Finding Faith: Passing communion on to the next generation
"Communion in our church is a powerful faith ritual in which we believe that the body and blood of Christ are present alongside the substance of the bread and wine," Devlyn Brooks writes.
One of the great joys of the Lenten season is getting to teach first communion classes to our sixth-grade students, an age in which they are almost no longer Sunday school students, but yet a little too young for confirmation class.
Each Wednesday during Lent we meet before our worship service to discuss the mysteries, the wonders and the holiness of the act of communion. Communion in our church is a powerful faith ritual in which we believe that the body and blood of Christ are present alongside the substance of the bread and wine, which is consumed by our faith family members surrounding our altar twice per month.
Of course, other faith communities practice communion in other ways, including differing frequencies and beliefs about what takes place in the moment of communion. But I like to teach our students that the wide differences in communion just makes the full tapestry of the ritual that much more beautiful and holy.
In our first lesson, we study Matthew 26:17-30, the scripture in which Jesus participates in his last supper with his disciples, and which forms the basis of our communion faith practice. “26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take and eat; this is my body.' 27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'”
During the five Wednesdays of Lent (excluding Ash Wednesday) we cover what makes communion a sacrament and why communion is so holy, among other deep — and sometimes not so deep! — facets of communion. And inevitably each class of first communion students who come through asks at least one question leaves me digging for answers long after the classes have ended.
Finally, after more than a month of challenging in-class work, on Maundy Thursday we invite each student up to the altar with their family to partake in their very first communion.
The student kneels at our generations-old altar rail, their family members slide in next to them and place a hand on the student and then I serve them their first communion. It is an electrifying moment in which the air crackles with the power of the Holy Spirit!
After each student has completed the ritual with their families, we introduce them as the newest participants in the 2,000-year-old faith ritual of communion. The rest of the congregation erupts into applause and spontaneous joy fills the sanctuary.
It is a great honor to be present in that moment of a student’s faith life! Amen.