They come wearing masks, hands outstretched, eager to receive something. All of the children. Friends, neighbors, and complete strangers. Some of them look terrifying, like dangerous, deadly monsters. Some of them look beautiful, cute or funny. Some of them appear particularly disturbing – ugly distortions of human beings with parts that are cut up, destroyed, rotted, disgusting, horrifying or missing altogether. Some look more dead than alive. And some are caught up in fantasies of what they wish they could be – princesses, kings, queens, super heroes, movie stars, someone glamorous or sexy or powerful. And a few of them clearly don’t comprehend what is going on at all. But the hope is that they will be greeted and welcomed, and that they will receive something.
Trick-or-Treating on Halloween? Nope – this is Communion. These are the folk who come to the Communion rail. We all have masks and disguises that we put on (or have imposed upon us) through the course of our lives. Our most fundamental, true identity is concealed beneath many costuming layers, some of which are quite elaborate. These are not simply external appearances, but the layers of our complex psyches that make up who we are, and how we are, in this world. Some people have constructed and put on identities that are appealing and met with approval, appearing to be successful, good, and worthy of admiration. On the other hand, some may seem loathsome, like ugly distortions of human beings, or even like monsters. The extreme cases appear to be so horrible that it is almost impossible to imagine that anything else, especially not anything good, can be within. Most of us are somewhere between the extremes.
But once you remove the layers, the costume, the masks and wounds and scars of life, once you get beneath all that, there is a child. A Child of God, to be exact, made lovingly in God’s image. And that child yearns to be accepted and welcomed, to be greeted with warmth and light after travelling through the dark night. All are hungry for signs of love, of blessing, of deep nourishment. All with hands outstretched, yearning to be filled with good things. No matter how horrifying a monster someone may have become, underneath – deep within the soul of every human being - there is a beloved Child of God. The wondrous grace that happens at the Communion Rail is that the Child beneath the costume, behind the mask, is recognized and welcomed and receives a gift. The most wonderful, precious and holy gift of all, divine food for the beloved Child of God.
God graciously welcomes every kind of person we can imagine, and some that we might not even recognize as people at all. Every sort of person that you or I may fear, loathe, disregard, laugh at or think unworthy, comes to some holy ground somewhere, sometime, yearning to be recognized as a human being worthy oflove and blessing, longing for acknowledgment of the divine image somewhere deep within. On God’s threshold, honor is given to the beauty beneath the ugliness, the Child of God hidden inside of themonster. On God’s threshold there is light spilling into the dark night from an open door, where the holy gift is offered, and the beloved child is fed, filled with good things, regardless of the costume.