The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


That's why

Recently my wife and I traveled to Florida for a most auspicious event — the second birthday of our grandson, Thomas. It's been a long time since his mother, aunts and uncle were his age, and I've forgotten what it's like to live with a little whirlwind.

Our grandson's namesake is the Apostle Thomas, who has that unfortunate nickname "Doubting Thomas," as if he were the only one struggling to believe in the resurrected Jesus. I like to think of him as "Curious" or "Seeking," — after all, he did approach Jesus and ask.

Like the apostle, our Thomas is curious and always seeking something. He moves from one recently organized area to another, tugging and tossing all he can lay hold of, until he is surrounded by his comfortable world of visual chaos. He has two speeds: sleeping and full tilt. The time between rejuvenation cycles is filled with motion and sound-producing actions and reactions through which he is quickly learning about his world. And this curious, living tornado came with us to church.

We followed his parents into the back row. When I commented that they used to sit in the front, our daughter, Jessalyn, simply pointed at Thomas. Back and forth, up and down, coloring and crumpling, it was a bit of a strain on my concentration. But I still could sing the hymns and speak the liturgy and, although I didn't catch the preacher's every word, I caught the theme of his message. I took pleasure in the moments when Thomas would take a turn to sit on my lap and in seeing the approving smile of the young woman at the end of our row who periodically handed him a Bible storybook.

What I will remember about this day in worship happened at the altar. As we took our place in line for communion, Thomas wanted to be held by his father. I handed him over and we made our way to the chancel. At the altar rail, Dan knelt and stood Thomas between us. With his hands on the rail, Thomas looked first to his kneeling father and then to his kneeling grandfather and then he knelt. The top of his head was even with the rail and he looked up at me with a smile that could melt an ogre's heart.

He knelt there, quietly watching as the bread and wine were given to us and as the pastor laid his hand on his head for a blessing. There was such power in this spiritual moment — three generations kneeling together before the Lord and their maker, sharing a sacred moment in God's house because the generation before us had brought us there.

And that's why we bring those little whirlwinds with us to church. Just as Jesus calmed the storm, he can harness that mighty spirit of our children as they learn from practice to worship. And even if we don't hear every word during their time of learning, these sacred moments of passing on the faith to our children can be a powerful spiritual experience for us.

Not just at Easter, but every Lord's Day, we, the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand, gather in his house  to celebrate our faith and pass it on to the next generation.




Posted at 1:02 pm (U.S. Eastern) 4/20/2010

This brings back a memory of when I was a young pastor and my wife brought our first child, Sara to the altar.  She watched expectantly as I came down the altar rail, sharing wafers with everyone, but then skipping her...only to hear in a voice that the whole congregation could hear: "How about me too, Daddy?"   Having just completed an interim ministry in an ELCA congregation in Denver that welcomes even small children to receive the elements, I have often wished I might have included my little girl in the feast many years ago. 

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Embracing diversity