Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Practical Theology

And then internship throws something at you that no amount of theology lectures can possibly prepare you for…

Sitting in church on Wednesday night as my supervisor leads the Eucharistic prayer. I have my normal horde of six-year-old boys around me. N is on one side, L and Z on the other. N, who appears to be making up a song on his bulletin-turned-horn is apparently paying more attention than I realized, as he suddenly turns to me, points at the chalice, and says, “is that blood in there?” His tone is surprisingly matter-of-fact for a six-year-old asking a question about a goblet full of blood. I don’t know how to answer.

“Um,” I stutter weakly, “yes, we believe that is Jesus’ blood…” Not sure how to explain this at six-year-old level and worried that I might frighten him, I follow up with, “and also grape juice.” A comment I instantly regret as one, it’s not grape juice at all, but wine, and two, not exactly the most theologically honest answer to the question. As I am struggling with where to go from here, my attention is drawn to my right, as Z has apparently stuck his finger in L’s ear. By the time I get that sorted out and turn back to N, the service has moved on and he is contentedly bellowing the Lord’s Prayer at the top of his lungs. Now is not the time to continue our conversation.

The service continues. We finish with communion and I am once again seated amongst the six-year-olds. N points to the now empty chalice.

“Was there blood in that cup?” he asks again. I turn to answer but once again, Z sticks his finger in L’s ear and the conversation is diverted. When I get back to N, the service has again moved on and he is now inventing his own tune for the closing hymn. Once again, I missed my chance.

I can wax poetic on Lutheran Eucharistic theology for a long time. I have written pages on the subject for various seminary courses. But how to condense all that knowledge to honor a six-year-old’s question in the middle of a worship service while simultaneously keeping his colleagues from sticking their fingers in one another’s ears is the true balancing act of ministry.

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