Suppertime

Suppertime–that’s an inviting word, isn’t it?

The word supper, to me, brings up all kinds of warm and wonderful memories. Maybe having good memories of suppers helps me absorb so poignantly the account of the Lord’s Supper as written by Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

In a recent Bible study lesson we revisited the very special and amazing account of Jesus and His disciples at the last supper. Michael Best, our Bible study leader, painted word pictures for us of Jesus at that Passover meal–the low tables, the disciples reclining on left elbows. We even know the placement at the table of Jesus and some of His disciples. Judas, who would betray Him, was invited by Jesus to recline on His left, a place of great honor. John, the beloved disciple, reclined at His right. This supper, according to Luke 22, is described as the last Passover. But it was also the first Lord’s Supper which Christians for two thousand years have commemorated in different ways. Instead of celebrating the rescue of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt we celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus who saves those who believe, not just temporarily, but for eternity. The disciples didn’t understand the significance of the wine and the bread that night. But after the resurrection they would grasp the symbolism of the wine representing His blood and the bread His body.

What they did understand that night was that this was a very special supper, that Jesus had desired fervently to eat it with them, that things were happening they couldn’t explain, but right now Jesus was with them. They had followed Jesus’s detailed instructions for the preparation and now they were gathered in an upper room to “break bread” with Him. Though such a wonderful time for them, as I read it I always am shrouded with sadness too. Because I know what was about to happen. But–there would be another feast in His new kingdom, He told them! He told these very dear friends to remember Him each time they partook of the wine and bread, to celebrate, and to anticipate that time when, again, they would share supper with Him.

When Mamma called us to supper we responded quickly. Whether we came from chores, from play, from reading or milking the cows, the supper call was reason for celebration. We wouldn’t have a great feast. That would be reserved for Sunday dinner. At noontime dinner every day we had hearty staples like mashed potatoes, dried lima beans, mackerel patties or beef stew and, in the summertime, a table loaded with wonderful fresh vegetables–squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, snap beans and, always, Mamma’s fresh bread. Supper, then, was leftovers sometimes but often our large family would have eaten everything at dinner so supper was milk and bread. In the wintertime Mamma sometimes cooked a huge skillet of fried homemade hominy for supper. In case you don’t know, hominy is dried kernel corn soaked for hours, cooked for hours until tender, an all day operation. But the bread and milk was often our fare and it was so very good.

I can picture us now, a whole long bench full of youngsters, hungrily waiting for Mamma’s pan bread to brown and for older sisters to pour our mugs of milk. That bread was whole wheat flat bread cooked on an iron pan on top of the wood burning stove. When we started singing “Here we sit like birds in the wilderness waiting for something to eat,” Mamma slid the bread pan over, removed the griddle, then replaced the bread pan next to the flame so the bread would cook faster. There couldn’t be any bread more delicious–hot, slathered with butter, or crumbled in that mug of milk.

Supper for Charles and me and our family was different. Charles didn’t like a lot to eat in the middle of the day because he would be “bending over it” all afternoon working with cows, pigs, and horses. He preferred sandwiches at noon and a big supper at night. So supper consisted of things like fried pork chops, baked potatoes, and plenty of south Georgia vegetables. I liked to make bread too–cornbread, fresh loaves of wheat bread, but never those delicious flat griddle breads like Mamma’s.

To me it was very important to have all of us sit down to eat together. This meant long waits sometimes since Charles would often be working late finishing a herd or delivering a calf or something. I guess I tortured my children making them wait until Daddy got home. When they were little and the waiting got long, I’d tell them to go outside and call Daddy real loud, maybe he would hear. Miraculously, at that point, we often heard his pickup turning in off South Broad. It was so good when we were all around the table sharing what the day had brought, both bad and good.

Suppers at church have always been so joyful whether at midweek or some special occasion. Then there were the community fundraiser suppers, the south Georgia fish fry suppers, the spontaneous “ya’ll come over” suppers, the cook-outs and the spaghetti suppers.

The best thing about all of them was the people gathered around the tables.

A few weeks ago my siblings and I and our spouses (only seven of us this time!) spent a weekend in a mountain cottage. During that weekend Suzanne played an old cassette which included my brother Charlie singing the Jim Reeves song “Come Home, Come Home, It’s Suppertime.” Charlie, accompanied by his guitar, used to sing that song whenever he and my brother Stan “jammed” on Saturday night. Now, on the mountain, we all, including Charlie, listened and hummed along, remembering Mamma’s call to supper as well as the fun jamming sessions.

The first part of the song is spoken to the gentle strumming of the guitar. Charlie’s words were clear, filled with pathos, as he told how, when a child, he’d play till shadows came, then he’d hear his mother’s call to supper. The refrain goes like this:

Come home, come home, it’s suppertime,

The shadows lengthen fast.

Come home, come home, it’s suppertime.

We’re going home at last.

The last stanza of the song takes us back to my opening concerning the Lord’s Supper. In spoken words Jim Reeves, or our Charlie, talks about when all Christians will gather for the greatest supper of all, in Glory with Jesus at the head of the table.

We’ve had to say goodby to so many dear ones the last year. We’re saddened at their leaving and there are huge holes that will not be filled. But it’s so good to remember that they’re enjoying supper with Jesus. And whatever the food is, it’s even better than Mamma’s hot griddle bread!

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