Miss Sarajevo


“Is there a time for first communion?
A time for East Seventeen?
Is there a time to turn to Mecca?
Is there time to be a beauty queen?”

From “Miss Sarajevo” by Passengers.

I’ve always loved this U2 collaboration.  I like the questions and the juxtaposition of notions and ideas.

First communion is a big thing in certain church traditions – almost like some rite of passage or defining moment.  Whilst empty rituals concern me hugely, there still seems something sacred about treating communion in this way.  The whole issue of communion is explained in 1 Corinthians as follows:

23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.

Whenever approaching communion I am also always mindful of the verses that come straight after the above quote, namely: ” 27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself”.

I love the fact that the church community I belong to challenges my thinking.  Last week our Pastor announced that we would have all age communion this Sunday.  He explained that the onus was on parents to explain matters to their children and to decide whether or not they should partake.

Having a four year old girl, I have to confess that it still sounds horrible if she ever says anything about “killing” or “being dead”.  This is maybe extenuated by the fact that one of our church members lost her four year old daughter in a horrific hit and run car accident a couple of years ago –  an event that shook our community to the core.  Yet, when I was four I expect that I was often playing soldiers and imagining killing and death.  Is that just a difference between the sexes or are we over-protective parents?

We have spent this week focusing on the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection when reading the bible with our daughter.  She seemed surprised and intrigued that Jesus had died.  We emphasised that He also came back to life and what that means.  We tried as best we could to explain what communion was about, what it symbolised and why we do it.  We wrestled with whether or not it was appropriate to let a four year old take part?  We explained to her that it is for anyone who knows and loves Jesus, to which she replied “but, I love Jesus”.  How does a parent discern what a child understands or means by such a comment?

So this morning the children came back in at the end of the service whilst the whole congregation had the opportunity to share communion.  As I have thought and prayed this week, I was struck by the verses quoted above, but I also remember how Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me” in Matthew Ch19 v.14.  So, we both still felt a bit unsure of how to handle this part of today’s service.  My own gut feeling was that having explained it repeatedly during the week, we should let our daughter make the decision for herself when the moment came. 

So, as the elements were passed around, we told her again what it meant and asked whether or not she wanted the bread and wine?  We made sure she knew it was important.  My eyes were wet and I had a lump in my throat as she asked to take it.  We whispered to her about what it was all about the whole way through the process.  My wife was fantastic at this and I am so grateful that all of this is hugely important to both of us as parents.

Today seems like a defining moment.  It feels very real and bereft of ritual.  It feels as if we have explained a truth and the whole thing seems more meaningful than it has done for a long time.  As we looked around and saw lots of families explaining things – some partaking, some not – there was a real sense of unity and community.  Others we spoke to who do not have children or are single also said that the approach gave them time to reflect on the significance of something that can become ritual. 

I think we are called to child-like faith not a childish one…As someone I respect enormously said in conversation over dinner on Saturday night, “Our role as parents is to give our children roots and wings…”  It’s weird to think that one day our little girl will leave home and embark on a whole new journey.  Hopefully, we can help her to be well grounded for whatever life may hold.

Read.  Think.  Pray.  Live.


2 Responses to “Miss Sarajevo”

  1. 1 lynn January 31, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Thanks so much for this post TSTIAI. I’ve linked to it (hope that’s OK)

    thanks for sharing so honestly your family’s journey to communion. You are an example to others in your careful, prayerful, thoughtful approach to nurturing the love your daughter has for Jesus.

    “but, I love Jesus”……indeed Lord Jesus received and gave affection to children; I do believe that they love him back with all their hearts; John Westerhoff said that experiential, affiliative, searching or owned faith (4 stages of faith development) are all examples of FAITH in the Lord Jesus; and therefore the very littlest child can know Jesus loves them and love him back with all their hearts.

    So beautiful. So simple. Just like the heart of the gospel.

  2. 2 thestatethatiamin February 1, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Thanks Lynn. Thanks for making so much of this stuff actually happen in our little community. I am sure there are loads of untold stories from last week that are every bit as meaningful. It just felt to us as parents as a bit of a milestone. Blessings.

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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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