When Jesus told his disciples that unless they became like children they would not qualify for entrance to the kingdom, he didn’t mean childishness. They had just asked a very adult question, a typically human question about status and privilege: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom?” His response, “Become like children,” has to do with the human propensity to make simple matters unnecessarily complex, to pile guidelines, rules, and hoary traditions on top of simple truths until they’re no longer visible or recognizable.
I was delivering the homily during mass in the Roman Catholic church where my daughter-in-law and three granddaughters are members and my son attends and participates. The girls go to the church’s parochial school. My wife and I attend for Christmas pageants, school programs, and first communions. The parish priest and I have become friends, and he often jokes about hiring me to be his assistant. On the day I preached, several pews were filled with other family members, Presbyterians all. Two granddaughters served as altar girls and rang the bells during the Eucharist at the moment of transubstantiation, which was a personal high point for them and for all the Presbyterians. When Lilly finished she looked out at her family and executed a perfect fist pump, just as she does when she scores a soccer goal. I think Jesus would have liked that.
Then came the moment Protestants dread. Should we go forward to receive the elements? I always have the same internal discussion. Should I show my respect for my Catholic neighbors’ traditions and abstain? Should I stay seated because I don’t ordinarily go to dinners to which I’ve not been invited? Or should I participate because I believe that it is Jesus’ table and no one should be excluded?