Jesus's table - An invitation to transformation
October 11, 2018
This past Sunday, my congregation celebrated World Communion Sunday. This is a day set aside where we acknowledge the universal connection we have in Christ throughout the world.
My denomination’s website describes the history of this celebration: “World Communion Sunday was adopted as a denominational practice in the Presbyterian Church (US) in 1936. Churches in other denominations were invited to celebrate with us from the beginning, but it wasn’t until 1940 when the Department of Evangelism of the Federal Council of Churches (a predecessor body of the National Council of Churches) promoted extending the celebration to a number of churches around the world that the practice became widespread. Today, World Communion Sunday is celebrated around the world.”
In our current time and place where people are so polarized, something as mundane as a shared meal can provide the context for the practiced awareness that we are deeply connected at the core of our humanity. It seems, however, that at one and the same time, we both yearn for and tend to avoid these kinds of moments.
Instead, we seem to give in to the temptation to hate, to demonize the “other side.” We put up barriers, creating what we think is a safe space, with all our nicely constructed opinions kept clean and pure inside - while outside lurks whatever we abhor. If you’re a Democrat, it’s the Republicans, and vice versa. We all know the drill.
We all have our opinions and positions, but if we allow these things to get in the way of seeing the human person on the “other side,” we will only continue to spew hate and contention.
My understanding of Holy Communion leads me to believe in the reality of common ground at Jesus’ table of grace. This is the place where Christ puts no borders, no boundaries. The power of this moment in the lives of people is profound. Read the account of former atheist Sara Miles in Take This Bread (2008). She recalls the moment when she wandered into a church one day, was invited to eat bread at an open table and encountered the power of the Holy Spirit - it completely changed her life!
Communion as practiced awareness of the universal love of Christ can be a powerful moment for those who participate in it. It invites us to reckon with all our assumptions and misperceptions of others. It encourages humility and honesty about our own brokenness and need for one another. It opens up the process of healing and forgiveness most of us yearn for.
Part of the prayer we prayed together on World Communion Sunday speaks to this: ...Help us, O God, to love as Christ loved. Knowing our own weakness, may we stand with all who stumble. Sharing in his suffering, may we remember all who suffer. Held in his love, may we embrace all whom the world denies. Rejoicing in his forgiveness, may we forgive all who sin against us...
At Jesus’ table, everyone is on the same level; no one is greater. Even the host brings us into the very presence of God to eat together. There is no gate to keep out the unclean. There are no hoops to jump through to get there. What is promised is the very presence of the One who would seek to transform the world through human connection. That’s a promise I hold on to.