There is a young girl who comes up with her family when we serve Holy Communion. When I see her coming in my line, I always smile…because I know what is coming.
When it is her “turn” in line, she steps up to me with a big smile. Her mom is standing behind her, usually with her hands on the young girl’s shoulders. I crouch down as low as my knees will allow, to get eye to eye with her. With my right thumb, I make the sign of the cross on her forehead and I quietly say the words that I say to all the children who come forward. “Amelia, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ…forever. And God goes with you!” And I smile.
She returns the smile and with no small amount of excitement, little Amelia says, “you too!”
Sometimes, these are the best words…the most precious, that I hear on a Sunday morning. They are words of blessing and benediction. They are a way of responding to a gift that has been given. Yes, I know that it’s just a child’s way of saying the “church-familiar” words “…and also with you.” But somehow, it’s more than that.
And in a world that can sometimes seem way too critical, and cynical, the words “you too” can feel like a balm for a bruised heart.
Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. – Hebrews 6:7
Certainly the words are an important part of this. But even more, I think, is the intent…the heart behind the words.
- The words “you too” are words of trust. When Amelia hears the words of promise in the blessing she receives, she trusts completely in the meaning and depth of Christ’s promises.
- The words “you too” are words of gift-giving. Amelia is so filled by the blessing, that she cannot help but share that, verbally, with others. In this case, she returns them to me. And in turn, they fill my heart.
- The words “you too” are words of relationship. The promises of Jesus come to Amelia because of his great love for her. Likewise, she shares these promises back with me because we have gotten to know each other.
- The words “you too” are words of beauty. There is something indescribably beautiful and touching about giving a blessing. I’ve often said that giving the benediction is one of my favorite times of a worship service, because I have the privilege of communicating something that is important both to God, and to those who hear the words. To then receive this benediction, and from a child, is an amazing gift.
I smile when I see Amelia because I know what is coming. Because in the brief exchange, we are going to both experience a moment of blessing. And that blessing is a gift, spoken by a 52-year-old pastor, and a 7-year-old girl…but ultimately given by God.
Because in that moment, Amelia proclaims to me that I too am a child of God, and that I am loved beyond measure.
And you too.