This morning, during Morning Prayer, I read the Gospel passage from Mark (in my new Wesley Study Bible!) that included this story:
People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
(Mark 10:13-16, NRSV)
I have not yet had the opportunity to post about an incident that took place on the first Sunday of February, but this passage a Scripture gives me a great opportunity to do so, now.
The local Church where I serve has the practice of celebrating the Holy Eucharist on the first Sunday of each month. During the February celebration, when I came to serve the Bread to one family, the mother indicated that her (not quite 18-month old, I think) daughter, Alice, would not be receiving that morning. (I'm not sure why that was the case on that particular morning. I baptized her shortly after she was born, and I have served her at the Lord's Table before. Nevertheless, instead of serving her the Sacrament . . .) I laid my hand on her head and invoked the Lord's blessing upon her and went on.
Well, as it turns out, the little girl's grandmother was in charge of taking care of the remaining Eucharist elements (in the case of the wine, my local Parish uses grape-juice, as do most present-day Wesleyan denominations). Alice came to where here grandmother was taking care of the juice, following worship. Her grandmother thought that she simply wanted a drink of juice, so she gave Alice some juice (apparently in one of the individual Communion cups).
To here surprise, Alice took the cup of juice just outside the room to the altar-rail of the church. Placed it on the altar-rail, and after a moment of (prayer?!), partook of the Blood of Christ our Lord. - And that is, indeed, what I believe to have happened! - Oh, some people may think that such action was simply "cute," but I completely disagree. This was not simply cute; this was Christ taking little Alice in His arms, just as He did the little children in Mark 10.
Oh, such is not to discount the importance of the Words of Institution, the larger Great Thanksgiving prayers, or the priestly role of the celebrant. In fact, I believe, though I'm not sure, that the "juice" was a part of that which was sacramentally consecrated, earlier. (I'll not go into that, at this point.) But whether it was or not, God's grace is in no way limited by even the normal pattern passed on to us by our Lord. God is free to act however God chooses, and it seems to me that this instance with little Alice fits very nicely with Jesus' recorded actions in Mark 10.
To such as these belong the Kingdom of God, and so too, the Kingdom Feast! - Praise be to God!