By Todd Brady
Vice President for University Ministries, Union University
Along their journeys of exploring the world around them, children need moms and dads who understand the tremendous privilege and parental responsibility of being interpreters for their children.
For a parent, opportunities for interpretation abound. A child wakes up to a new world every day. Nothing is bland. Boredom has not cynically shown up on their doorstep yet. Every day, sights are seen for the first time. Sounds are heard for the first time. Words are being assigned to things they see and touch and hear and smell. Every day is a new day to explore. All things are new. Oh, the wonder of being a child.
At our church, we take the Lord’s Supper each month. When I walk into the sanctuary on those Sunday mornings and see the table prepared, I think about what we’re going to experience, I say a little prayer and I think about my family who sits on the pew with me. On those days I always smile. I know it’s going to be a good day. And I know that later that afternoon I’m going to get to do some interpreting for my boys.
Now on one hand, five fidgeting boys with wiggly bodies and clumsy hands are not a good mix with little pieces of bread and plastic cups full of grape juice — not to mention that the fabric on the pews is a light color and that the bread and juice is reserved for mom and dad and those boys in the family who have been baptized by immersion (after all, this dad is a Baptist).
Have you ever tried to quietly tell a 3-year-old that he can’t have the juice that everyone around him is drinking? When the Apostle Paul said that “all things should be done decently and in order,” I don’t think he had toddlers and Communion in mind. (I Corinthians 14:40) Some things just don’t come off as decent or orderly.
In my church world, the celebration of Lord’s Supper usually takes place right after the sermon. The preacher segues from the message of the text to the elements on the Table. As the preacher explains what is about to happen, I try to focus on him. I really do. But I also find myself wondering what my boys are thinking. He holds the bread up and breaks it in two. He lifts up the chalice. I usually watch the pastor, but sometimes I cut my eyes over to watch my boys watching him. I like to think that the scene of the preacher with raised bread and chalice is an image they will think back to when they are adults.
On these Sundays, my boys get in the Suburban after church and probably roll their eyes as dad asks the same old questions and says the same old things about what we did at church. On days like these, the ride from the church to the restaurant probably seems a lot longer to them, but while I’ve got a captive audience, I’m going to do some interpreting.
What did the preacher say today about the Lord’s Supper, guys? What does the bread symbolize? Why do we drink grape juice? Don’t you see how what we’re doing is both reminiscent of what has taken place and hopeful about what will one day take place?
Things like Lord’s Supper service can be stressful times surrounded by uncertainties for families with smaller children. But for parents who understand that they are their children’s interpreters, such events are opportunities to talk with your kids.
Parents, don’t just go through the motions with your kids. Talk to them along the way about why you’re doing what you’re doing. In the end, it will mean a lot more to them. And I guarantee you it will mean a lot more to you, too.