we are honored guests. In another way, we are workers who have to prepare this meal. Folks have been here since early this morning, placing wafers on the plates, filling cups with juice, and arranging pressed cloths on this Table. They take great care in their work.

We must also prepare for the Lord’s Supper in a way that is invisible. The most important preparation we can make is the preparation of our hearts. In order to be a guest at this Table, we must prepare our heart to become a servant. We must be willing to handle the animal, to wait the tables, to assume a servant attitude. “Create within us a clean heart, O God, And renew within us a right spirit” (Psalm 51:10). Give to us the heart of Jesus, the heart of a servant. Before this very meal, he took a towel and a basin and washed the feet of the disciples. Doing so demonstrated for them what it means to have a servant’s heart.

In truth, we should remember that as we take this meal at this Table, we are honored guests, waiting upon the host. Even as we do so, we understand that we will be serving each other. We distribute the elements of the Lord’s Supper family-style. We take the tray of cups and the plate of wafers and serve the person beside us. Taking the Lord’s Supper this way symbolizes the fact that we are priests to each other. We are the priesthood of all believers.

Let us pray. “Come, Lord Jesus, our guest to Thee, Bless these gifts bestowed by Thee.” Create within us clean and pure servant hearts. In Jesus’ name, we pray.

On the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread. He blessed it, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is broken for you.” Let us have a prayer of blessing for the bread.

Our Father, we thank Thee for the gift of salvation made possible through the life, the death, and the resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. As we partake of the bread, which represents Your body, may we stop and examine ourselves and ask that You create within us a clean heart. May we go forth from this place, determined to live as Jesus Christ has taught us. For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

When I survey the wondrous cross,

On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,

Save in the death of Christ, my God;

All the vain things that charm me most,

I sacrifice them to his blood.

Jesus said, “This bread is my body, given for you.” Eat this as often as you eat it, in remembrance of him. Eat ye all of it.

We will have a prayer of blessing now for the cup.

Dear Lord, as we take this cup today, a symbol of the blood you shed for us, open our hearts and minds to this wondrous gift, the gift of salvation through your death on the cross. Keep us mindful of how wonderful your plan of salvation is for all of us. Help us to remain aware of this wonderful gift and aware that we need to be your servants in bringing this gift of salvation to the rest of the world. We ask these things in your name. Amen.

This Supper, for me, is one of the most important times of worship we have together. I always look forward to these occasions because it makes me feel renewed. I hope you feel the same way.

In a service like this, it may well be that God has touched your heart to make a decision for Christ. You know that you need to respond. If you are not a Christian, we invite you to accept Christ as your Savior. Maybe you have another decision to make, a decision regarding church membership. Whatever God has put on your heart, we invite your response as we stand to sing our hymn of commitment, “Love Lifted Me.”

© 2007 Kirk H. Neely

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