A couple of years ago I took my children to a Lutheran funeral. It was for a close relative who didn’t live too far away so it was expected that I would bring all of my children. Even the mouthy ones.
It was a typical Lutheran service heavy on the liturgy with lots of standing up and sitting down. There was also communion at the end. I prepared my children for all of the sitting and standing, I prepared them for the reciting. I forgot to prepare them for communion.
My children were not all that thrown by all of the standing and sitting. There is a lot of standing and sitting in our church. They were not confused by the liturgy. Our church recites things too. The confusing thing was the communion. You see, we have an actual baker that attends our church. A baker who gets up at the crack of dawn to bake fresh bread on communion Sunday. Our church is also very sensitive to the fact that there might be addicts in attendance, so we only serve grape juice, never wine.
I did not think of these things when we went up to communion at this funeral. I grew up Lutheran so it all seemed so very normal to me. I discovered it was not so very normal after communion on the way back to the pew when Baby Snarky asked (loudly enough for the entire enormous church to hear) “Why is the juice rotten and the bread plastic?”
Yep, even the mouthy ones.
This made me think a little about culture. Living your entire life in one very specific culture leaves you greatly unprepared for experiences outside of your paradigm. I don’t want my children to be greatly unprepared in any area, but especially not in their spiritual lives. After turning this over for a while, I presented The Pastor with an idea. “I would like to spend this summer taking our children to all different types of churches, and just to be clear, I do NOT want to switch churches, I just want our family to experience some different things.”
He cautiously agreed.
“You know people are going to think we’re church shopping, right? Everyone’s going to assume we are changing churches. There will be huge rumors that we will be fighting all summer long and probably for years to come.” He warned, because he knows how rumors and churches seem to walk hand in hand.
“Yes, but when has what other people think ever played into any decision we make?”
So last week was week one.
Last Sunday we took our children to the “early” (traditional) service at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Lakeland, MN. I admit, I had a few assumptions, having grown up Lutheran. I expected the place to smell like weak coffee and damp basement. I expected the majority of the people at this early service to have grey hair. I expected every man to be wearing a suit and tie. I expected there to be old hymns accompanied by a piano that no one but three little old ladies sang to.
All of my assumptions but one were wrong.
While it was an older group of people, they were actually people who seemed to want to be there. They sang newer, contemporary songs and everyone actually seemed to be singing! As in nobody was just mouthing the words! What happened to all the Lutheran lip sync-ers of my childhood?
You could actually feel the holy spirit moving there and everyone seemed to be genuinely connecting with God. It was really a beautiful thing.
Then came communion. This church practiced open communion (meaning everyone is welcome to participate) which I agree with, but I was prepared to respect their decision either way.
“Okay,” I whispered to Huggy and Baby Snarky. “Just to prepare you, it appears that the bread is pita bread and there will probably be two types of tiny glasses. The one with purple stuff in them will be wine, and the lighter stuff will be white grape juice.”
I felt good. I felt like I had prepared my children. I felt like the communion expert.
I was not the expert, and if you attend this church, you already know why.
We went through the line and when we got to “wine” there were indeed two types. I pointed out the lighter cups to my two young children as I took a dark cup. As I looked up at the lady serving us I saw a look of horror on her face.
I was a tiny bit defensive.
I gave her a glare that said “Look, Shirley. It’s open communion. That means everyone is welcome. Even the small children. Maybe you should go read a little something called Matthew 19:14.”
I then threw back my grape juice and marched my children back to our seats.
Did you catch that?
Because I didn’t.
I didn’t catch it until my self righteous butt was halfway back to our seats when Huggy wailed “That was not grape juice that you just made me drink! That was wine!”
And then I wanted to climb under a pew, because Shirley wasn’t horrified that I was letting my children take communion, Shirley was a bit disturbed that I was using communion to force my children into a life of alcoholism.
I deflated. A lot. Which was probably very good for me.
Overall our first experience was a success. I am excited for the rest of our summer and all of the interesting experiences we are going to have. And just a reminder, we are not church shopping. We will continue attending the same church we have been at for the last six years. We are not changing churches.
Also, I am not a communion expert.
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