The word communion literally refers to the act of sharing things in common, of participating together, of coming together. And ever since Jesus Christ initiated the ordinance of Holy Communion, Christians have indeed been coming together to argue about what communion is. This seems a bit counter-productive to the purpose of Communion, but we can be truthful about the divisions that communion has caused throughout history. For it is through the embracing of the truth about our differences, recognizing them and acknowledging them that we can begin the journey towards unity.
Unity does not ask us to pretend we are all the same, that we all agree with one another. Neither does World Communion Sunday. We have spent many years reminding ourselves why certain denominations and theological differences are significant. Wars have been fought over different expressions of Christianity; it would be trite of us to sweep all those disagreements and differences under the rug. But World Communion Sunday does ask us to come together, to remember that there is One who is acting, that does make us one. We come together as an act of remembrance, in celebration and worship of the One who truly does make us ALL one.
We find expressions of the Last Supper in three of the four gospels. The Gospel of John tells an account of a Passover meal, shared by Jesus and his disciples, but focuses on the act of foot-washing without mentioning the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Matthew, Mark and Luke however, all share an account of the Lord’s Supper and some version of these Words of Institution, “While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after give thanks he gave it to them saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26:26 – 28). And by reading these words of institution, we are reminded that it is in fact God in Christ is doing the acting.
While we act and participate in the Lord’s Supper each and every Sunday, it is God who acts through the bread and the wine, who provides forgiveness, who is present with us, and who unites us through this holy meal. It is not our hands, nor our mouths, our hearts, nor our lives that make this meal holy and divine. It is God acting and participating in this meal with us that makes us One in God through Christ.
So why is this day, this World Communion Sunday important?
By celebrating World Communion Sunday, we, both as Disciples, and with Christians everywhere, recognize that it is God’s acting that brings us together in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The human institutions we call churches and denominations may have disagreements, we may argue, and we may oppose one another on many varying understandings of Christianity. However, in celebrating World Community Sunday, we recognize the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God that we all worship and love. We recognize and continue to invite God into our lives, that we might make room for the Holy Spirit that unites us in God through Christ. World Communion Sunday does not ask us to give up our individual natures that make us unique and different, in and attempt to be unified. Rather World Communion Sunday celebrates the One which makes us all one. World Communion Sunday celebrates the wholeness we find in the life and body of Christ. World Communion Sunday invites us to be part of the gathering of the multitudes, that the gathering of our differences might bring us to wholeness and oneness in Jesus Christ, and the holy meal he offers to his followers.
In Hope… Laura