Volume 18, Issue 1: Recipio
When our oldest son Knox was around a year and a half, he took his first communion. For almost half of his life he had
been regularly disciplined as a Christian boy. And when we prayed with him after his disciplining, we told him that he was
forgiven because Jesus had died for him. At a very early age he knew the difference between being in full fellowship with his family
and being lost in a sinful pout. He did both regularly. And he knew that the name Jesus Christ delivered him from the latter state
and into the former. He knew that Jesus gave us our food at dinner. And when he raised his holy hands during the doxology at
the conclusion of the service, he knew that his hands were clean because Jesus had washed them. Did he know about sin
and forgiveness? My gracious, that was pretty much
all he knew about.
We worked hard at learning to sit through a church service without causing a ruckus. And he kept hearing the name
Jesus Christ whiz past him throughout the sermon. He learned to belt out his "amen" at the end of every songhis own barbaric,
if religious, yawp. Only Knox's amen sounded more like "may-may." And one Sunday, as he was particularly absorbed in
the worship, the Lord's Supper was passed around. Knox was sitting on my lap and as the bread passed by, with every
Christian reaching out to take a piece, Knox reached out for his piece.
But I grabbed his hand and pulled it back. After allhe was too little to discern the Lord's body. Knox looked up at me
as the bread moved on, his face contorted as the long inhale began. Experienced parents know how loud the scream is going to
be by how long the inhale lasts. A quick shriek is nothing compared to the bellow that comes after an interminable inhale, and
this inhale was definitely interminable. I had already picked Knox up and started making my way to the aisle before the wail
began, and when it came, it was ear-shattering. It was a very different sort of crying than I had expected. I had thought at first that
this was a temper tantrum because I had taken something away from him. But by the time I had reached the back of the church
I realized that it was purely Knox's own realization that he didn't get to have the bread that was grieving him. It had dawned
on him that this was a privilege for some people in the congregation, but not for him. He was grief-stricken over being excluded.
I think it is a pity that the discussion regarding little children and communion seems to only come up in the world of
abstract theological diatribes. The fact that this is the only way this subject is debated does a disservice to the sacraments. By doing so,
we have made the sacraments something eminently unpractical by divorcing them from the rest of the Christian life. For example,
if a father comes to me to ask for advice in helping his two-year-old boy learn obedience, should the Lord's Supper be a part of
our conversation? Is it relevant to basic daily obedience?
How is it that our efforts towards Christian discipleship can begin at birth, but the Lord's Supper can be pushed off for
a decade? We can begin disciplining for Christian behavior in the very early years of our children's lives, but we withhold the
grace of the sacraments for years. It seems strange that, in the name of Reformed orthodoxy, we could tell our children that if they
are very good until the age of twelve and learn their catechisms well, thenand only thencan they have grace.
When Knox started taking the Lord's Supper, it amazed me how naturally it fit into our task of raising him in the
nurture and admonition of the Lord. He prayed in Jesus' name. He sang about Jesus. He was disciplined for sinning against Jesus.
And he was forgiven because of Jesus. When we came to worship on Sunday morning, discerning Jesus was the one thing that he
was ready to do. Was his understanding of the Supper heresy-free? I doubt it. But let the congregation with a perfect
understanding of the nature of Christ's presence cast the first stone. Not only did our discipline inform the Lord's Supper, but, more
importantly, the Lord's Supper informed our discipline. Why is he forgiven for pulling his sister's hair? Jesus is why. And he
knows who Jesus is.
And so someone comes to you for advice about disciplining their little child. Is the Lord's Supper relevant to the
conversation? If there is a context for speaking of Christian discipline, then there is a context for speaking of Christian grace. If I
can expect a child to learn Christian obedience, then that child should be able to expect admittance to God's grace.
My wife and I got permission from the elders to bring Knox to the Lord's Supper the following Sunday. We spent the
week speaking to him about the Lord's Supper and who Jesus was. And on that Lord's Day he took Communion, raised his holy
hands and sounded his "may-may!"