Oh man. I don’t usually blog on consecutive days, but this, I needed to tell this. It is the clearest illustration yet of the secular and the sacred exploding together in my week.
We decided to brave a Maundy Thursday service last night. It was a beautifully written family style dinner service of sorts. Casual. Warm. Soup and bread. With the whole family.
And well, I have been growing fond of this little church I’ve been visiting. It’s cozy. It seems genuine. So when my worship minister friend invited us to join them for the service tonight, a little spark made me consider it. I didn’t think it would actually happen, I told her, because TODDLER. He is a nightmare in situations that require sitting or being quiet or anyone else’s agenda. But I got brave (foolish?), and after discussions with Ryan, we went.
We ran into another family that we enjoy, the only other family we actually know at the church, so that was a nice way to start. My friend had made a place for us with their family at the back table. Good. I was a little nervous, but things were falling into place. And then the service started.
Let me point out here that my youngest child is borderline obsessed with my music minister friend, so when she got up to read the scriptures and conduct the service, well, he got a little noisy. But just a little. It wasn’t so bad. I mean we didn’t hear much of the John passage she read, but it was still fine. I saw her smile at him briefly, and it made me feel safe. We were still sailing fairly smoothly, and he sat blissfully in my lap while I sang (probably with a little too much gusto) the first hymn, What Wondrous Love is This. Happy sigh. Seriously delicious and holy hymn words in that one. Lovely.
And thennnnnn things started to break down a little bit. The pastor stood up to give a small talk pertaining to radical hospitality and the call to really love each other. He gave instructions for us to engage in real conversations about real things during our impending meal. Or I think that’s what he talked about. I don’t fully know, because toddler. I thought the day had been saved because my friend came to sit, and my baby went to snuggle with her. But he’s not quite three, and a couple minutes of snuggling was all he needed to recharge. So then it started to get loud. And unpleasant. He wanted to talk. He wanted to interrupt and be noisy and whine when I shushed him. He did not want his toy. He did not want his milk. He wanted down. He wanted to “go to work.” He wanted to make me crazy. I tried to no avail to convince them that we were actually praying, in hopes that he would do that cute bowing-of-his-head and get all reverent looking. Any guesses as to how that worked?
I sat there trying to be brave, trying to pretend like this wasn’t making me a little nuts inside. In my head I know that no one else is bothered by these shenanigans, but inside my heart it is a different story. I also tried to ignore the fact that my other two children were now joining the noise and the interruption fun, and my mommy glares were not working. They never seem to work when you need them to the most.
Mercifully, the small sermon ended (I know in my head that the sermon was probably less than five minutes, but in real mommy minutes it felt like the entirety of the High Priestly Prayer combined with the Sermon on the Mount), and it was time to eat. The soup was delicious, and the bread was the perfect compliment. My kids don’t understand soup, though, and of course wouldn’t eat it. But we did engage in some meaningful conversations, I think. We tried. Toddler ran around. It was all very imperfect and interrupted but good. All throughout the evening my friend practiced radical hospitality for us while still doing her job. Towards the end of the meal, she tried having her daughter watch the youngest child in another room for a bit to bring a reprieve for us.
As the dinner finished, it was time for communion. And just as communion instructions were given, my youngest returned. loudly. Sigh. But then in the middle of that gym-turned-sanctuary, holy stuff happened. I watched my oldest take communion from his little buddy. It was his first time, I think. He looked so grown up. And I received communion from my worship minister friend, the same bread from which my oldest had torn his piece. And as I turned to pass the elements over to my husband, my toddler wanted in on the action. “The body of Christ broken for you,” I said as he took his little piece of bread into his still chubby fingers. “The blood of Christ poured out for you,” I managed, as he dipped that little piece of bread into the juice cup, commenting and making yummy noises as he ate. Loudly. And he wanted more. And we gave him more. And we all stifled our giggles through the closing prayer.
The whole evening was kind of a nightmare in some ways. But that moment. I hope I never forget that moment. The weight and glory and beauty of that moment wasn’t lost on me, though I didn’t fully appreciate it until processing it afterwards.
The body of Christ. Broken. For you, my little ones. The blood of Christ, for you. Yes, you are invited to the table, little man. You, and everybody else. And we don’t have to get our acts together before we come. We can be loud and needy and disruptive, and by the miracle of the cross, we are still welcome.
The body of our Saviour Jesus Christ,
Torn for you – eat and remember
The wounds that heal, the death that brings us life
Paid the price to make us one.
So we share in this bread of life,
And we drink of His sacrifice
As a sign of our bonds of love
Around the table of the King.
(The Communion Hymn)