Every Sunday, we recite creeds. We say we believe in the communion of saints and the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
For years now, I’ve let my belief roll off my tongue — not just rote, but real. And on this cool spring morning, I found myself here again, with my chin to my chest. I stand on two feet, but on the inside, I’m bowed low. God always turns me aright in this place, under the steeple of a country church surrounded by evergreens and farmfields. My brothers and sisters have names like Stensland, Haugland, Olson, Hage. Their ancestors are buried in graves across the road.
This is what this family has done for 125 years. It has stood up as one body — a ragtag group of sinners — to confess in unison their need for a Savior.
I look down my arm at my oldest girl. She’s wearing a small, white robe, zippered up to her chin. Her brown hair — straight and freshly cut — brushes her shoulders.
I put a hand on the small of her back while she reads the creed. I remember, now, how I recited those words when I cradled her new in my arms 10 years ago. And again, on that Sunday when the pastor dribbled water on her forehead. And all those mornings when I bounced her on my knee and popped Cheerios in her mouth. I recited the words when she sat beside me on a polished pew, just learning how to read. She took my green highlighter to mark up the only word she knew how to spell in my fat Bible: God. Over and over, she marked up the pages of 1 John: God. God. God. God. God.
She outgrew the dry cereal, and the Quiet bags. She began to open her Bible to follow along, and later, stepped up front to read aloud the Scriptures.
And then all of a sudden, the sun rises on this Sunday, where she slips on a little white robe. She looks up at me, smiling, as we stand at the altar of grace.
I can hear the steady rhythm of truth echoing down the line:
“The body of Christ, given for you. The blood of Christ, shed for you.”
I’ll never get over it, and I pray that my daughter won’t either. This holy act is neither routine nor rote. This is Christ reaching down to broken sinners. Astounding, isn’t it? How Jesus Christ chooses us, how He delights in the breaking of bread with hungry beggars like us? We don’t receive forgiveness by rights or gold-star performances or pretty prayers or by thrashing about to impress God. We don’t pull ourselves into heaven. We’re carried there.
I rub Lydia’s back, and notice how she stands just below my shoulder now. That’s when it dawns on me, for the first time. At the altar of grace, the ground is level. God sees us not only as mother-and-child, but as sisters.
My daughter — indeed, my little sister — pulls a tiny thimble of wine from the brass plate, and drinks down the glorious burn of forgiveness.
(Note: I grew up Methodist, then later lived a lot of years as a functioning agnostic before becoming a follower of Christ. We joined a Lutheran Church about 10 years ago, and we worship at a small country church, one mile from home. Related: What I Believe.)
A communion song: This one, by Cheri Keaggy, is one of my favorites…
Do you remember your first communion? Or the first communion of someone special in your life?
Linking with Michelle … and 3 From Here & There.