“We’re meeting in the office after the service, right?” This from an elder who caught up with me before church.
Ah! Were we? I had lost the thread of an email exchange between our family and our church leadership, and—I’m not proud of it—completely forgotten that today was the day our youngest daughter had her “coming to table” interview.
I don’t know how your church handles this, but at our church, the elders meet with each child when they’re ready to take communion and, over a dish of peanut M&Ms, ask them a few questions about communion: do they know what communion is, who Jesus is, and so on. Our oldest daughters did this all together when we joined our church a few years ago, but Josie had been too little then and has spent the years since being patiently prayed over each Sunday by a pastor as we all filed forth in line to receive communion. But now she was five: she understood things. This was her moment! And I had completely forgotten about it.
“She remembers what communion is, right?” I whispered to Mitch during the call to worship. He gave me an “I think so?” shrug. We’d talked to her about it—weeks ago. Surely she’d remember . . . right?
Because the truth is, this is a strange ritual we engage in each Sunday: we eat bread and drink a thimbleful of wine (or grape juice) and look peaceful and meditative about it, as though eating the flesh and drinking the blood of God was not gruesome at all, but glorious. I found myself wondering—does this make sense to a child?
But in The Good King’s Feast, Elizabeth Harwell explains it beautifully, in a way that translates one of the mysteries of our faith into words and images that make sense to young readers. She addresses communion from a child’s height, narrating in the voice of a storyteller meeting a child at the very start of the story. Beginning with the Passover, she works her way through different Old Testament markers that help make sense of both the significance and the symbolism of communion. She does this gradually, patiently, until that first glimpse of the familiar bread and wine feels refreshing, each link of the chain joining with a satisfying click.
Though we didn’t have this book the week of Josie’s interview, I was so grateful when I found The Good King’s Feast a few months later and we were able to continue our conversation about communion at home. I was grateful, too, that she calmly munched her way through her interview, one M&M at a time. The next week she received her own bit of bread, plucked her own thimbleful of grape juice from the tray, and joined us in the mystery as part of Christ’s family.
This post is part of my “Hooray! We’re launching a book!” blog series, celebrating the upcoming release of Wild Things & Castles in the Sky: A Guide to Choosing the Best Books for Children—a book I both contributed to and, alongside Leslie and Carey Bustard, helped edit. Today’s post features an author who also contributed a chapter to Wild Things.
The Good King’s Feast
Elizabeth Harwell; Laura Pennebaker (2021)
For the pedobaptists among us, Elizabeth Harwell’s other book, The Good Shepherd’s Pasture, is also a delightful resource!