Friday, February 7, 2014

A foretaste for God's Children

Last week we celebrated the festival of the Presentation of our Lord. The day when we hear of Joseph and Mary who bring the young infant Jesus to be presented and named. Blessed. And for many of our neighbors this is the culmination of a journey that began with La Posada- Mary and Joseph searching for a place where that baby could be born. And as the tradition goes, some of our folk share of bringing the Baby Jesus as a figurine to be blessed. Then on Los Reyes Magos, they gather for gifts and rosca cake and everyone wonders who will find the tiny figure of Baby Jesus in their piece of the cake. I was blessed this year to be invited to share in this night and the anticipation and joking as each person took a piece hoping to “avoid” getting the baby. Though it turns out there were six babies in the ring shaped cake. Most of whom were found by kids in the family.

Some of them were the same kids whose family longed for them to formally “make First Holy Communion.” Already welcomed at the table but desiring to make holy and honor this as a sacred time.

So we set about preparing for the blessed day. You my child.

And we journeyed together in the weeks that follow between Los Reyes Magos and Candelaria (Presentation of Our Lord). Candelaria is named for the English Candlemas, a time when on the day of Presentation of our Lord, priests would bless the candles to be burned in churches and homes for the year.

Part way between is the Sunday where we commemorate Baptism of our Lord. And as I was teaching about baptism at our Wednesday night Bible Club for kids, one of the kids came to me and tugged on my arm to tell me that her Mom wanted to know if they could be baptized. All 6 children in the family. And so we began a second conversation about baptism. You my child.

And what better time than Presentation of our Lord. Presenting children, and not only calling them by name, but by their new name- children of God? And blessing them as we ourselves remember what it means to be God’s children?

The final piece came together as I remembered the tradition of Los Reyes Magos- those who received the baby were to make a meal on Candelaria.

And so, we held communion instruction open to those “making first Holy Communion” and those receiving but interested. And we gathered and heard why we celebrate communion- a time of drawing near and being in Jesus’ presence- because Jesus says so. And what it means that it is a celebration and is holy and special. And then we made communion bread. The bread for the next day. For that special day when children would be presented and blessed, and presented to feast. You my child.

And young and old had a role in making the bread and seeing the finished product.

In the meantime, I hoped that we would then celebrate and feast together afterwards. And together we planned for a fiesta- for food to be made and shared and cake and celebration. And on THE day the aromas of the good ness wafted upstairs from the kitchen invitingly.

And on THE day, there was a profusion of white- of fluffy dresses and crowns, of suits and new shoes. And I realized just how special as the church filled with friends and family. And that the two families that loved these 10 kids had bonded. And we with them. We God's children.

I invited all of the kids to come and sit in the choir loft, and told them they were the gospel- the good news and the message of what God can do and is doing in all of us. And there was light and joy and promises. At the font and at the table.

As six kids leaned over at the font and hairstyles of teens endured that water, but later six candles gleamed as parents and godparents and we all shared in joy and promise.

And then the feast. For you- God's children.

I asked the kids who had made first communion to share in serving that day the bread and wine. And then I saw the tag on a suit. Still there. And I saw two things- the pride and joy, and the sacrifice.

All of the kids were bedecked in splendor almost beyond reach. So beautiful and not at all as I see them when they are chasing each other in the afterschool program. But the bright smiles as they processed and the bright smiles as they served and their families glowed.

And the sacrifice- that something you do not own cannot be ruined-the real cost would be great.

And I thought not of the social aspect of what we were doing but the selflessness and servanthood. For the kids and their families to honor God in this.

And I heard anew the words of our music at offering:

Let the vineyards be fruitful Lord

And fill to the brim our cup of blessing

Gather the harvest from the seeds that were sown

That we made be fed with the bread of life

(even if that bread looks more like an asteroid than a perfect wafer).


Gather the hopes and dreams of all

Unite them with the prayers we offer

Grace our table with your presence

And give us a foretaste of the feast to come.


And there it was- for the families who longed for these moments, for me as I saw a glimpse, brief but heavenly of all our community can be when our ministry is truly seeing our neighbors

After many seeds sown, many prayers prayed

Joys celebrated and sorrows shared

The feast. For all God's children.

After many smiles and pictures we gathered downstairs for that fiesta that culminated.

And the cake was a scrumptious cake from one of the Latino bakeries- Jozefina’s. Beautifully decorated, dense and moist, heavy. Gingerly transported in less than optimal weather lately.

And with “Nuestra Primera Communion” joyously proclaimed. I am long beyond the sugar high but not the transcendent high of real presence in that day and in all of God’s children with whom it was shared.

And then I thought of the sticky marshmallow icing. On that cake. It was the kind you simply cannot let go of or get rid of it seems.

And so it seems is my hope. That the love of Christ, and that cross on a forehead and the words “for you” are sticky. Life is hard and so many things get in our way of remembering the clarity and beauty of being presented and standing in God’s presence and experiencing grace and love, forgiveness and hope. May God’s presence stick with us no matter how hard we try to do otherwise.

Our worship looked exactly like it should if we say we love our neighbors and we want to be one in Christ.

And I hope that the foretaste of that feast to come sticks in all of us as we savor the precious blessing we have shared.  So much so that we cannot imagine not being in the presence of our Lord and being together. As God's children.


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