At the communion rail this past Sunday, I felt a deep appreciation for being a part of our church family. Pastor John distributed the body of Christ to the couple next to me, calling them each by name, before coming to me and pronouncing, “The body of Christ, given for you, Kelsey” as he placed the host in my mouth. Then Daryl, one of our Elders, approached. “Kels, the blood of Christ,” he said as he offered me the chalice. Being called by name, as Holy Communion is given on behalf of Jesus, provides a sense of intimacy that Christ’s sacrifice was specifically for you, and me. There’s also a wonderful familiarity when members of your church family know you and therefore are in a position to speak your name during the distribution of the Eucharist.
This moment made me feel connected to Christ and to the citizens of his Kingdom that also call Grace Lutheran Church home. As I returned to my pew, I reflected on the past week of blessings I enjoyed by being a part of this church family.
On Thursday, we had a delightful lunch with our preschool Director and several moms from our church and preschool to plan the annual summer Vacation Bible School. Sharing ideas and working collaboratively, we engaged in our common goal to provide a Christ-centered, fun, educational program for the kids. Coming away from that gathering, I felt blessed by the fellowship of like-minded women and inspired to be joyfully serving beside them.
The previous evening I spoke with Pastor John about a dilemma our family faced, to which he provided loving counsel. During that conversation Pastor recounted a story about our son Mateo, from the preschool chapel lesson that day. Pastor was teaching the kids about the Ancient Jewish atonement customs involving the tabernacle. As they acted out the scene through a makeshift tabernacle, he explained that the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies, “God’s house”, once a year on Yom Kippur. He would speak the name of God—Yahweh—and make blood atonement for the sins of the people. No other men, women, or children were allowed in this special space. Pastor then explained that we now have a high priest that made blood atonement for all of the men, women, and children who are now always welcome in God’s house. Mateo piped up, “Jesus, it’s Jesus!” Isn’t it amazing to know that the lessons we’re trying to instill are getting through? Hearing the words of faith coming from children so young is very rewarding. Praise the Lord that our preschool is faithfully serving its mission to spread the gospel by teaching kids that Jesus is their savior and King.
Then, of course, the highlight was Pastor Gleason’s ordination the Sunday before (31 May, Holy Trinity). What a joyful celebration for our church! I loved seeing Gleason, who I respect, appreciate, and enjoy so much; take the vows of ordination to serve our congregation as a Pastor. I was moved when Deaconess presented the communion hosts to her husband, the newly ordained Pastor. It was a very cool moment that left me misty-eyed. The next part of the service involved Pastor John placing the pastoral vestment over Pastor Gleason before the consecration of the Eucharist. Watching that was very poignant and I teared up again. I had to pull myself together when Sienna looked at me and asked, “Why are you crying, Mom?” as only a precocious seven-year-old can do.
Living life as citizens in God’s Kingdom by belonging to a church community is the foundation of our family life. We actually call it our “church family” instead of community, since that word tends to be overused and applied to any group with some commonality. A recent Modern Reformation article quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s observation on this topic: “The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.” A church family is much more meaningful than simply a community because the thing we have in common is Christ. We love one another because Christ first loved us. It means that we all search the campus passionately when one of the kids is missing, or rally around an individual dealing with illness or personal tragedy. It requires sacrifice and service to make it all work, but there’s such joy in giving, serving, and caring for one another.
Over the past couple years I have come to identify deeply with being a part of this church family. Dennis and I love raising our kids within this family of faith. My heart overflows when Sienna receives communion and Mateo receives a personal blessing, as Pastor calls them each by name. By these little moments, they will come to identify as members of Christ’s Kingdom and the Grace Lutheran family. Nothing could bring me greater joy.