Volume 18, Issue 1: Pooh's Think
That Wonderful Cup
Calvin and Geneva are inseparable in many Reformed minds. Mine too. It was with great joy that our dear friends received
Geneva into the world. We celebrated our Calvin's birth a mere two weeks later. Calvin and Geneva were baptized on the same day and
by God's good timing they were also brought to the Lord's table together two years later. God has been kind to us in these little saints.
Most Presbyterians would call me a paedocommunionist, but I'm notat least not in the strictest sense of that word. Although
it is clear that small children should come to the Lord's table and that even infants have a right to that table, we should not embrace
a superstitiousness about it. Baptism and the Lord's Table are given to us for blessing, but the blessings are not automatic. The
blessings come to those who trust God and are the called according to His purposes, and to their children. Peter made this amply clear at
the first sermon after the Holy Spirit came with power on Pentecost. He said, "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and
to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts 2:39).
Thus, if we believe God concerning His promises to us, we are to assume that God's promises are extended to our children
as well. We are to assume, not presume. Assuming God's promises means living by faith. Presumption tends towards faithlessness
and disobedience. Our children are God's people just as we are His people. They have a gracious right to the table and ought to
come when they are able to eat at that table.
In our church the children worship with the body of saints. Because of this they see the Supper of the Lord each Sunday. As
their awareness of what is going on grows, so does their desire for the bread and the wine. We are not certain of all the motivations of
this desire in small children. It may include the desire for food and drink, wanting to eat and drink what brother or sister gets, or
realizing that something special is happening without them. All of these are glorious reasons to give the child the Lord's Supper.
Small children may ask for the bread and wine in different ways. Some may cry when they are left out of the meal. Their
desire becomes particularly obvious when the child is able to speak fairly well before they have come to the Lord's table. They may ask for
it week after week and are often told to stop asking and be quietsome are even spanked. But should we not rejoice when our
children want to partake in the things of the Lord? For many parents these are reasons to keep them away from the meal, but they ought to
be seen as striking reasons to invite them to sit down and partake. After all, when our children cry out for food in our homes, we
don't send them away hungry. We teach them when and where we eat, and then we feed them.
If we serve a special meal at Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter, we teach them the manners and the customs of the meal
and then we feed them. How strange it would be to place a sumptuous meal in front of our small children and then require them to
fast because they are too young to appreciate all the hard work that went into the cooking. What we actually do is feed them the food
and then help them come to understanding by degrees about just how good the food is, what hard work went into making it, and how
to thank the cook and the provider of the meal. Why do we fail to see this when it comes to feeding our children on Christ?
We have brought each of our children to the Lord's Table at a younger age as we have moved more towards the
understanding of God's kind invitation to them in this meal and the blessing of growing up always communing with the Lord. Our first two
children came at five or six years old, while the next three came to the table at about the age of three.
We had a new experience with our sixth child. This was the first time that Dad was the pastor and up front for much of
the service. It had normally been my job to hold our toddler during the service and teach him or her how to sit, when to pray, and when
to say "Amen!" at the end of the Psalms. But that prestigious work fell upon my wife Katie with our son Calvin.
During communion he would often reach out for the bread and wine as they were passed down the row. Consequently, she
often found herself in the back of the church with Calvin during the communion service to keep his hands away from the trays and avoid
a scene or a noisy spill.
Our Calvin was of that early verbal type; he spoke in complete sentences at just over a year. One Lord's Day when Calvin
was about twenty-two months, Katie was standing in the back of the church holding him during communion. She set her wine down on
a table to avoid having it spilled down the front of her Sunday dress. Calvin pointed at it and said, "Mommy, may I have that
wonderful cup?" And while we didn't give him the cup that day, the answer to his question is, "Yes, son, you may have that wonderful cup."
And with that fine question comes the beginning of many long and glorious answers. The Lord's Table reechoes the command
of the Lord to teach our children about God's conquest as they partake of Passover. "And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time
to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the
Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the house of
bondage" (Ex. 13:14). In fact, the answers were coming long before the question. The answers were coming in the eating of the
meal. When our sons and daughters ask, "Why do we eat the bread and drink the wine?" We ought to be able to tell them that it is
because the Lord conquered his enemies on the cross and in that conquest delivered us from the house of bondage.
Our son was brought to the table of the Lord a few months after asking for the cup. He came with his friend Geneva. Although
I don't think bringing them to the table requires them asking for it directly, I do strongly believe that to refuse children the table
when they do ask is tantamount to saying that you don't think that they are a Christian and that they can't eat like one. In hindsight, we
think we should have brought Cal to the table a bit sooner than we did. I don't want my son to remember his parents keeping him
away from the table. I want him to be able to say that as far as he knows he has always eaten at the Lord's Table. The Lord's Table is
a place of welcome and glad reception. It is not to be a place of stern and strict rejection. With the Spirit and the Bride, we must say
to our children, "Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take
the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17).