Last Supper Prep for Presbyterians

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” (Mark 14.12-15)

 

… Jesus went on, “then go to the supermarket and get some of the bread that Thomas likes, but make sure there’s also a gluten free option for Matthew. And get wine, preferably decent stuff, you know how James and John are about wine. And of course non-alcoholic grape juice for me because in the future some disciples would prefer that I didn’t drink.”

“And if there’s money left, how about some chocolate cake; because those same disciples seem to think gluttony is ok. And napkins; we must have napkins, and they need to match the table cloth. That sort of thing is really important in church.”

“Also could you pick up my suit from the dry cleaners, and give my shoes a quick clean, it’s important to get dressed up for this.”

“Oh, and one last thing, give the rest of the disciples a call, you know, the ones that only come for passover.”

 

For the true story see; Mark 14.12-26

 

 

The Bus from Emmaus

Many people will know the story of the road to Emmaus, where the risen Jesus surprised some woebegone followers. But few know the story of Jesus’ return to Jerusalem*

 

After breaking bread, Jesus vanished. Cleopas and his friend quickly washed the dishes and set off to tell the others what had happened.

Jesus also wanted to head back to Jerusalem. But it had been a long day, and rather than walking back, he decided to take the bus.

Calling it a bus is an exaggeration. It was more a cart pulled by donkeys.

Jesus climbed on board, and sat on the bench next to a young woman. She grumpily shifted along, lifting her bag onto her lap. And proceeded to ignore him as the cart jolted on.

But later in the journey he caught her glancing at him. “Sorry,” she said, “but has anyone told you, you look like that prophet from Galilee. You know, the one they just crucified.”

Jesus smiled; “really” he replied.

“What a shame that was”, she said. “He was clearly a little crazy, but it was still a shame.”

Jesus was still smiling.

She went on “I don’t believe in religion myself.”

“Are you some kind of evangelical?” said Jesus. “What do you have against smells and bells?”

“Oh no”, she replied, looking a little disgusted. “I’m not ‘evangelical’. I’m just not into organised religion. I don’t need some priest or religious council telling me what to do.”

“I’m not religious, I’m more…”

“Spiritual?” said Jesus.

“Spiritual”, exactly, she said. “I’m spiritual. I don’t need organised, intolerant religion. I don’t need ancient, irrational traditions to help me live my life. I prefer to do my own thing.”

“So, I practice yoga, and I’m into new age ideologies.”

“Interesting” said Jesus.

“Ah, this is my stop.”

 

*This story of course is entirely fictional, but for the story of Emmaus see: Luke 24

All the believers?

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts… (Acts 2.42-46)

…Except for James, the brother of Jesus. He wanted to “do church” differently. And so he started a fresh expression in Bethany, just outside Jerusalem. He preferred to “sing a new song” not to just the old Psalms. His venture was a great success, although it mainly attracted disenchanted Christians. 

And then there was Martha, the sister of Lazarus and Mary. She grew disillusioned with “organised religion.” It began with a disagreement about cleaning the church fridge. She soon began trying different house churches; she even tried James’ fresh expression. But eventually she drifted away. She still believed but said, “I don’t need to ‘go to church’ to follow Jesus, I can read my bible and pray anywhere.”

Then there was Andrew and his family. He was an elder, but they were just worn out at the end of the week. And church was becoming difficult because of their older son’s behavioural issues. After Mary started back at work, combined with the need to visit granny at the weekend, it became unrealistic for them to get to the regular gathering. 

And lastly there’s me, Luke. After Paul sent me to complete postgrad studies, I found my faith becoming dry. When reading the Torah, I was bugged by critical questions of sources and authorship. And there was James’ constant nagging about the need for a more missional approach. So, between us, I grew less passionate. Eventually I only went to church if I was preaching. 

Matthew and Mission

Matthew sat among a group of disciples eagerly listening to his story of Jesus. 

“Jesus said, ‘all authority on heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore as you go make disciples, baptising them and teaching them all I have taught you…’”

“In other words”, continued Matthew, “life is about sharing the Gospel; as you go about your business, make disciples.”

“That almost sounds too simple” said one of the group.

“Quite right” said Matthew, that’s exactly what we thought. And so we invented ‘mission’. Matthew now had a glint in his eye.

“Mission” replied the questioner, “what does that mean?” 

“Precisely,” said Matthew, “what does it mean? It means everything and nothing at the same time. It means whatever you want it to mean.”

“Mission means; courses and books, research and consultancy, workshops, webinars, conferences and lectures.”

“Mission means; experts and advisors, specialists and coaches. It means having little time to talk to anyone that isn’t a Christian because you’re too busy teaching Christians about mission.”

“But doesn’t the Church need to know that Jesus wanted them to get on with life, sharing the Gospel as they went? Wouldn’t it make things much simpler?”

Matthew looked aghast. “Of course the Church doesn’t need to know that Jesus left them a clear and simple task”, he shrieked. “That would ruin everything. Imagine how quickly they’d stop investing in our programmes and conferences. The whole mission industry would implode!” 

For the real text: Matthew 28.16-20

Success in ministry 

On hearing that many were abandoning his ministry to follow Jesus; John the Baptist said, “he must become greater, I must become less.” 

“Oh no Rabbi” said one of his followers. “I’m not sure you’re seeing the big picture. Ministry is not about you becoming less, it’s about you gaining maximum exposure, for the Kingdom. This is not the time to disappear. This is the time to expand and diversify.”

“We need to grow your social media profile. We need to think about podcasts, magazines, a blog and online coverage. Also, have you ever thought about writing; you must have a few books worth of material.”

“Or have you thought about leading a church planting or missional movement? And there’s the Christian conference and guest lecture circuit.”

“So sir, you see there’s so much to be doing now that you’re retiring.”

A thunderous look spread over the Baptist’s face, “you brood of…”

The eager follower interrupted, “yes, that’s it, perfect! People will love that angry prophet tone.”

For the first time in many years, John the Baptist was speechless. 

For the real text: John 3.22-30

The birth of children’s ministry 

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.

“Can’t you see he’s preaching!”, they said. 

Jesus called the disciples over. “That was a little harsh guys. You’ve got to think about the message it gives out. It’s just not politically astute to be sending away children.” 

“What do you suggest Lord”, replied Thaddaeus. 

“Well”, said Jesus pausing for a moment. “We need to be smarter. Of course we don’t want kids interrupting the preaching. We can’t have the grown ups distracted from our message of the Kingdom. We need to keep people focussed on the main thing; our message of God’s compassion. 

But rather than reject them, we need to divert them. Speak to the parents. See if you can arrange a crèche. Or at least a worksheet to keep them occupied. 

Remind them of the older folks, that can’t hear so well.” 

The parents took it well. And soon the little kids were led off to a nearby house to hear bible stories. Jesus promised that he would visit on an annual basis to see how they were getting on.

For the real story: Mark 10.13-16

When you pray. 

Jesus continued, 

“But when you pray, go to your room, close the door…

And spend some time considering what mood music should be the soundtrack to your prayers. 

Try using post-its or other colourful paper to write your requests upon. 

Do some colouring in, or whatever else helps focus your mind. Perhaps start a prayer journal?? 

Draw your prayers, sing them and don’t forget to tweet a #prayerroomselfie.

And above all, don’t forget fairy lights!”

For the real teaching: Matthew 6.6