People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch
them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was
indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them;
for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever
does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." And he
took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.
Jesus' listeners would have been surprised – shocked, even. Nothing belonged to children. Children were the chattel of the household. Though the custom was for the woman of the household to bring a child for a rabbi to touch--to bless, neither the woman--nor the child was worth much in the scheme of things. And as usual, Jesus turned things upside down.
Of course, we might have thought the disciples had gotten this message just a few passages earlier when Jesus admonished them with almost the same message: "Whoever welcomes a child in my name welcomes me." But the disciples quickly forget.
Today we celebrate World Communion Sunday. As a congregation--we're having an almost record breaking Sunday of communion--of community--beginning the morning with the community
breakfast, now in worship, soon with St Joseph in our Joint Blessing of the Animals service.
In a tangible way this day of community helps us remember that the sacrament of communion isn't a sacrament of isolation--but a sacrament of community.
For the early church, the folks in the Jesus movement, communion--sharing the Lord's table, was a way of remembering Jesus by reenacting something that was central to their experience of his ministry. The communal meal was a way of keeping alive the memory of their experience of his earthly life with them. Of course, like the disciples before them, they didn't get it right all the time. Remember Paul's admonishments to share and make sure there was food for all? Some ate too much too soon. The rich had trouble sharing with the poor. They argued, they squabbled. Things haven't changed so much over the centuries as we may like to think.
Over the centuries, we've moved from that messy meal, to the institution of a ritual and sacrament. We've come to expect a certain spiritual presence, an experience of the divine that comes to us through the simple act of sharing the bread and juice--something that makes the sacrament an experience of God with us.. For the early church, table fellowship was key to that memory. For us, it is the bread and the juice, the words of institution and the symbols carried by the bread and the juice.
Until I moved to California, I hadn't experienced communion served in any way except neatly cut individual cubes of white bread and individual tiny glass cups of juice. Unless, of course, the host a pressed wafer or a dehydrated cube. It was tidy and efficient. No drops of juice on the floor (or on the pastor's alb!), no bread crumbs floating in the chalice. And, logistically many churches simply can't manage it any other way.
But at least for me, the act of tearing bread from a common loaf, dipping in a common cup--there's a message in that that can be so easily missed when communion is neatly packaged. Life is often messy. Life is always "torn from a common loaf", whether we want or dare to admit it or not. We are intertwined with each other, with our community and with the world. We are made of the same stuff, each of us ripped from the same common loaf that is the love of God. We come from the same source and ultimately, we share. There is always communion with one another and with God. That is the nature of who we are. That is the nature of God, the nature of Life.
This Sunday, World Communion Sunday, is set aside as a reminder that this circle of interconnection extends far beyond this particular gathering around this particular table in this particular sanctuary. We intentionally honor the fact that our interconnection extends around the globe. But world communion isn't really an act we do or a day we observe. World communion is simply a statement of reality, a recognition of the way things are. We are a world in communion, people of the earth who are inextricably woven together, and that our fates can no more be separated from one another than the ingredients of the bread can be extricated from one another.
So, Jesus admonishes us, let the children come. We are in communion not only with the healthy and robust children of our own neighborhoods, but with the invisible and under recognized children of the world.
Let the children come to Jesus' table. Our children. Your children.
The children of California--whether their parents are first generation, naturalized citizens, or even illegal aliens.
Let the children come out of the poverty or the wealth Mexico, from the highlands of Peru, or the plains of Brazil,
Let the children come from the islands of the Pacific, from war-torn Asia and the middle East from the first world cities of South Africa, from the AIDS ravaged African plains,
Let the children come no matter if they are infants, toddlers, adolescents, teens; whether adults or seniors.
Let the children come whether their bodies are whole or broken,
whether their theology is like-minded or radically different.
Let the children come whether they are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, or questioning,
These are the children of God.
We celebrate Holy communion, but as sure as we simply breath the air of the world, we are always in communion with every one and with God.
Let the children come, for of such is the Kingdom.