Sunday, October 7, 2012

happy birthday, humble walk

Humble Walk Lutheran Church turned 4 years old today. My friend Jodi is the pastor there. And by there, I mean all over the West End neighborhood of St. Paul. They've had lots of homes in bars, alleys, storefronts, parks, galleries, and coffee shops.

I've been praying for Humble Walk for all four of those years. I've heard stories in text study from Jodi and read articles about Jodi's ministry. I follow the blog on her website and giggle when she makes posts on Facebook. It's clear that Humble Walk is a source of pride for her whole family of four. The girls believe in this church and so does her husband. Because of this, Humble Walk is like an extension of their hearts and home. Because of this, you feel confident about how welcome you are at Humble Walk long before you show up.

Today, I showed up. Finally. After four years of stories and prayer and awe, I walked through the door. And guess what? The first people to greet me were children. Six kids were in worship today and they were putting the finishing touches on decorations for the birthday party and worship service. They engaged Jasper right away. Their welcome was effortless and wholesome and very much why Jesus makes an example of children in Mark 10. Their faith can move mountains.

We sat by the guitarist and Jasper was totally enthralled. We ate Teddy Grahams and clapped when people acted out the story from Genesis 2. Jasper got comfortable and started walking around. He even colored on the Birthday Timeline that hugged the room, making his own mark on this church and the big Church.

He was feeling part of things by the time Communion rolled around. Jodi's younger daughter stood by her side with the other half of the loaf. Jasper watched closely - more closely than he's ever watched Communion - and when he saw the enormous, soft chunks broken off for people, he decided this was his kind of sacrament. His little big sister in Christ, only one year older than this little church, handed him a chunk that became three mouthfuls of bread. One bite went in right away and then he carried the other two around for a bit - one hand filled with soft wheat and the other dripping in a bread sponge of grape juice.

I stared at him closely while I chewed my own. I soaked it in - the joy that spread across his chipmunk cheeks that were filled with God's goodness. I will always remember that moment he opened his hand and demanded grace just like the rest of us. What a sinner! Yes, I believe the Terrible Twos are a beautiful time to join the feast. While I like to let parents decide when to start communing their kids and I do like teaching formal classes on it, I hate to see kids expressing curiosity and wonder only to be shut down or told no. The minute the table becomes anything besides a place of welcome, I get feisty.

I demanded bread in Kindergarten. I asked other people what exactly happened at Communion and none of them could give me a straight answer. So I told the pastor that I shouldn't have to be a certain age or know enough...because these adults all had different answers themselves.

And, Lord knows, it's not about the answers. It's about opening our hands for the great mystery of Jesus becoming present in the meal. It's about all those prepositions - Jesus is all over/under/around/through/between/in that bread and wine so that we can't taste the food without getting God's forgiveness and salvation, too. It's a wild and crazy promise that there's more to come.

Humble Walk is filled with mystery and prepositions and promise. Jodi wrote a little ditty for a free e-book called Renew 52 (p. 60) about letting the young and vulnerable set the pace of worship. And they really do. Tonight I watched Jodi preach and teach and shepherd and serve through the lens of these young people in unique ways. There's nothing separate or dumbed down or distracting about it. It's just a little church made of all kinds of people, building a framework for worship around their love and care for each other and Christ.

We'll be back. I can't help but worship where Jasper is drawn into a game of KungFu Ball, shakin' his booty to Johnny Cash, and confident that the body of Christ is given for him, too.

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