Family communion, 9/15/16: Shoes, Happiness & Adoption

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We try to celebrate communion as a family every Thursday night.

“Try” is the operative word here. We probably have a 50% success rate, and even when it does happen, it’s a beautiful jumbled mess of love and prayers and crumbs. Some Thursdays the boys are too tired, or we’re too tired, or it’s too late, or we just forget about it entirely.

But we’re slowly learning not to get distracted from the task at hand or to kick ourselves over any of these “off” weeks. Because of all the routines and rituals that we’ve introduced into the rhythm of our life together, communion is without a doubt the most important. If everything else from our liturgy of life had to go, this would be the one thing that had to stay.

It’s impossible to put into words exactly how the mystery of the communion meal knits our family more closely together while simultaneously knitting us more closely to the Lord, so I will use these posts simply to sketch a picture of what our celebration looks like from one week to the next.

We started this practice in our home earlier this year. I don’t remember whose idea it was but it just seemed like the right thing to do. And Thursday nights seemed like the right night to do it, partly because it was a good way to remind us that our sabbath celebration was just one day away. You’re almost there!*

For our first few attempts at doing communion together, I made the mistake of trying to use one of the eucharistic rites from the Book of Common Prayer. I thought the boys would be familiar with the structure and the words of previous worship gatherings, and I had visions of everyone sitting quietly around the dinner table while we read the Bible and prayed together. Big mistake. The boys were crawling over everything– the floor, the chairs, the table– and it was impossible for me to get a word in edgewise, much less 5 pages of words.

We quickly learned an important lesson about the liturgy of life: step back and recalibrate as often as necessary. Yes, we wanted it to be perfect, and we wanted it to be perfect from the very beginning. No, it wasn’t. Relax. This is about finding a rhythm of routines that fits the rhythm of your life. It’s okay to adjust, especially when you’re just starting to incorporate new traditions into your fabric of daily life.

For us, this involved migrating to the living room after dinner and letting the boys bounce around on the couch. Some nights we’ll go through a psalm together, reading it with gusto and pausing every once in a while to act out some phrase or to ask the boys to imagine what’s happening in the psalm. Other nights we’ll read the Gospel passage from the lectionary and ask the boys to pay attention (as best they can) to a story about Jesus.

Tonight, we tried a book of children’s Bible stories– Tomie dePaola’s gorgeous Book of Bible Stories— and I asked A. which he wanted to hear: either a story about Jesus or a story about “the old people of faith.” He said he wanted to hear about the old people, so I flipped through the front of the book and happened to land on the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments. Seemed as good a place as any.

Courtney asked A. to count to ten for us, and then I explained that God gave His people ten important rules to live by. Then we went through them one by one, with numerous asides and tangents along the way. (For example, “you shall not covet” led us down a rabbit trail that involved shoes, happiness, and adoption. A. asked us whether there might be a boy or girl out there he needs us to be their family, so we decided to stop and pray right there that God would help us answer that question in the coming days. A little off-topic perhaps, but if these are the kinds of off-topic discussions we’re going to have during communion, then bring us more of them, Lord!)

Another important lesson: roll with it. We want these nights to be something the boys look back on with fondness, not with groans over this rigid and boring thing they had to endure every week. Participation is key.

After that, we went into sharing the communion elements together. I said the words of institution and we prayed together that the Holy Spirit would illumine this time for us and nourish us spiritually with this meal. (Matzah crumbs typically begin flying in a frenzy at this point. There are few things A. loves more than breaking off some matzah and going to town. And L., his dutiful little copycat, is eager to do everything just like his big brother does.)

We closed, as we almost always do, with me and Courtney praying for our boys and then asking the boys if they want to thank God for anything and/or ask God for anything.

All in all, it took maybe 20 or 25 minutes. Then it was bathtime, and the boys splashed around for another 20 minutes. Then it was off to bed.

Final important lesson: Nothing fancy. Routines don’t have to be a big ordeal or production. Keep it simple. Cut something if it’s too much of a hassle or distraction. And trust that if something’s been cut that needs to be reincorporated, the Lord will tell you when and how to do that.

The best part of healthy routines is that we get to try them again and again. The more you do it, the more you realize it’s not about getting anything down perfectly. Routines, in a way, exist to remind us that we don’t rely on our own strength or abilities or even willingness to improve; we rely on God. Solely on God. And some routines help remind us of this, day after day, week after week, year after year.

*Courtney reminded me that another reason we chose Thursdays was to align ourselves with Maundy Thursday, when the Lord’s Supper was instituted.

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