Good day siblings in Christ,
I want to start by reminding everyone that in 2 weeks on May 29, we will have a baptism and masks will be needed that week. I know it is far away, but I wanted to put it out there so we all know when the day comes. It should be a joyous service.
At the end of June, a few of our youth will be taking their first communion. This was a special request of the parents that we are happy to acknowledge. It will be an exciting celebration.
In this connection, I want to share a small document with you. It is titled The Use of the Means of Grace and it describes the ELCA’s practices on the sacraments. It was adopted in 1997 and began reshaping congregations in the 2000s.
I share this because I stated above that acknowledging first communion was a special request. Some of you may remember having to take first communion classes and going before the congregation for your first communion. I used to teach first communion classes until my first call.
Since The Use and the Means of Grace was adopted, many churches including Our Saviour moved toward an “open table” practice. You have heard me state from the altar “This table is open to all no matter what age, denomination, or where you are in your faith journey.” When I say age, I literally mean any age. This means whenever parents feel their child is ready to receive their first communion, the child can take it. There is no age restriction at Our Saviour’s table. I have always honored the parent’s wishes as I believe it is a conversation between parent and child, but if a parent says their child is ready and the child reaches a hand out, it will be filled with bread and the words “broken for you” will be stated.
One of the oldest practices of the church was at an infant’s baptism, a small bit of bread and wine would be given to the infant as a way of giving a first communion. In fact, my first communion kit came with a tiny spoon and I had to ask my mentor pastor what it was for. It was for that purpose. Somewhere along the line, baptism, communion, and confirmation all got tied together. For some churches, people did not receive first communion until confirmation. For some it was fifth grade and for others it was second grade. There has never in the life of the church been a uniform appropriate time for first communion.
As pastor, I will happily acknowledge a first communion of a child, whether it is a special occasion such as the one in June or a random Sunday in mid-March. I think it is a special occasion whenever it happens. As parents, though, it is completely up to you and your child when you feel it appropriate. I will be happy to fill a hand with bread.
Finally, you may ask, why? It is because Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the ones who transform the bread and wine, not me or anyone else. This is what Lutherans have always believed. It isn’t based on the person’s morality, age, or readiness; it is only through the grace of God that the bread and wine mean more than just bread and wine. It is the Spirit who does the transformation.
This is why Our Saviour and the ELCA have had an open table policy since 1996.