Volume 18, Issue 1: Pooh's Think
So many churches dismiss their kids at worship. At All Saints we stay together. (Okaysome crying kids have to be taken out by
the bouncers in the back. But most stay.) When we come to communion, as a central part of each Lord's Day service, all those washed in
the waters of baptism are invited to come to the feast, including little ones. We come forward and receive from Christ's representatives
the bread and the wine. As the minister, I may say to even a little child, "The cup of new covenant is given for you, believe that His blood
was shed for you." Really, we are all at "Children's Church." Jesus teaches us that we are all to come to Him as children or not at all
(Mk. 10:14-15). We come as children to His Table.
At our men's forums we may debate the influence of the Greek notion of substance on Ante-Nicene Fathers and the exigencies of
an Orthodox aesthetic of worship. We parse the Reformation doctrine of the spiritual presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We exegete
the relative merits of the Scottish Covenanter resistance to tyranny versus the reform of the
lesser magistrate, and diagnose the effects of the
Second Great Awakening. But at the Table, we are children. We are all at children's church.
At our fellowship celebrations we serve the fattest beers anyone has ever hadgrab your spoon and join right in. At Epiphany we
have cakes with frosting piled high. At Pentecost we have international foods and cross-cultural wines. In our community events we have
wine tastings and beer revelry. But at the Table we are all children. We just need a little
way-bread for the journey, and a sip of sweet wine with
the burn of the cross.
In the preaching and teaching of our congregation, we say with the apostle, "In understanding be mature" (1 Cor. 14:20). We try
to leave no stone unturned in Aramaic sections of the book of Daniel, or a discussion of the Old Testament images in Colossians, or in a
study through Church history. Many of our children are being educated with a classical curriculum, with great books, Latin and Greek. As
a minister, it is sometimes a challenge to stay well-read in the face of many of our members. But we cannot claim our maturity as grounds
for receiving even crumbs from the Table. When we come to the Table, we are all children.
On the Lord's Day, we confess our faith with Nicene creed and the Apostle's creed. Most of our members from the youngest age
can recite these from covenant-rote memory. Many can answer, "Who is the redeemer of God's elect?" with Shorter Catechism A. 21.
My daughter, Julie (8 years old), answered my question at family worship, "What commandments did Nebuchadnezzar break in setting up
the golden image?" in Latin, no less
(non facies tibi sculptile neque omnem similitudinem
. . .). But when we come to the Table, we do not
come because of our ability to profess our faith or our intellectual stamina. We come as children to the Table.
Even when I say, "We come to the Table," that betrays an overconfidence of ability. Like an infant brought to the font, held up by
loving parents' arms, before heaven we come not of our own ability. Grace precedes faith. We must be brought to the Table. We are
like Mephibosheth (2 Sam. 9:1-13). All who find themselves at the Table of the Lord were from the enemy's house, yet have been
received because of the grace of covenant love.
Sometimes we pretend that we stand up on our own two feet and make a place for ourselves at the Table. If we come in a spirit of
pride, quite confident of the proper mode Christ's presence, dividing asunder joints and marrow of Zwingli, Luther, Calvin and the Fourth
Lateran Council when our prayer is, "I thank Thee Lord that I am not like the papists, nor the Zwinglians, nor the Lutherans"then we
have missed the necessary truth. We are little children whose place is set only by grace. We must be carried to His Table, if we are to be
seated. And we are not just children at the Table. We are
lame, undeserving children at the Table. But, thanks be to God, "Mephibosheth dwelt
in Jerusalem, for he ate continually at the king's table. And he was lame in both his feet" (2 Sam. 9:13).
Gregg Strawbridge is the minister of All Saints Presbyterian Church (CREC) in Lancester, PA. He also serves as the moderator of Augustine Presbytery (CREC).