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A mother’s gift seen in reverence and sacredness of Lord’s Supper

From earliest experiences in church, I was fascinated with the tiny cups of grape juice at communion. As I watched the trays pass up and down the rows, I watched people with teary eyes and solemn looks take the cup and sip. When I was a little older I studied the solid wooden table from which the communion was served. “In Remembrance of Me” was carved across the front. I asked my mother, Elberta Bailey McBride, what that meant when we got home from church, and she turned her Bible to Matthew 26 and read aloud where that gospel describes the last supper. I was probably in the first grade when this happened, and mother had already read me the accounts of Jesus’ death. I asked, “Is that why you always cry when you have communion?” She looked at me seriously and said, “Someday you will understand.”
I was 12 and baptized on Sunday nightin an Oakland, Calif., church. Six had responded to theinvitation. My best friend Ricky Bendio, my aunt Ethel, three sailors and Iwere baptized.

Afterward we gathered in a small roomwhere I first took communion. Sitting between my aunt and best friend, Iwatched my mother across the room silently weeping.
My mother, a devout believer in God,always considered communion the most sacred time in worship. Even today I cansee her solemn look and tears when I close my eyes during communion. What ablessing.
One of my fondest memories of my wife’smother, Aline Helton Warren, was her taking communion cups home after theevening worship in Cowan, Tenn. Aline had cared for a son, Bennie, with complexcerebral palsy, and her widowed mother.
Through the years, she baked the bread,prepared the communion tray and then took home the cups to wash them. For manyyears she also washed and ironed linen cloths to cover the table and the trays.
Aline’s faith always took a practicalturn. She was bright woman who was a serious Bible student. I still read hernotes in her Johnson commentary because of her good insights about the work ofJesus. She was an adoring mother who had helped her son become an amazing humanbeing who had faith and lived it through all the changes of his life.
Aline loved her daughter, Joyce, andone of the hardest things in her life was seeing her daughter marry and moveall the way to Oklahoma.Still she was deeply involved in her daughter’s life. I was blessed by her loveand her devotion.
Even as I was blessed by a mother ofintelligence and faith, I have been blessed by a wife whose mother had lovedher, taught her to use her mind, and inspired her to love the church. Joyce, inturn, has been an amazing mother. Our three children have endless stories thatreflect their mother’s love.
Like many men, I was too occupied witha career. Even though I could justify my priorities because I was strengtheninga fledgling Christian university, my wife was the principal caregiver andnurturer of my children. They would readily step forward to call Joyce blessed.They know her faith. They know her love for God and for people. They know heras a tireless worker who is never too busy to help any person. For 37 years shehas taught the pre-kindergarten Bible class every Sunday morning and Wednesdayevening, nine months out of the year.

Joyce loves teaching children, but sheis terrified at the thought of teaching adults. She knows that children lovestories and remember them. She has followed the same chronology for years, buther knowledge of Old Testament history and geography has grown through the years.I remember her exhilaration as we retraced Paul’s steps into Macedonia. Shewept the night we had a devotion on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Every place Joyce goes she looks forthings that will illustrate an event or a practice of biblical times. She hassermon notes she has taken for 50 years. She shares her love of teaching withthree daughters (two born in the family and one by marriage). She has lovednumerous students whom we have met: from Bill and Debbie Stein to Lauren andAndrew Barker. Over a span of 30 years she has loved and encouraged couples.They are in her prayers.
Ann White, who has had serious healthproblems and is recovering in Texarkana,is one of many students who have become part of her extended family. She praysfor Blake Blackwell who returned from teaching English in Japan just intime to see his mother die.
I have been blessed by three marvelousmothers — my own, my wife’s and my wife, the mother of Melissa Roe, LynetteBrown and Michael McBride. My mother touched my life. Joyce’s mother touched achurch and a family. Joyce has taught two generations to know that “The Lordis” their shepherd who leaves the 99 to seek the lost sheep.
Praise God for mothers. When I next seethe cup of grape juice in communion, I will remember Aline Warren and ElbertaMcBride as I take Joyce’s hand.

May 1, 2006

Filed under: Insight Staff Reports

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