I was once asked on a Sunday morning if I could serve the juice for communion when we celebrated the Lord’s Supper later during our worship service. It was suggested that I say “The body of Christ was broken for you” to each person as they came forward to receive the juice I would be holding. Not wanting to mess up the words of that blessing, I thought about it a lot during the service. In fact, I probably thought about it too much because when I finally stood beside my assigned partner as he served the bread and heard him combine both of our assigned lines into one sentence — “The body and the blood of Christ was given for you” — my mind went blank.
All I could think to do was to provide each person with what I hoped would be perceived as a contemplative nod and warm smile as they reached for the juice; occasionally including their name or a short greeting: “John” (nod, smile), “Joyce” (nod, smile), “Hello” (nod, smile), “For you” (nod, smile), “Lindsay” (nod, smile.) Then a child appeared in the line-up in front of me and, as I bent down, looked into his eyes and held the juice tray towards him, my brain finally kicked back into gear. “Jesus loves you, Michael,” I whispered to him. “Jesus loves you,” I said to every person thereafter.
Given my awkward encounter as a communion server, I wasn’t surprised to hear about the experiences with Lord’s Supper blessings that a group of boys in Michigan shared recently with my colleague, Laura Keeley. At the top of their list of uncomfortable moments during communion: being asked a question about the Heidelberg Catechism and having a woman “zoom in for a hug.” Noting the importance of personal space, one of the boys offered this guideline: “If I can smell you, you’re too close!”
All of which got me thinking about meaningful ways for us to bless and include children who aren’t yet fully participating in the Lord’s Supper, but who are invited to come forward and receive a blessing as it is served or who are present as the bread and juice is passed from one person to another. Happily, an informal poll of pastors yielded some wonderfully appropriate ideas.
From Rev. Elizabeth Vander Haagen:
- “Remember that you are God's beloved child.”
- “Remember that for you Jesus came, for you Jesus died, for you Jesus rose and Jesus is in heaven praying for you.”
- “May the Holy Spirit give you everything you need to follow Jesus.”
- “Remember that you are God's beloved child and when God looks on you, God smiles.”
- “May you always know how much Jesus loves you.”
Rev. Jack Roeda suggests saying something that affirms they are also part of the church community or using a simple sentence such as:
- “Jesus loves you too.”
- “Jesus knows your name.”
And Rev. Ruth Boven says she’s used the following blessing with children who aren’t yet fully participating:
- “The body of Christ was given for you, too.”
Keeping in mind the experience of the boys who spoke to Laura, I’d add that while for some children a light touch on their head or shoulder while receiving a blessing might be okay, not everyone experiences touch the same way so, unless you’re sure they are okay with it, keep your hands to yourself. And remember — if they smell you, you’re too close!