Exodus 19:16-25, Ephesians 4:1-13
October 5, 2008
Today we use as our scripture passage this great call to Christian unity found in Ephesians 4. This being World Communion Sunday, I thought, “what an appropriate verse!” Sometimes our world is too small, you know. Sometimes the world we see, the world we think about, the world we interact with, is very limited. Most of the time, we think merely in terms of our own lives, our own homes, and our own families. And those things are good! Don’t get me wrong!
But there’s a whole world out there! And along with those things – home, family, lives – we have a challenge before us today. Whatever your political persuasion, you’ve no doubt heard the call to “think globally.” And I think that’s a good challenge! I believe God wants us to consider that he is the God of all people – as mind boggling as that is! And I hope it is just that – mind boggling! There are 6 billion of us people running around on planet earth! And God cares for each one of them! I don’t know about you, but I can’t begin to fit that thought into my feeble brain!!!
We need to expand our thinking, as one of my old ministers used to like to say, to “the larger world around us.” How large is that world? Are we able to expand our normal thinking to include thought and prayer for people down the street? How about in the next town? What about the next state, the next country, the next continent, the next hemisphere? We live in a world where media and communications make it possible to connect with other parts of the world as never before. But do we?
World Communion Sunday gives us that opportunity. If gives us the occasion to think in terms of our Christian brothers and sisters throughout this world. On this day I like to think of the “rolling celebration” of this sacrament – like the way the media tracked the new year 2000 across the globe! Do you remember that? I don’t know about you, but that really made me consider all of those other people! It made me think about other people and other countries and other cultures and traditions, as I watched them celebrate that new year one time zone after another all 24,000 miles around the circumference of the Earth. It was wonderful seeing the different colors and diversity and traditions of so many different kinds of celebrations. A lot of them involved fireworks!! (Which I love!)
Well, today we celebrate this sacrament “all around the world.” Like that New Millennium celebration, we all use different colors, different décor, different languages, even different communion ware. Picture, if you will, the various chalices and patens (the plate we use for the bread) There are some that are shiny, some of rustic earthenware, and some perhaps even of wood. I’ve been looking forward to this day as a great day to reintroduce this old and beautiful Communion set – complete with it’s flagon. Did anybody ever find that word? I had a lot of you working on it. Or at least you were curious! (I hope!)
Then picture the various cultures and peoples and settings in which this sacrament is being celebrated, even as we speak! What better day to think about all that. And what better day than this to think of these words of Paul.
There is one body and one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of us all who is above all and through all and in all.” (Philippians 4:4-6)
We are one world. But only if we will chose to think that way. So I ask you, “Do you think globally?” “Do you have a heart for the world?” Each week you say “I believe in the holy catholic church…” That’s catholic with a small “c,” which simply means “universal.” Well this is the day we ask ourselves if we really believe in the church universal! Do we really promote and pray for our sisters and brothers around this globe? Do we have a love for all people, no matter how different they might be from us?
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus said, “If you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even the tax collectors do that!” (Matthew 5:46 ) I think that’s a tough saying! And it’s right from the Sermon on the Mount! But it’s even tougher than we might think. Because Jesus might just as well have said, “If you love only those who look like you, or talk like you, or live like you, what credit is that to you?”
That is the challenge of this day. We humans do tend to be comfortable with those of our own kind. I don’t know why that is. If I did I would be a psychologist, or an anthropologist. And even though a pastor is often called to be many things, I don’t claim to know that one. Though I will confess to it. I can recognize those feelings of discomfort rising in me when I’m confronted by someone who is very different from me. I think we all do, if we’re honest with ourselves.
However! One of the universal teachings of the faith is that we are not to conduct our faith on the basis of feelings. That’s true, though sometimes we forget. In fact, Jesus called us in many ways to come out of our “comfort zone.” He called us to do the things that were tough, and often go contrary to our feelings.
Loving enemies and praying for those who persecute us is not what we feel, is it?! We definitely feel the opposite, don’t we?! When the parents of those children killed in Lancaster County a few years ago were interviewed, they spoke of forgiving the man who did it. And that was so hard for us to hear, wasn’t it? Are we to think that’s what they felt like doing? Of course not! They chose the hard road our Lord calls us to walk sometimes.
Now I know that’s an extreme case. But Jesus calls us to make those kinds of choices, when we’re dealing with someone different than us, when we’re dealing with someone who might not treat us very well, and in an election year, when we’re dealing with someone who thinks differently than we do.
Those are all hard things! But they are things we are called to do! And let me tell you that our hearts will never change about them until we start to do them. And I think that’s so important! We can simply choose to do the tough things of faith like that. But what we need, even more than the practice of those things, is to have our hearts changed about them. That’s where our lives are changed, too.
The first step is to follow and to do. Then the heart will come later, either through “getting used to” doing such things, or through God changing our hearts when we are willing to let him! It is true that God doesn’t call people who are special in any way, he just wants them to be willing. Are you willing to have God change your heart?
As we approach this table, then, let us recognize the presence of God with us, as he is with all those who celebrate this sacrament together today. And let us be open to the life changing power of the Holy Spirit, who is in our very midst today. The Spirit dwells within us always. It’s just a matter of being open to his working.
Eternal and ever present God, Lord of all nations and peoples, we ask for the ability to feel your presence and to know your power within us. Help us to have a heart for the whole world. Teach us to see with your eyes and to love even those who are not like us. Help us to see the beauty in the rich diversity of all of your people. For we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.