A Folded Napkin

A Folded Napkin cover


As stories became legendary, customs through the years of the Pharisees and Hebrews became scribed in ink. And the holiest of holy are annual traditions – a commemoration of beliefs we grew up with in life. The rituals and myths may be a bit of a quagmire, but one little-known truth surfaced in the basement of a Southern Gospel Pentecostal church.

It was a beautiful spring day. The sun kissed the blossoming petals, and the winds sailed pollen through the rays of the glistening air. Love was abounding as the fellowship commenced on an Easter Sunday afternoon. A congregation of fifty or so prepared a supper fit for a king. Although I was only passing through, the church made me feel comfortable, and I felt compelled to attend the quaint little service. Afterwards, I was ushered down the steps and into the basement. It was here I discovered true southern hospitality.

The guest’s table was labeled with names in front of each place setting, and flower bouquets stood between platters of food. Crystal, China, and Steiff flatware lined the perimeter. I was so amazed at the beauty of it all! The pastor’s wife instructed me to sit in an empty chair at the far end of the table set for twenty-five attendees. That was fine since being left-handed can cause elbow problems. As everyone found their proper place, one remained empty on the opposite end. I thought little of it as the scrumptious meal made its way around the table – roast, chitlins, not to mention black-eyed peas, succotash, and ham.

Individual plates filled with the colorful spread. As the pastor stood and said a blessing, a vacant seat caught my imagination. I thought someone was probably running late. In the abundance of generosity, conversations easily flowed. Then, the ladies paraded from the kitchen with the pies. Oh, my gosh! Did I say fit for a king – and his court?

I knew not a soul, but they made me feel so welcomed. One by one, folks finished their meal, wadded up their napkins and either tucked them under their plate or set it over the dinner plate. But still, in reverence at the end of the table, remaining poised, was a vacancy place setting with a folded napkin, waiting for another guest.

I could be mounted above a mantel after indulging to the point of being stuffed. The crowd moved outside for a breath of fresh air. I wanted to thank those who particularly made me feel so welcomed. As I reached the doorway to exit into a courtyard, a gentle puff of warm air entered the breezeway.

An elder stood at the door and shook my hand. “It’s so nice to have a bright young man, a new face too, come for our Easter supper.” I smiled and returned the compliment. Then, I leaned over and whispered in his ear, “What happened to the person designated for the place at the opposite end of the dinner table from me?”

He smiled and replied, “You see the folded napkin?”

“Yes,” I said.

He further explained, “If it’s folded, it means they will return.”

“Who?” I asked, “They never showed.”

“Christ,” he said. I was perplexed. He looked at me and smiled again. “We are waiting for His return.”

John 20:6-7
“6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.”

 



EDITOR’S NOTES:

This story alludes to the interpretation of the linen cloth which was wrapped around Jesus’s head at the time of his burial. The disciples Simon Peter and Peter were the first to arrive at the tomb. They saw the wraps of linen cloth lying in the spot where Jesus was placed to rest. However, the “cloth” put over his face and head were lying off to the side.

A Folded Napkin pic 1

Three different versions of the Bible translate this cloth to be a napkin. The NIV version renders it to be a burial cloth, and yet a third interprets it to be a handkerchief. The truth is napkins were not used in the days of Jesus – only a simple piece of fabric.

Though stories run rampant of the validity of this account, it can be noted that it was an unknown custom in Israel. However, some Jewish traditions do support the act of folding a napkin to denote their return to the table.

So, is it conjecture or did this event actually happen? The answer is unknown and requires more research of Jewish customs in the days of Jesus’s life. It certainly makes for an interesting conversation over breakfast!


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A Thread of Faith

Have a blessed Easter!

A Thread of Faith cover


Sitting on an old boulder along the hillside, I watched quietly as if I had gone way back in time. Under the overcast skies, stood a few men that looked as though they were dressed in biblical robes milling about a field. Several knelt before the base of a rough-cut pole. I watched them pray in the shadows and observed the amazed disbelievers. They gazed upon the monument where the crucified King hung not so long ago. I presumed it must have been day four or five since He was entombed in the limestone cave. They stood praying in His honor and breaking off pieces of the treasured cross.

