Monday, October 8, 2007
World Communion Sunday
It has always amazed me that the sacrament that was designed to bring us together, the sign of Christianity most profound, Holy Communion, is the one thing that has been so surrounded by rules of who and who cannot receive. Judicatories of all the denominations limit what should and should not happen at the simple meal which Jesus shared with his disciples.
It was a Passover meal--the meal that spoke to Jews of the first century of their Jewishness, their faith. Jesus had longed to celebrate this meal with his disciples, the ones he had called to the way to the Father. They celebrated their oneness even though they were so different. They came from Greek speaking provinces, the Galilee and Jerusalem. Some were fishermen, others were tax collectors. They were not from the same social class. They were young people caught up with the fire of the love for God and Jesus took the bread and broke it and passed it around. He took the wine and blessed it and passed it-- signs that they were one family, one people, one faith.
While at clergy meeting this week we heard how we were now allowed to share communion with the United Methodists. We already have agreements, of course, with the Lutherans. There was a list of rules, do’s and don’t’s that make this simple act of sharing bread and wine possible. The once sign of oneness has become a stumbling block to unity.
In my own tradition we have those who are Episcopalians who refused to have communion with others because we ordain women, or because we believe that LGBT persons have a place not only at the table but in the ordained ministry too. It is the way that they can show that they are different—more worthy perhaps. But it makes Holy Communion an instrument of disunity. Many of us have had experiences of going to Roman Catholic or Missouri Synod Lutheran services only to be told that we were not invited to Communion. What injustice to that simple meal shared by our Lord! What a mockery of the sign of unity that Jesus shared!
World Communion Sunday was designed to highlight Christian unity in the sharing of the meal that is central to our faith. I wonder how many churches really shared the meal. I wonder how many of us really thought of the scandal that we are to those who stand apart from Christianity because of such silliness.
None are worthy of receiving Holy Communion. It is merely God’s grace that makes us worthy of such a gift. But it is the gift of God’s self that we receive, both symbolically and really. To take God unto ourselves, to consume in that very fundamental way we become part of God’s gift to creation. When we shun this elemental sign of renewal, the hope that is in us, fades. And when we refuse God’s gift of life in Holy Communion we chose to depend upon ourselves rather than on God.
Perhaps what we need to do is demand from the judicatories of our denominations to get over their need to control God’s love. Christianity cannot afford our silliness any longer.