So nine and ten year olds are going to teach the rest of us what Reformation Sunday is supposed to be about. Today Lutheran congregations across the world are going to hear the story of a German monk, priest, professor, who wanted to have a lively discussion about the state of the church, and so nailed ninety-five bullet points on what was the equivalent of the community bulletin board in order to jump-start that conversation among his sisters and brothers in Christ. But instead he got a massive split in the church he loved, laying the foundation to even more immense division, deeper insecurity, staunch stubbornness, embarrassing lashing out at each other, and outright obsession over proving ourselves right while proving others wrong; and we have yet to recover in the almost five hundred years since that fateful day in Germany that ignited it all.
But these nine and ten year olds, Owen, Tyler, and Addison, are going to remind us what the Reformation was supposed to be about: not Martin Luther or the Lutheran church or the Protestant churches that have formed over the centuries since; Reformation was and is supposed to be about driving us back to the truth that sets us free, Jesus Christ. It’s not something we came up with as the church, it’s not something that the middle-aged German reformer came up with nearly half a millennia ago; it came through a carpenter’s son in Galilee, it came through the Son of God, it came out of God’s grace that no Lutheran, Catholic, Christian, or any child of God can fully put into words.
So today, Owen, Tyler, and Addison, are going to get as close as anyone ever has in understanding the truth that has set us free by taking part in holy Communion for the first time. And I will be the first to admit to you that I failed as their pastor, because I could not fully explain this precious sacrament. Unless they found out on their own these nine and ten year olds do not have Communion completely figured out. Yes, they’ve been told it’s the most sacred meal with Jesus as the host, not the pastor. They’ve been told that it’s not the average meal that’s intended to fill your physical needs, but it will more than fill your soul with forgiveness, hope, mercy, new life, uniting us as sisters and brothers in Christ, and setting ablaze the Holy Spirit within us. Communion has a way of shattering divisions, removing insecurities, and putting us in our humble place. And yet, I have no earthly idea how God does it.
I could not teach these nine and ten year olds how bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ. But the truth is I don’t need to know, and I’m perfectly fine with not knowing. I just know God can and God has and God will continue to do so. I’m perfectly fine with not understanding why Jesus would do this: why He would offer up His body and blood out of love for the whole world, including for Owen, Tyler, and Addison. I don’t know why He did it, but I know only Jesus can do it, and He did and He would do it all over again.
Today nine and ten year olds are going to teach the rest of us the sheer awe-inspiring power of this supper of our Lord. We take it for granted. It’s routine. It’s a part of the service we have to do to get to the end, before we can go on about our day. Whether it’s celebrated once or twice a year or every Sunday, it’s just something we do. Except, it’s not. It’s something God does for us. It’s a meal God invites us to, to a table that reaches all the way back to a dark room with twelve scared out of their minds disciples and reaches all the way into the Kingdom of everlasting life. And even with all that, God says there’s a space just for us, even for Owen, Tyler, and Addison. There’s a piece of forgiveness and hope for us. There’s a drink of compassion and love for us.
Nevertheless, there’s something even more special as a pastor in giving Communion to children, because we have been trained to teach, preach, have this certain level of knowledge that evidently makes us qualified to be leaders of a congregation. And then as we fulfill our most sacred calling in giving the body of Christ we come to a child, who puts out their hands. The body of Christ is most certainly given for them too.
After all, there is no level of knowledge that sets us free. There isn’t a certain passing of a religious or Confirmation test that makes us more saved. Communion has a way of putting all of us on the same level of need, needing God to save us, needing the Son to set us free from ourselves, from our obsessions, from our insecurity, from our self-centered lives. Only God can do that, and God has, and God will do so today, and God will do all the way through eternity. Today, nine and ten year olds get to remind us that we are a church of the reformation, always driving us back not to Martin Luther, but to the Son that has set us free indeed. And yet again today, we get to taste and see what true freedom is, and it’s not something we had any role whatsoever in creating. God has done the saving. God has us taken care of. And God loves us so much that the joy of new life in Christ will never be taken away from us for the rest of our time on earth and forevermore. Thanks be to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon