This morning was 5th Sunday in Lent and also the liturgical day called "Spring Ahead" (a low church day in the midst of a high church season). Our contemporary choir, the Spirit Singers, sang a great song whose title I cannot now remember. People kind of straggled in, looking a little bleary-eyed. However, most of the members of the Adult Choir were up and sitting in the sanctuary, instead of their regular choir loft. We have instilled excellent worship habits in them (or, maybe they just like any excuse to sing!).
This morning was 1st communion for 16 fifth graders, so the 10:00 service was hopping and lively, even in the midst of Lenten restraint. Not only that, though: there was also a baptism, and loads of special music. The Spirit singers sang again, the Alleluia and Joyful Noise sang "I Can Only Imagine", and three junior high girls sang "On Eagle's Wings" during communion.
I always get misty-eyed when I see the 5th graders put their hands out to receive for the first time. Most choose the individual classes for wine, but one curly-haired red-head chose the common cup. A few parents held back tears as they saw their children as young men and women for the first time, so young. One of the mothers serves as a communion assistant, and got to give her son his first communion.
Afterwards we had a cake reception in the Fireside Room. Briefly popular, I was asked to have my picture taken with several 5th graders. I was wearing the purple chasuble.
Long ago, my first communion was in 9th grade, and was connected to my confirmation, as it always was back in those days. I remember how nervous, not simply because it was the sacrament, but because I was a earnest girl and I wanted to do everything right. Back then, we received Holy Communion by intinction, and the pastor put the wafer right in our mouths. No wonder I was nervous. Now we put the bread into open and trusting hands. I like this little ritual we teach our children. Sometimes small rituals form us in great ways: not just our open hands, but our hearts open in joyful singing, even on bleary-eyed Sundays.