N.T. Wright often writes about “intersections” between heaven and earth. These are places or moments when we find it difficult to tell if we are living in the present or in God’s future. I have had a few moments like this in my life: marriage, ordination, a few important conversations with friends, a camping trip or two.
These intersections don’t come along often. But when they do, they are pregnant with meaning and emotion. On Sunday I had one of those moments.
At Holy Comforter we had a family service and dinner on Sunday evening. We had asked our kids to take pictures of crosses they see in their lives, and those pictures composed the sermon. That moment alone was incredibly powerful as we were invited into the eyes of our children and youth to see what they see.
But on the spur of the moment, I invited the children and youth to come up around the altar with me during the Eucharistic prayer. If anything, it was nice not being so alone up there. The priesthood is a naturally isolating vocation; sharing the space behind the altar with someone, anyone else is a blessing beyond words.
But the absolute coolest thing was noticing how the kids were reading along with me in the Altar Book. I sensed that they were praying along with me, that I was simply the one vocalizing the prayer. They prayed with their hearts – I prayed with my lips.
Then when it came time for the invitation (“The Gifts of God for the people of God. Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you and feed on him in your hearts by faith with thanksgiving.”) I asked two of the children to hold up the bread and the wine. This surprised them, it surprised the congregation, and quite honestly, it surprised me that the thought came into my head.
It was a holy moment, a moment in which I was blessed to share my ministry.
My ultimate hope and prayer is that these kids understand that what makes Christianity so different from the rest of their lives is that Christianity isn’t something to be consumed. Good youth ministry is not all about dance parties or pizza parties or bowling parties. Youth ministry is about training our children to serve God’s Kingdom through the Church. Because eventually I’ll be dead, and I hope that those kids are in their Episcopal churches teaching, preaching, and yes, even celebrating the sacraments.