by the Rev. Gregory Alms
“You have given us pardon and peace in this Sacrament, and we ask You not to forsake Your children.” Once during a walk with one of my young daughters, a thunderstorm came up. The loud crashes and lightning scared her, and she grabbed my hand and said, “Daddy, don’t go!”
This petition reminds me of that moment: “We ask you not to forsake your children.” There we are, having received Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sin, about to go joyfully with our faith strengthened, and then this prayer. “Don’t forsake us.” We sound like my daughter in that storm.
Why do we pray this? What are we scared of? Prompting the prayer is the Christian’s experience of God’s absence. Often God seems as if He is not with us. Psalm 13 says, “How long, O Lord? How long will you hide your face from me?” We turn from the Holy Communion to face the world, and there is fear. We feel alone. Many of us will die soon. Many will get sick. The young face school, parents worry. Guilt and shame are at the door.
But this plea is not simply psychological or emotional. It is more a confession of sin. We are children who have forsaken our Father. The Eucharist says Christ is with us according to His words, but we know we do not deserve it. We are terrified that the Gospel, the forgiveness received, the Sacrament in our mouths, are just words and that the truth is that God will indeed forsake us as sinners.
The prayer’s answer is embedded in its own words. They are an echo of Jesus’ crucifixion: “My God, My God, have you forsaken me?’ On that cross all our nightmares came true. God did abandon His Son. What we beg not to happen, did happen. It happened to Jesus, for real.
That is precisely where the great gift of God’s presence for us occurs. In forsaking His Son, God the Father gathers us in to receive Christ’s forgiving body. The Father hears the agonized cries of Jesus and then opens His ears to ours and welcomes us to the wedding feast. Our fearful cries are heard and answered: “Given for you, for the forgiveness of sin.” We ask God not to forsake us, and the Supper means exactly that: God never will.