We're Episcopalians, So We're Both Right — and That's Fine

The second Sunday of every month, we gather in the Children’s Chapel for a special Eucharist service. It is a unique time where the children listen, observe, and pray in ways that may not resemble the mannerisms of adults. All participants are able to stand around the table, close enough to touch each other. They lean in close, often with eyes fixed on the bread and wine. They have to be reminded to step back so the celebrant can circle the table and give each person the bread and the wine or a blessing. Sometimes, however, their curious minds and fidgety hands can be a distraction or worse. During the children’s Eucharist in December, one young person asked if the cup had blood in it, and another young person said it was wine. The two argued back and forth saying, “It’s wine” and “It’s blood” until one person shoved the other and both had to be escorted outside. I knelt down to hear each person’s side of the story and why they thought it was blood or wine. We talked about how physical force and violence are not tolerated, nor do they justify or prove either person’s position. But I wanted to address their theological questions too.

Their arguing took me back to some of the frustration I felt when I read Zwingli and Luther’s arguments over the Eucharist and what Jesus meant when he said, “This is my body . . . this is my blood. . . .” I informed these young people that countless others have had this debate for centuries. And I assured them, at the risk of overstepping my role, that they are both right, that the Episcopal Church makes room for both of them at the table. Because these are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, we do not have to draw lines or claim corners and positions. We did not get into the fine points of transubstantiation or consubstantation, but we did reconcile our differences with offers of apologies and forgiveness. We did not make it back inside in time for the post-communion prayer, though we acted it out in a way. We had reflected on the spiritual food we were fed and we formed a new peace to carry us into the world. But I’m still thinking about how stubborn, willful, and self-assured we can be and how amazing it is that we are graciously accepted as living members of God’s Son our Savior Jesus Christ. We can hold on to our ideas, beliefs, and preferences; and we can pass them on to our children. And yet, despite all our differences, we share a miracle as we are sanctified to receive the sacrament and serve God in unity, constancy, and peace. It makes me wonder beautiful things about life to the fullest, new creations, and what Jesus has in mind for Peter (and for us!) when he says, “Feed my sheep.” --Justin Walker