"Red: Week One" - Daily Reflection Friday, October 8, 2015
When I was a small child I remember sitting in the old wooden pews of the Fairfield Road Baptist Church in Greenville, SC while we passed the elements for communion.
My parents would take the crackers from the plate and the tiny cups filled with juice, and would pass them on without including me. I remember smelling the scent of the crackers and juice, and wishing like the dickens that I could have some. I seem to recall my stomach growling as well. It had been a long time since breakfast, and our church services lasted for what seemed like an eternity.
In the tradition within which I was raised, children who had not "accepted Christ," and been baptized by immersion (what we called 'believers baptism') were not allowed to partake in the Lord's Supper. At the time I had done neither, so I got passed over.
The practice of excluding children until they are fully initiated into the faith, or are educated on the meaning of the Lord's Supper is fairly common in most churches, to be honest. Even in traditions that allow for the inclusion of children in Holy Communion, many parents want their children to wait until they fully understand what is happening when they eat the bread and drink from the cup.
Here's the thing, if we really believed in waiting until we understood the mystery of the Eucharist before we partake of it---not very many of us would be sharing the bread and cup when it is passed or offered. So why is it that we expect children to wait until they understand before they can share in the common meal of Jesus?
Shouldn't we make them feel included? Didn't Jesus practice the inclusion of children in his ministry?
Perhaps you recall how Jesus once rebuked his disciples for shooing away people with children when people were trying to bring them to Jesus. "Let the little ones come to me," He told them, "for unless you become like a little child, you cannot expect to share in the Kingdom of God."
This is the moment when some might say, "Ah, but pastor what about that verse that says that everyone ought to examine themselves before Holy Communion so that they don't participate in it unworthily? Kids can't really do that, can they?"
First, that verse is actually from 1 Corinthians chapter 11, and when read in its context it refers to how rich people in the church at Corinth were making poor people feel terribly about being poor, and were basically not willing to share their food with them. It's about unity, in other words.
Second, I interpret Paul's exhortation to mean that when the beloved community comes together to share the sacred meal at the Lord's Table, everyone should be invited. To do otherwise would be to celebrate it unworthily.
When it comes to Holy Communion, we should have the faith of a little child--the kind of wide-eyed, wonder-filled, awe-stricken faith that smells the goodness of the gifts in the Eucharist, and wants not only to participate, but also wants everyone we love to share it, too.
So, in the end, I echo Jesus words: Let the little children come to the Table. Don't forbid them. Perhaps through their eyes we can re-kindle our own passion, wonder and joy for the good gifts of the Lord's Supper, and for the Savior who set the table for all his children to gather around.