I don’t often write about faith-related matters on Mom Goes On. That’s mainly because I live in a part of the country where conservative fundamentalists have hijacked the concept of Christianity, and if I mention what I do for a living, people make a lot of completely incorrect assumptions about what I believe and what I do. (Okay, reality check: In what part of the U.S. is that NOT true?)
But since we’re in the season of Lent, and last night was our initial First Communion class for this year, and since it was an awesome experience, I really wanted to share.
In the ELCA Lutheran Church, the general practice is to invite 2nd graders to have instruction to receive their first communion. Because I work in an ELCA Lutheran church, I go along with this guideline, though my personal belief is that any person who can chew and swallow should be welcome at the table. When a young child comes to my line with her hands out to receive when I’m serving communion, I give her a piece of bread. Thankfully, our two pastors are fine with it, and they do the same.
But – back to last night. We do these classes every year. Second graders and their families are specifically invited, but any age child is welcome to attend. We make it clear that though we want everyone to attend the sessions – because they facilitate community and learning and are just plain FUN – attending the classes is NOT a prerequisite for receiving the sacrament. It’s a gift given freely, with no conditions attached.
There’s a general fixation among adults that kids shouldn’t receive the body and blood of Christ unless they “understand” what it’s all about. What a crock. I defy you to find any pastor, or bishop, or otherwise learned church person, who can honestly say they understand the mystery of communion. If they say they do, they’re fibbing.
So anyway…last night there was solid learning about what a sacrament is (a commandment + a promise + a physical element – in this case bread and wine). There was time to get to know each other. And there was an awesome hands-on activity in which the kids made cups that will be glazed and fired, as a memento of this special time.
At our next class we’ll make the bread that will be used when they actually celebrate their first communion on Maundy Thursday. It’s kind of a misnomer for a lot of kids. Many of them have participated in communion before, and that’s totally fine. Bread night is always pretty crazy and messy. Just like Jesus’ love. Just like life.
One of the things I love most about the class is that our pastor starts out by telling the kids that if they only get one thing out of our time together, it should be this: “God loves me.” We practice saying it, loud, over and over.
And what I take away every time is this: What would the world look like if every single person – and I mean EVERYONE, even those who in our minds are completely un-loveable – understood that they are loved and adored unconditionally, no matter what they might do? And what if every single person recognized that the guy they disagree with/disapprove of/hate is no less loved than he is? That’s what the world should look like, if we’re all behaving like that Jesus guy we say we follow.
That’s what I call insanely radical love, no boundaries, no requirements. And that’s what I mean when I say I am a Christian.
4 thoughts on “Taking a moment to clear things up…”
Requiring baptism before communion seems like an interesting party line to have, theologically speaking, at least in any denomination that permits infant baptism. (I’d find it more “logical” for a denomination that wanted to restrict participation, if it required the participants to be capable of informed consent for both.) Then again, theology really isn’t about logic, is it? And certainly not when determining who’s in or who’s out, which seems to be much more about history and church/denomination politics than about anything Jesus ever taught! I can see why you’d love a church that focuses more on “God loves you” and less about how a synod thinks you should be interpreting that.
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What a great way to introduce children to communion — both tying it in with Maundy Thursday, and by baking the bread for it. And I really like your pastor’s emphasis on what the point is, in such a simple way that even kids get it, but also gets at the heart of what communion is all about — how much God loves us. My church (UCC) puts a lots of emphasis on the fact that everyone is invited to partake, without exception. (Another way to emphasize God’s unconditional acceptance.) Over the years, and especially the years I was serving communion as a deacon, it’s become clear to me how true I think that should be, in any Christian church. I did smile at your line that “any person who can chew and swallow should be welcome at the table.” There’s one person in my congregation who can’t chew, but she can swallow a tiny and well-moistened piece of bread without chewing if we place it gently in her mouth. So even she can take part in communion, and she makes it abundantly clear in her own non-verbal ways how much she loves being included.
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Wow, thanks for such a thoughtful response. Interesting (I think) point about communion in the ELCA church: The party line is that people should be baptized before they receive communion. That has always pissed me off royally…so one of the things I LOVE about the church I work for is that the pastors go rogue and make it clear every week that absolutely everyone is welcome. Actually, we pretty much go rogue on everything because by and large the churchwide body is a bunch of nincompoops. Better than a lot of denominations, I think, but still stuck in the past and ineffectual. We call our synod office “the island of misfit toys.”