In his final hours, Jesus prayed several prayers from the depth of his being. Some have suggested that this particular one from John 17 might best be called the Lord's Prayer and that the one we often pray in worship would be better termed, the Disciples' Prayer, since that was how Jesus taught his disciples to pray.
Nonetheless, when Jesus prayed on that final evening of his life, he prayed that we might be one. One in spirit. One in mission. One in Christ. His is a powerful prayer that continues to resonate centuries later.
For me, World Communion Sunday is one of the most meaningful reminders that we, the Body of Christ, are called to be One with each other. World Communion Sunday is shared on the first Sunday of October, a tradition which began back in the 1930's.
Each year, I try to imagine the multitude of people in congregations all over the globe who are "doing this in remembrance" of Jesus. Some of these congregations have just a small handful of participants, and many are the size of a family reunion. Some, like ours, number in the hundreds, and a few have thousands or even more who attend. Some congregations meet in buildings which have been created at great expense to glorify God, and others meet in very simple structures, with most falling somewhere in between. Some congregations are located in rural towns and villages, others in suburbs, and some in the midst of densely populated urban areas. The languages spoken, the clothing worn, the music sung, the customs followed, the way hospitality is offered, the way people get to church - all of these things are widely varied from place to place.
And yet, there is this common truth that emerges in every setting.
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
Christ has died... FOR US!
And so we remember. We take bread - wheat, rye, pumpernickel, Hawaiian, sourdough, Italian, pita, unleavened matzo, naan, tortilla, ciabatta, injera, baguette, white, flatbread - and we break it and eat, remembering Christ's body, broken for us. Can you envision the great variety of people whom God loves? Likewise, we take the cup and drink from it, remembering the blood that Jesus shed to show us just how valuable we are to him.
As you prepare to join with others in worship and come to the table of the Lord this Sunday, I invite you to ask God to open our eyes to the unity in Christ that we can discover, even amongst all of our perceived differences. The prayer below may be a helpful tool to help you open yourself to Jesus, whose heart was beating strongly for unity in His Body, the Church he loves. Let us pray...
Today, God, we confess fumblings and failures in accomplishing unity, as we set aside yet another day to remind ourselves of the task.
On this World Communion Sunday, give us eyes to recognize your reflection in the eyes of Christians everywhere.
Give us a mind to accept and celebrate our differences.
Give us a heart big enough to love your children everywhere.
We thank you for setting a table with space enough for us all! Amen.
Africana Worship Book, Year B
, (Discipleship Resources, 2007)
Grace and Peace,
Pastor David Rittgers