The challenge of letting go is often not easy, even though, in every area of our lives, we know it is necessary for new life. As an advert I saw in Brisbane this week puts it: ‘don’t be scared of change, be scared of not changing.’ Unless we change, we stop developing: whether that be physically, emotionally or spiritually. This most certainly does not mean that change itself is good. We have to pray and discern what is fruitful rather than foolish change. There are many things we will seek to conserve, for new life is born out of the old, if it is healthy evolution. Yet merely clinging to the life we have will also mean that life slips away from us. This is the heart of the Paschal, Easter, mystery we begin to draw close to again in our church year: the ultimate, everyday, mystery, that (as we have just sung) it is in giving of ourselves that we receive, in dying that we are born to God’s amazing life...
Let me play a brief video clip, which was shown at our diocesan Synod not so long ago. (Entitled the ‘Next Generation’) it asks us to walk together with children and young people in God’s development of our Church, particularly through the lives and ministries of children…
Today we are admitting Luella, Eniece and Jackson to holy communion. Why are we doing so? Perhaps some of you may think this strange. Haven’t people in the past, you may say, had to wait until they were confirmed before they received communion? Well, yes, and no. In most Western Churches since the Reformation the dominant practice has most certainly been to exclude children from holy communion, at least until they were confirmed. Yet this was not the practice of the Early Church and it has never been the practice of the Eastern Churches, whether Orthodox or Eastern Catholic churches. Indeed, in Eastern Orthodox Churches the practice has always been to give communion to tiny children as well as those of similar age to Luella, Eniece and Jackson. For the Eastern Churches have maintained the Early Church understanding that all the baptised are full members of the body of Christ, however young or old they are, or however many details they can understand about what is going on in worship. In recent decades The Anglican Church has therefore begun to recover this ancient practice of the West and the unbroken practice of the East. We have realsied that we have put too much value on intellectual grasp of the Christian Faith to the detriment of including, affirming and building up all God’s children, whatever age they are.
Now, being Anglicans, we have not just lurched from one thing to another. Luella, Eniece and Jackson have been asked to learn a little about the meaning of our eucharistic worship, like other children who are admitted to holy communion. As Anglicans we take seriously the need to reflect properly on what we are doing when we come together to share bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ. We do not however expect everyone to understand the mystery fully. In fact, let us be honest, none of us understands fully the mystery of the body and blood of Christ we share. That is part of the very point of sharing communion. We come to the table of our Lord not because we understand the mystery of God but so that we can grow into the mystery of God. We come to share the food of Christ himself so that we can be built up into the people of God.
If, in ordinary terms, we do not feed one another, we starve one another and we die. This is particularly true of our feeding, or lack of feeding, of children, and others who are weak or vulnerable. So it is, spiritually speaking, with the Christian Faith. If we do not feed one another – with God’s word, sacraments, love and nurture – then we starve one another and we die. This, also, is profoundly true for children. If we do not feed, and provide for them, they will indeed be lost to the Christian Faith, as the children in our video clip said. What however if we feed them, nurture, and support them, symbolically and practically in their Christian lives? This is part of what is represented in admitting Luella, Eniece and Jackson to holy communion today.
Please pray for the children of our parish today, and every week. Please support them in their Christian growth. Please reflect on what more we need to do to help us respond. Again, I give thanks for the commitment we have made in this parish in recent years to the call to place children and younger people at the heart of our Church. It is not an easy path and, in many ways, we have only really begun. It involves us letting go and dying to some things so that new life may come. It means allowing parts of our life to fall into the ground and die so that they bear much fruit. May God bless us in this, our pilgrimage of Christian trust.
In the name of the One who taught us that, unless we have faith like a little child we will not enter into the kingdom of God: in the name of the One who never lost the freedom of childlike joy and openness to the future; in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.