When I worked with youth, one of my favorite events was an agape meal. It started as a Seder and I eventually started calling it “What Would Jesus Eat” which I found hilarious. The teenagers rarely behaved, but somehow, something meaningful always came out of it.
While I love the contemplative and austere liturgy of Maundy Thursday, I miss the joy that came with my meal with twenty teenagers. So, while I was upset that I would not be leading worship in my historic and beautiful church for Holy Week, I looked forward to a casual agape meal with my husband and four-year-old son. In preparation, I sent everyone in my parish a copy of a simple agape meal with prayers, readings and some basic instructions. It was a resource provided by Virginia Seminary and it was simple enough I thought that even my extraordinarily active child would be able to make it through the service without a major incident.
I was excited about the food as I am a vegetarian and love an excuse to eat bread, hummus and baby carrots for a meal. But then, as it so often does, life happened. The day got away from me and I didn’t even have time to prepare a simple platter of food Jesus might have eaten for my husband and I to enjoy. My son wanted chicken nuggets and we ate leftovers. I did congratulate myself on the bread I whipped up right before we sat down. (The benefit of un-leaven bread—perfect for people in a rush.)
I put left over Christmas candles out and we made it through the first prayer. My son refused to participate and instead attempted to drown his nuggets in ketchup. When he accomplished that mission halfway through the first reading, he screamed and stole the paper with the liturgy and ran outside.
Having worked with teenagers, I felt like I was prepared for some level of mischief, but none of the teenagers ever attempted to abscond with the liturgy. When we finally got it back, it was covered in ketchup. My son immediately blew out the candles as that is his God given right. I let that go as I was just relieved he didn’t set anything on fire. I started the Psalm and he asked how long he had to wait to watch TV. “How long O Lord? How long?” That was not the Psalm, but it will be next year if I have my way.
I would like to tell you that I sat him down and calmly explained what we were doing. I would like to tell you I saw a spark of understanding in his beautiful brown eyes. I didn’t. There wasn’t. Instead, I looked at my husband and said, “There is only one way we will finish this liturgy.” He nodded, and I got up and led my son to the TV. I returned to the table with the extinguished candles and the half eaten nuggets. We finished the prayers and I drank my wine. That was the end of our meal.
I always had a vision of what life as a priest and mother would look like. I read charming Facebook stories from other clergy about their perceptive and holy children. I never thought it would be easy, but I thought it would be something other than this.
Every day, I fail as a parent and a priest, usually at the very same time. What I try to remember is how Jesus must have felt with his disciples in that final meal. Surely, it wasn’t what he had hoped it would be. Of course he was all knowing, but I still like to think he hoped for more from his friends. Yet somehow, despite the stubborn will of humanity, God’s will was done. I find comfort that even my defiant four-year-old and my impatient self will never thwart the will of God.
Next year as I listen to Psalm 22 chanted in our darkened church, a piece of me will long to be in my messy kitchen with my child so full of life, that no liturgy can tame him.
[Image Credit: Mike Mozart via Flickr]