An Easter Devotional
Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, has always been a holy and solemn event to me, thanks largely to my grandfather.
I would not say that Pastor Bill Henager (my mother’s father) and I had a good many bonding moments. Ours was not the kind of grandfather/grandson relationship that led to many fishing expeditions or trips to the ballpark. He was a pastor, sure, but he was a working man. If he was awake, he was probably working. And, let me tell you, he woke up mighty early. Consequently, if you got too close to him, he would likely put you to work, as well. So, as a kid I steered as clear of him as was humanly possible most of the time.
Big Granddad, as we Strother kids called him, had been a farmer before he became a minister. He grew things. He raised cattle. He knew how to grow it, breed it, pick it, pull it, skin it, clean it, and cook it up. He never quit on such things. He carried them right into the ministry with him.
One thing my grandfather did that made an early and lasting impression on me was he baked his own unleavened bread. While other churches served little squares (or wafers, if you were Catholic or Episcopal) that were mass-produced in some factory somewhere, the members of our little congregation were served broken, uneven, homemade bits of unleavened bread, lovingly prepared by our pastor.
There was something ominous to me about that. Holding that broken piece of cracker with its jagged edges and irregularities, while listening to my grandfather read a portion of the passion of my Christ and then read the story of the Last Supper, where Christ reiterated to his bewildered followers the awful suffering that awaited Him only hours thence, always brought tears to my eyes.
I felt as if I were taking Communion under the very shadow of that Cross.
I confess that I made a conscious effort not to take many of my grandfather’s ideas into my own ministry when I became a pastor. I did not see eye to eye with him on more than a few things. That didn’t mean I didn’t love and respect him. I did. I do. I always will.
One thing, however, I did want to continue was the way he put a holy emphasis on the Lord’s Supper. I wanted my people to feel what I had felt as a boy. So, when I took a church in east Texas, only an hour from where he was pastoring the last church he would serve before being called to his reward, I planned a Communion for our congregation and then a personal trip to Mount Pleasant. Easter was just a couple weeks away.
In my grandmother’s kitchen, where her famous rolls were made and where her even more famous monkey stories were often told, my grandfather and I bonded. The sweetest moment I ever had with him was the day he taught me to bake unleavened bread.
I will never forget that Communion the following week. Easter was only days away. I stood behind the communion table. The deacons had served the people the bread and the cup. I read a portion of the story of the Last Supper, and then I picked up a rather large, uneven piece of bread from the silver tray on which it lay and snapped it in two. In the holy hush that had settled over us, that breaking of the bread could be heard all over the sanctuary.
I remember the way this one kid sitting near the front winced when the bread snapped in my hands. I remember hoping that holy moment would stay with him the way those moments from so many years before had stuck with me.
Broken. His body. Broken. For me. For you.