I heard a woman weeping as she threw herself around the base of the up righted cross. Aided by two disciples, she reached up and carefully removed the remains of His loincloth hanging from the driven spike. She tore the cloth into threads, and shared the pieces –much like a first communion. “Our Savior lives! Our Savior lives!” she announced. I began to shed a tear, for I knew the truth! They, too, saw the empty tomb and knew what happened to Him.

From her soiled hands, she passed out a thread of faith. Each of the disciples carried their pieces as a sacred memento. The doubters watched while others came forward and found salvation with her communion. As I watched, I could tell they were the first to become born-again Christians for they now accepted He was the Christ.

I don’t think they saw me; maybe I didn’t exist to them but what I saw while sitting on that ominous boulder in a pair of jeans was incredible! As much as I wanted to walk up to the site, I thought better of losing the mirage. I, a mere messenger, can only report what I saw that day. The sun broke through and before it set, I watched the rays as they lifted them into the heavens.

A Thread of Faith verse


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Making Amends

An Artist’s Tribute to Palm Sunday: “The Last Supper”

Amends cover
“Truly I say to you, that one of you shall betray me”

Many times in life we must look at things in wonder. For centuries, disconcert plays a role in many people’s lives. One such situation you may be unaware of occurred in 1495. The Duke of Milan wanted to have a contest for artists. The quest was to see who could depict the best painting of an unknown event from their imagination. This painting would be placed in the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. So, word went out across the land to bring knowledge and talent and put their skills to the test.

Artists came from far and wide to show their talents. One such flagrant depicter had a reputation for never completing his works. He stood by the wayside for he wasn’t qualified to even be considered. But soon, others were rejected for their inequality of artistry. The list was quickly narrowed down to just two contenders. It was between the one you already know and another who was less fortunate to be second runner-up. Now as the story goes, these two artists did not think much of each other’s skills. In fact, they detested their perspective abilities and reputations. Despising each other brought tensions and deceit. After painting a mock version of the duke’s request, Leonardo da Vinci was awarded the job.

Amends da vinci
Leonardo da Vinci

Depicting the unimaginable, yet showing great reverence for the somber occasion, his characters developed from common people serving as models – some were off the street and one was just out of prison. But of all those who posed for this infamous painting, it was the character of Jesus that Leonardo struggled with and could not accomplish…. at least not until he made amends with his colleague who wasn’t as lucky as him. Da Vinci could not paint Jesus’s eyes until he asked for forgiveness.

Looking into the eyes of those who don’t see as we, forgiveness is all Christ asks of us. In the reflections, deep in the portals of the subconscious, Jesus stands with us. His eyes, as in the painting of “The Last Supper,” pierces our hearts and minds. It should remind us of our own integrity–-primary, and our lives in His hands. And as we celebrate our Savior’s passing may we never forget we can all partake in the last supper. Just look into Christ’s eyes, and you will see.

 


Interesting Facts of “The Last Supper” Painting

  • Leonardo, prior to this contest, had no experience painting large pictures. It took him four years to complete it.
  • The original painting was 15 x 29 feet long.
  • The Last Supper was originally painted by experimenting with tempura paint on a dry, plaster wall. Even before it was finished, it flaked off the walls. It had to be re-done a few times by da Vinci.
  • Two exact copies of da Vinci’s Last Supper are known to exist. They were created by Leonardo’s assistants and are remarkably well preserved.
  • The painting was made to depict Matthew 26:21.

Amends Matthew 26

  • Very little of the original painting exists today. It was heavily damaged by Napoleon Bonaparte’s soldiers in the late 18th century, and then disintegrated by the Nazis in World War II. In fact, it has been restored seven times.
  • In 1652, monastery residents cut a new door in the wall of the deteriorating painting, which removed a chunk of the artwork showing the feet of Jesus.
  • All prior versions of “The Last Supper” had halos over the disciples and Jesus’s heads. However, Leonardo da Vinci did not paint them and many today speculate it was because he saw everyone as just ordinary people – not saints.

Amends Last Supper with halos

 

  • Da Vinci’s drawings show that most bodily proportions use the fascinating Golden Ratio: two quantities are in the golden ratio if their ratio is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities. Not just a simple painting!

Amends The Golden Ratio

 

  • Want to see the original painting in person? You must book a viewing at least several months in advance. Each visit consists of fifteen minutes in groups of 20-25 visitors, and you must be dressed conservatively.

Amends Da Vinci Code


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