Monday, June 23, 2014

My Son Reached Out His Hand

I am a Lutheran Pastor.  The congregation where I serve celebrates communion every week, which I think is wonderful.  I am a strong advocate of children receiving communion and in the few short years that I have served with this congregation, I have guided many families to the decision to have even their youngest children commune.  (The youngest child receiving communion in our congregation is four years old, though he started receiving when he was three and a half.)  

My theological explanation to invite, encourage, and welcome children to the Table is simple: 

To me, communion is not mine to give or withhold, it is God's gift of himself, that God freely offers to all for the forgiveness of sins, the strengthening of faith, and most importantly (and the one I stress almost every week), because God loves us.  Despite proclaiming this, we know that communion is a complete mystery.  It is something that God does for us, not something we will ever comprehend, because it is God's gift.  We also know that when everyone else would shun them, Jesus welcomed children with open arms.  He included them. 

As much as I would like to commune all of the children who come forward, I always leave the decision to their parents, grandparents, or guardians.  Even as it is not mine to withhold, it also not mine to force onto a family who does not feel ready, regardless of how much a child reaches to receive. 

Yesterday, during communion, my two and a half year old son, who is not baptized, reached out his hand to receive the Body of Christ. 

I did not stop and think, I did not mentally seek to justify with doctrine, I did not worry about efficaciousness. I gave him the bread and proclaimed boldly, "Body of Christ given for you." 

My son, has been my son for six months. My husband and I expect that within the next two months the adoption will be finalized.  Our son isn't baptized yet for several reasons, but also because we're waiting so that he can be baptized with his forever family name.

It is very uncommon to commune one who is not baptized, and yet he so clearly reached.  He has been observing this practice for six months and he knows that something important is happening.  So when he reached, I responded, not as his mommy, but as the pastor (with the authority of his mother to make that decision). 

I know that in the years to come, my son will have questions about his faith and God.  I know that my son will get angry at God at one or more times in his life.  However, I never want my son to think that God is inaccessible, neglectful, or withholding (which are human reactions to God's free gifts of love and grace).  My son has already known such human behaviors in his short life.  I will not be the one to give a similar face to God and I will always advocate for him to be completely included in the community of Christ. 

Yesterday, my son reached out his hand, and yesterday he joyfully received God's love.