Last Sunday, we celebrated the beginning of Lent with Forgiveness Vespers. Nathan was still out of town, so I braved 2 church services is one day with Luke. :)
At the end of the service, everyone (priests, lay people alike), go around the perimeter of the church in a line asking forgiveness of one another, and respond reminding that God forgives. While we may not know everyone very well or feel that we personally have done something to offend the other person, we ask their forgiveness. The Orthodox believe that all sin is damaging in some way and sometimes we do something that offends without even realizing it. Forgiveness Vespers is kind of a way to cover all the bases and begin Lent with the right heart. Personally, I love this service. Looking into the teary eyes of the older women who have been faithful for decades, having them ask your forgiveness, is powerful and humbling and beautiful beyond words.
Anyways, Luke was the youngest participant this year. He went around giving people hugs as we said, "Forgive me, a sinner," and replied "God forgives!" After hearing a few people ask his forgiveness, he began saying "Forgive me, a sinner," as well. This morphed into a shortened version- "Give me a sinner." One teenager remarked, "Luke, I dare you to go into any store and ask the people to give you a sinner. We all laughed. He kept saying the phrase long after the service was over.
On a more serious note, I want to say that this was a great reminder to me of how much we need all sorts of people in church together, especially children. In the past, I have been in churches where babies to high school children are excluded because they are "distractions." Well, if church were merely a course of lectures every Sunday, then yes, that would be very true. But its not! It is much more than that. We all are in this world together and we need each other. Each of us has a role to play.
Luke is a "distraction" sometimes as he mutters to himself or has the occasional outburst during services (and yes, I DO take him out when he gets too crazy- everyone has their limit!), but I saw last Sunday how much of a blessing children in the church are. Luke asking forgiveness made everyone realize again what we were saying to one another in a way that only can come "out of the mouthes of babes."