Posted by: Jonathan Stepp | July 19, 2008

Eucharist and Salvation Part 3

The presence of children at an open communion table can present challenges. This came up in the comments on my post from Tuesday – Jerome agreed with my thoughts about the eucharist but also raised the issue of a service he participated in where the kids were unruly, laughing, and didn’t seem to really understand what was going on around them.

In the 7 years my congregation has been celebrating communion every week we have learned a few lessons that might help us think about this issue:

1. It is very simple to teach children that the bread represents Jesus’ body and the wine (or grape juice, we make both available) represents his blood. We’ve made sure that our Sunday School and mid-week kid’s curricula include this concept. I’ve found most kids are naturally drawn to the story of the last supper, and the feeding of the five thousand, and to the concrete, sensory experience of eating the eucharist.

2. It’s important that kids are properly supervised too. If a parent isn’t with them at church it’s good to make sure they sit with and come to the table with a responsible adult. I’ve noticed that the kids in our church often bunch together in the communion line while one or two parents keep an eye on them.

3. Most Christians have an unbiblical bugaboo about kids taking communion. We’ve had it drilled in our heads that they must be baptized (or baptized and confirmed in some traditions) before they participate. The bible mentions neither criteria. On the other hand, Jesus does say in the bible “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them.”

4. Many of us are also concerned about whether kids “understand” what they’re doing it. Do you understand it? I mean, I know that Jesus said “this is my body” and I know the doctrines of the Church, but my appreciation and comprehension of the communion we share as humanity in the Trinity through Jesus keeps growing every year. What’s the basic threshold of understanding that we would impose if we were going to impose one? Do you have to know the difference between “real presence” and “transubstantiation”?

Think of your family table. Don’t the grandparents, kids, and grandkids – even the infants – all gather together at the table? Don’t the wise and foolish, those who know the family’s business and those who don’t, all gather together? The Father’s table isn’t about cognitive maturity it’s about relationship forged in the humanity of God, the union of the Divine and the Human in the body of Jesus.

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Responses

  1. Good points, Jonathan.

    We have been having children come to the table for many years. It has always been as families however, so as you say, they seem to take with proper decorum (whatever that means!). I wish all of our adults would “act up a bit more” at the table because of the joy of the Lord!! 🙂

    We always have someone bring the children in from Children’s Church before the communion which is almost always at the conclusion and tied into my message (or else before my message before the children go out.) If we don’t invite them in, we hear about it from the kids. They seem to take it as a very important part of their life, for which I rejoice!

    May we all be as little children at the Lord’s table!

  2. Thanks for the comments, Glen! It is amazing to see how kids respond to communion and it is exciting when the adults really begin to celebrate communion and not just “take” communion – I think I’ll try to say a bit more about that in my next post on the subject.

  3. I love these posts on the Eucharist and salvation and appreciate your insights and encouragements could you comment on 2 Cor. 11: 27-33? It can appear that if I don’t get it right there is judgment that can lead to sickness or even death!

  4. Thanks, Scott, for reading and for the encouraging words. Here’s a few thoughts about that passage:

    Whenever we interpret the word we have to do so in the context of The Word, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one in whom humanity is forgiven and reconciled (Rom. 5:18, Col. 1:20).

    Therefore, whatever Paul means he can’t mean that there is some way we can take communion that undoes our reconciliation. What Jesus has joined together (Trinity and humanity) no man can put asunder.

    In the fuller context of chapter 11 he is addressing the issue of the Corinthian church taking communion in a way that leaves some out. Those who get there early are eating everything and leaving nothing for others (11:20-22). This sort of activity he calls “not discerning the body” (v. 29).

    So, the problem is not that the Corinthians were failing to engage in sufficient introspection and repentance. The problem is that they were not recognizing that we are all members of the body of Christ and – as Paul says in the next chapter – we need to be taking care of each other.

    Or, put another way, they failed to recognize that all humanity is in Christ. For this, he says, they make themselves subject to the judgment of the Lord (v. 32).

    What sort of judgment is that? It is the judgment of the one who includes us in his life, loves us more than himself, prays for us continually, and has made us right with his Father forever. In the context of who Jesus is, such judgment can only be good news for us!

    It is the good news that our wrong thinking will be corrected. We thought that some were included in Christ and some weren’t – in that way we failed to discern the body of Christ, i.e. what the bread symbolizes to us – and now our wrong thinking has been judged to be wrong and we are set free from our false ideas about God. We are liberated to see that the Father really does love us and really does include us all.

    When we see that truth we stop doing insane things like getting drunk at communion and letting some of our brothers and sisters go hungry at the table.

    The Father is passionate about us discerning the body of Christ and seeing that we are all part of him. So passionate that he will allow discipline – even death – to come into our lives to help us see our inclusion. What happened to those who died from failing to discern the Lord’s body, as described in v. 30? In their next moment of consciousness they stood before Jesus and realized how lame their thinking had been.

  5. Pastor Jonathan,
    Thank you for your response and explaining these verses in light of Jesus as the one in whom humanity is forgiven and reconciled (Rom. 5:18, Col. 1:20). I have listened to your sermons online weekly sense November 07 and I find it amazing how I have not been able to interpret certain scriptures with a Trinitarian view. My paradigm is in constant revision and pastors like your self, Tim Brassell, Baxter Kruger, World Wide Church of God have truly been a blessing and answer to prayer in my life.
    Scott


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