Thursday, March 27, 2014

The hidden children: some half baked thoughts about communion

A couple of the morning's scripture readings coincided with some thoughts I've been having around children and communion recently.

Exodus 12:26-27 makes it clear that one key function of the passover meal is pedagogical. To pass on the story to the next generation.

The accounts of the last supper are generally thought to be accounts of a passover meal that Jesus shares with his disciples and thus show Jesus as instituting a new passover with himself as the sacrificial lamb whose blood brings his disciples from under the threat of death into freedom. And so, despite the angry cries of the sacramentalist, a key part of communion is also pedagogical ("do this in remembrance").

The discussion about who is the greatest in Mark 9:33-37 reveals that in the middle of a conversation with the 12 Jesus is able to lay hands on a little child. Suddenly rather than a group of men standing around Jesus we think, well, who else is there? It is noted by Luke (8:1-3) that there was also a group of women who followed Jesus around. What about whole families? What about children? Or is this child just a resident of the home they are at?

Anyway this sudden appearance by a child makes me wonder if children are hiding in other accounts of Jesus' life, not least the accounts of him celebrating passover with his disciples, at least some of whom may have had families to share passover with. Is it likely that a group of men would have celebrated this family feast without their families? That is certainly the way I have always assumed it was until today. 

If there were children present at the institution of communion would that affect your view of whether children are allowed to partake at your church?

Let me know what you think :-)

3 comments:

  1. This is great stuff, Jonathan, thank you. So much to think about here - and great reading between the lines.

    Children are the stars of quite a few Gospel scenes (check out any children's Bible - they highlight them nicely!) from Jairus' daughter to the boy who shares his lunch with a crowd of inderminate number - calculated as it is as '5000 + all the women and kids'!

    Hindered, perhaps, by renaissance art, I've never pictured anyone other than Jesus and the twelve at the Last Supper. REALLY good rethink on your part. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks T, i suspect that the presence of women and children is often missed out in the sparse details of biblical narrative, but might have been assumed by earlier/other readers?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think that you're probably right Jonathan. I think that the disciples families were present during a lot of their ministry. Jewish readers wouldg have just assumed this. Jesus is very welcoming of children

    ReplyDelete