Nursery Communion

On this particular Sunday we are celebrating the Lord’s Supper by intinction. The congregation has been served except for those in the nursery.

Today all the children but three-year-old Jonathan came into the sanctuary. Jonathan elected to stay in the room with the toys. Who could blame him? How can sitting quietly in a pew compare with planes, trains, and fake fruit? His father chose to stay with him so that the volunteers could have Communion with everyone else. Since Jonathan won’t come to us we go to him.

Thomas, the elder with whom I am serving the elements, and I go across the hall, step over Mr. Potato Head, and crouch down in front of Jonathan. “Would you like some bread?” I ask.

Jonathan puts down the Matchbox car and says, “Yes!’ I hold out the bread and Jonathan leans forward, mouth wide open, poised to take a big bite out of the Body of Christ.

“No, Jonathan,” his dad says gently, “Take a small piece with your fingers.” Jonathan does what he is told and immediately pops the bread into his mouth.

Thomas is about to let Jonathan take a drink from the cup when Jonathan’s dad intervenes again. “Jonathan,” he says, “watch me.” Jonathan’s young father takes a piece of bread, dips it into the cup and eats it.

“That’s neat, Daddy!” he exclaims, looking as if he has never had permission to eat like this before.

“Now, you do it,” Jonathan’s dad instructs. Jonathan takes a piece of bread, dips it into the big cup, puts it in his mouth, chews and swallows.

“That’s good!” he says with a huge grin and adds, “Thank you!” And in this brief, spontaneous exchange tomes of theology are encapsulated right there in the middle of plastic blocks and rocking chairs.

In that little room I am reminded that Jesus comes to us first, before we even know we have need of him. Christ seeks us out. We may believe we are perfectly content with the toys that surround and entertain us, unwilling to leave those things with which we are so comfortable, unaware that there is something, someone, so much better coming to surprise us with a goodness we previously didn’t know existed. Christ comes anyway, initiating a loving relationship with us even before we knew we had need of him. He comes to us and offers us the bread of life, bread that we can smell and taste and touch, bread that, if we become like children, we will want to lean in and unabashedly eat.

Like Peter’s, “Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head!” we will instinctively want all of what Jesus offers, but he slows us down and says gently, “Watch me.” The bread, the grace, is abundant and there is no need to grab. Take a piece and enjoy it. Take a big piece. There is plenty, enough for all to have their fill. “Watch me, and learn.” Jesus says, “Watch me, watch me wash your feet and feed the five thousand. Small acts that portend the large one that is to come. Watch and learn. Watch me as I bless and break and serve, because soon the day will come when I will say, ‘Now you do it.’”

Christ comes to us, offering us the love of God that we don’t have to grab or horde and he shows us how to receive and share it. He meets us where we are when we’ve no intention of leaving what we know and like to go to him — but when he comes to us we are moved to exclaim, “That’s good!” and, finally, hopefully, “Thank you!” Jonathan’s response to God’s irresistible grace reminded me of this as he delighted in the bread and the juice and the loving presence of his father.

But now that it is Easter, it is the time, after we’ve watched and received and know, it is time for us to listen when our Risen Lord says to us, the Church, “You do it.”

In light of the resurrection it is our turn. We are to go seek out those who don’t even know they have need of Jesus Christ and offer them the bread of life that has been given to us. Even if they have refused to come into the sanctuary we are to go and find them amidst the toys and entertainment that is so captivating and so apparently satisfying. We are to go and offer them the abundant love of God in ways that they can see and touch and taste so that they too will exclaim the spontaneous, “Yes!” that comes when Jesus offers himself to us and it is undeniable that he is good, so good, and so much better than anything that surrounds us in the nursery.

We are to go and say gently to others, “Watch us.” Watch us as we seek, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to be the Body of Christ, a model of God’s kingdom, broken, yes, but blessed and poured out, for the sake of the world. Watch us as we offer forgiveness and work for reconciliation. Watch us touch the unclean and welcome the stranger, watch us as we visit the prisoner and clothe the naked. Watch us as we enact the incarnate love of God that dwells among people, cares for them in ways that can be touched and tasted, and does not leave them orphaned, but speaks for them until Christ comes again.

It is Easter, and commissioned by our Risen Lord and empowered by the Holy Spirit, it is time for us to do what Christ did, to take that small nursery Communion out to the ends of the earth. It is Easter and we dare not just remember and reflect on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we must respond and make Christ known so that others my respond, too. The Church is to testify with the Spirit saying, “Watch me. Now you do it and then show others.” Until that time when all of us from every tribe and nation are gathered and made one in Christ at the Messianic Banquet proclaiming with the great multitude and angels and elders and beasts, “THANK YOU!” to the one seated on the throne and to the lamb, forever and ever.

JILL DUFFIELD is pastor of Tirzah Church, Waxhaw, N.C.