Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Table prayer

As I sat down with the children of St. Luke's, I realized I was pretty much a total stranger to them. So I introduced myself: "My name is Annie--I grew up in this congregation, just like you are now. As you know, this is a great church to grow up in." They nodded knowingly. And it's true! Demonstration to follow ...

So, I summarized the story of the feeding of the 5,000 (more knowing nods from the children ... they were quite familiar with the story already) and tied that into the work of the ELCA World Hunger Appeal, which St. Luke's supports. "The World Hunger Appeal is one way the church gathers all of our gifts for Jesus to bless and multiply, so that people have enough to eat." Then they helped me teach an extended version of "Come, Lord Jesus" to the congregation. Together, we learned:

Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest
Let these gifts to us be blessed.
Blessed be God who is our Bread
May all the world be clothed and fed.

One boy in particular volunteered that he already knew the prayer, so I asked him when he prayed it.
"Exactly! It's a mealtime prayer, a table prayer ... and I want to pray this prayer with all of you now, but we need a meal and a table ... do you see a table in this room?"

This was the part that amazed and impressed me: I didn't even finish the question before all of the children had turned and pointed to the table behind us, all set for Holy Communion. I learned to think of the altar as a table and Communion as a meal in seminary. Most of these kids were pre-reading age, most of them don't receive Communion yet, but they already have a deep theological understanding of the Lord's Supper as true nourishment. They know that we gather around the table, we are fed, and we are sent out to feed others. How cool is that?!

Which is exactly what I said at that point in the children's sermon. "Yes! You're right! That's so cool!" We all stood up and gathered around the table; we held hands and the congregation joined us in praying the prayer again. At the second service there were fewer kids, so the assisting minister, lector ("That's my mom!" I explained to the kids,) the music director, and presiding minister all joined the circle, too. I gave each kid a magnet with the words of the prayer (and the ELCA World Hunger website) to take home.

"Come, Lord Jesus" has always been meaningful for me; it is my family table prayer, a sign that I am home with people I love. Praying it in this new context--with the children and the table set for Communion--added a whole new layer of meaning and made me think about the words and appreciate them as I never have before. I'd recommend the experience for kids of all ages.

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