Matthew 19:14 – Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." (NIV)
Today at church, the minister called for the servers to come forward to prepare communion for the congregation. Often these moments of ceremony are formal, even sombre in tone — the last remnants of ritual in our modern services.
Today, however, two young boys surprised us all by standing up to "volunteer". They laughed and pushed each other playfully, making their way up to the front of the church along with the four designated servers. An awkward silence fell over the congregation. We expected the minister to gently turn the children away, asking them to sit back down until it was the congregation's turn to come up and take communion. But she didn't do that. She smiled widely and briefly looked up, acknowledging the Spirit in the moment. The congregation released our breath in nervous laughter and small gasps of recognition.
The minister held a basket of bread out to each of the boys and directed them to stand beside the servers holding the cups of wine and juice. The other official server stood behind each boy, slipping seamlessly into a mentor role, guiding the children as they took part in this holy service by offering the bread to the parishioners.
"The body of Christ is broken for you," the young boy said to me and held up the basket. We made eye contact, and he grinned widely at me. His innocent smile reminded me that there is joy in the seriousness of communion and that this is a gift from my Lord. I felt joy and gratitude. I smiled back and thanked the child.
When I got back to my seat, I watched as the elder standing behind the boy who had served me, bent and whispered in his ear. I couldn't hear her words, but I could imagine what she was saying, teaching him gently about the communion table, about the gifts that he was offering, about the words that he was saying in invitation to each member of the congregation he served, or about this sacred tradition, weaving him into the experience.
Some of us learn by hearing, some by reading, and all of us by doing. I am proud of the leaders in my church who recognized a teachable moment this morning for those two boys, and gave them an experience that they may never forget. I hope that the children learned a little about Jesus and holy communion today. But I am certain that they learned, in a deep way, about God's all-encompassing love. They were not only told but shown that they have a role in our church, this Sunday and always.
Jesus chastised His disciples who tried to turn away the children who were seeking Him. But on this Sunday morning, Jesus was undoubtedly pleased to see those elders draw the children closer and stoop to teach them about His love and His church, and to see us, the parishioners who "knew what we were doing" having a new experience of this holy tradition, as we saw it through the eyes of these young children.
May the Lord grant us the fresh eyes of childlike faith as we view accustomed experiences and meet familiar people this week!
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for the opportunities that You entrust to us, each day, to show Your love and compassion to those around us. Keep us flexible, so that we can recognize and respond to opportunities when they arrive, even when they aren't when or how we expect them to appear. Thank You for the refreshment of new perspectives. Help us to become ever more sensitive to the gentle call of Your Holy Spirit as we move through our day. Keep us ever childlike as we grow in our faith. Amen.
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