She came up to me after the worship service at a dwindling congregation on the Lower East Side and said, “I just wanted to let you know that I didn’t take communion this morning because the preacher at this other church I attend says I can’t.”
“Why can’t you?” I asked, incredulous.
“He said it’s because I smoke cigarettes, and I need to get right with God before I can take communion. Is that what you believe?”
“Well, I’ll tell you what I think. I think that if we have to be right with God before we are allowed to receive communion, none of us would ever get fed, myself included. I think of communion as the nourishment we need from God in order to make changes in our life.”
. . . .
What are the requirements to receive the Lord’s Supper? Baptism? Confirmation? A sinless life? Spiritual hunger? An inkling? A curiosity? A longing?
My answer came easily to this woman whose hunger was palpable.
“This is God’s table, not mine. Not the church’s. If you desire to come close to God, come and eat.”
And she did.
Does the same hold true for children?
Are they ‘equipped’ to receive communion? What are the requirements? Age limits?
At Waffle Church, we believe that it is in the practices of faith, in the hearing of the story, in the sharing of the meal, in the living in community, that the formation of faith occurs. Not the other way around.
Come and eat. Then go and serve.
I came across the following passage from Elizabeth Frances Caldwell’s book, Come Unto Me- Rethinking the Sacraments for Children. But as I think about this woman, and I think about the child she once was, I believe this applies to people of all ages.
Caldwell writes, “Children and youth [and I contend, adults also] are not welcome at the table when…
The old, old story we love to tell, the good news of Jesus Christ, is not lived out in the invitation we offer at the table, where Jesus is the host;
A ticket for admission (confirmation) is required in order to share in the meal;
Participation is based on a supposed mastery of the correct amount and type of knowledge;
They are asked to leave before the meal is served;
They are not regular participants in worship and thus do not know the rituals, expectations, and norms of their worshipping community;
The liturgy consistently uses language beyond their comprehension and experience;
They are never included in the preparation or serving of the meal;
They are not taught the parts of the liturgy appropriate to their level of understanding and participation;
The practices, responses and meanings of the sacrament are never openly discussed or explained to them, either at home or at church;
We don’t take seriously the simplicity and complexity of their faith and their faith questions.“
What if the requirements for communion are not on those who would come and eat, but on those who set the table and extend the invitation? What would the table look like if that were true?