World Communion Sunday
Mindy Douglas Adams
Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church
October 4, 2009
On this Sunday, World Communion Sunday, always the first Sunday in October, Christians around the world gather to worship and share the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. As we gather, we remember one another and celebrate the presence of the Holy Spirit at tables from every culture, every land, every people, and every global situation possible.
As we gather, we global Christians do a bold thing. We dare to proclaim peace and the hope for peace around the world. On this day we dare to proclaim unity within the church of Jesus Christ and the hope that all people might have the power (as Paul hopes for the Ephesians) to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that they might be filled with all the fullness of God.
On this day we dare to imagine what a world might look like in which all people comprehended Christ’s love for us. We dare to imagine what a world might look like in which everyone found themselves filled with all the fullness of God. We dare to imagine such a world.
Would there be anger and abuse in such a world?
Would there be addiction and neglect in such a world?
Would there be greed and pride in such a world?
Would there be murder and rape in such a world?
Would there be oppression or torture in such a world?
In a world where everyone understood the massive extent of Christ’s love for us, in a world where everyone was filled with the fullness of God, would there be these things? Would there?
Would there be hunger in such a world?
Would there be disease in such a world?
Would there be weapons of mass destruction in such a world?
Would there be war at all in such a world?
How could there be? If all people knew the depth of God’s love for them? How could there be?
We long for such a world. We long for that knowledge of God in our own lives, for that acceptance of Christ’s love and for that fullness of God, so that we might live in peace in our own relationships, with our own neighbors. We long for it in our own lives.
We also long for it for the world. We are tired of money having the greatest power. We are tired of seeing the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer. We are tired of reading about acts of violence in our own communities. We are tired of watching countries tear themselves apart internally. We are tired of disease and hunger. We long for more. We long for more.
God longs for more as well. In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah speaks to the people for God and tells them of God’s anger and pain because of their actions. As we hear Jeremiah’s words we realize people today haven’t changed one bit.
These words from chapter six would work as a headline for just about any business or religious section of the newspaper today:
“For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely” (6:13).
Or maybe we could flip over to the City and State section and look at the latest convicted criminal refusing to show remorse, or the latest politician justifying his sordid affairs:
“They acted shamefully, they committed abomination; yet they were not ashamed, they did not know how to blush” (6:15).
Or we could read on the National page about the state of poverty and the unemployment rate and the lack of health care for millions of Americans and read the following:
“For scoundrels are found among my people; they take over the goods of others. . . they have become great and rich; they have grown fat and sleek. They know no limits in deeds of wickedness; they do not judge with justice the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy” (5:26-28).
God longs for more. We long for more. In response Jeremiah writes,
“Thus says the Lord: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (6:16).
“Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. . . . For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever” (7:3-7).
God longs for more. God longs for a people who love him. God longs for a people who care for the needs of others. God longs for a people who live in peace together. And so do we. So do we.
There are times, surely, when we are tempted to despair that such a world is not possible. There are times when we give up hope and throw up our hands and curse God. But those are the moments when we have forgotten who God is. Those are the moments when we let sin be victorious and when we turn away from God. Those are the moments when we are most alone.
The Apostle Paul reminds us, as he reminds the people in Ephesus, that we must never stop seeking to grasp the full magnitude of God’s love for us in Christ. Though, in truth, the love of Christ is beyond comprehension, we must always seek to rest within the endless bounds of that love and to find ourselves living in hope for a world of peace, working in our lives for peace and justice wherever and whenever we can, and finding the courage to keep our eyes upon God, who is our only and eternal hope. Forever.
And above all, our faith in God and God’s presence in our lives and in this world must never waver. There will still be sin. There will still be pain. There will still be suffering. But we are promised that we will never be alone as we face these things. And we are promised that in the end death and sin do not have the final say. In the end pain and suffering and grief will be no more. Light and love, hope and peace will win.
Paul knows our tendency to doubt and so he reminds us of God’s power in his benediction to the people in Ephesus, “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.”
Our story continues in this place today. A story of but one community of faith among many. Breaking bread. Receiving the cup. Partaking in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Finding hope, peace, and forgiveness at this table of grace and new life. We join people around the world who, in their own situations, come to this table of hope and peace and healing. No matter what our story is, we all come to this table seeking to be filled with the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love, so that we might know the fullness of God today and forevermore. And so we might live in peace.
On this day, we join our brothers and sisters around the world in dining at this table of grace.
On this day, we join our brothers and sisters in tsunami torn Samoa, who will gather as those who are grieving great losses of family and friends and home and community. As they gather, they will take a morsel of whatever food they have available to them, will bless it and share it and say, “A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
On this day, in the Republic of Congo, a ten-year-old girl who was raped by soldiers as an act of war will gather with a few others, take a piece of bread in her hands and drink from a common cup. She will hear the words . . . . “Come, all you who are weary and heavily laden, and I will give you rest. . .”
On this day, in Mosul, Iraq, a small group of Christians will gather secretly in one of their homes. They will take bread and juice and share it with one another, saying . . . “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the saving death of the risen Lord until he comes again.”
On this day in Geneva Switzerland at the World Council of Churches chapel, people of a wide variety of Christian denominations and world cultures will gather to build ecumenical bridges around the world and to combine their global efforts in the work of the gospel, in the work of bringing peace and hope and justice to the world. Along with the bread and the cup, they will share these words, “There is one body and one Spirit . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
On this day, in Afghanistan, a military chaplain will gather with those troops who are not patrolling or on special assignment away from camp, and she will break bread with them, and drink from a common cup with them and she will share these words . . . “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”
On this day, hospital chaplains around the world will break bread with those who are sick or dying, and with their family members. They will share the cup of salvation and they will offer these words of hope to those who are worshipping . . . “This is Christ’s body, given for you . . . This is Christ’s blood, shed for you. . .
On this day in Guatemala, indigenous people who have suffered death and have lived in fear will don their brightly colored hand-woven clothes and they will gather to worship in a shelter with a packed dirt floor and a few benches. They will bring their guitar and their tambourines and they will clap and they will sing and they will dance. They will break bread together and drink from the cup they will hear these words. . . . “Do this in remembrance of me.”
On this day Christians around the world, in whatever situation they are in, will gather as the Body of Christ, will gather as the people of God, will gather as a part of the global community of faith. These people will take bread, or rice cakes, or tortillas, or oatcakes and they will eat together. They will take wine or juice or water or milk and they will drink together. Christ will be in the midst of them. Christ is in our midst as well.
May those of us who will be fed today, all around the world, find ourselves filled at this table – body, mind, and spirit - with the knowledge of God and of God’s Son Jesus Christ, and may we, so filled, open ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that we might be peacemakers wherever we go, so that all might know of Christ’s unending and sacrificial love and that peace might reign throughout the world.