October 4, 2015
I don’t know about you, but I’m still reveling in the glow of Pope Frances’ visit to Philadelphia. I knew it would be a big deal. But frankly, the surprise for me – beyond the crowds and the TV coverage and images I saw all weekend – the surprise for me was the spiritual high I had watching everything that weekend, and even now looking back on it! When the weekend was over, I told Patty that I was emotionally exhausted! What about you!
And it wasn’t just about the man. And believe me, this man, in his gracious, humble ways – humility like I talked about last week – this man who is a wonderful Christian leader, touched my heart in ways I didn’t expect. But it’s more than that. And I said this on Facebook. In an age where showing religious faith in public is frowned upon, this was a cosmic explosion of faith, love, and hope! This was a true embodiment of Jesus’ words, “Let your light so shine before men!”
Now, I say all that because today is “World Communion Sunday.” And it is my hope that we can capture some of that “light” today. It is my hope that we can think of all of our christian brothers and sisters around the world, from various denominations, passing on this celebration from time zone to time zone, all around this planet. It started somewhere in the western Pacific. It’s been handed to the time zone west of that until it came to us. And it will continue all day! That’s a wonderful and powerful image!
Now, would it help if there were TV cameras and media coverage, and “in depth analysis?” Would it help if there were aerial views of thousands of churches celebrating this sacrament? Would it help it if we had people with yellow umbrellas distributing the elements to thousands at the same time in the same place, in one huge crowd? (Would it help if I had one of those pointy hats?) It might. But, do not let the lack of those things not deter you from seeing this celebration in a similar way. You’ll have to use your imagination. You’ll have to “stretch out” with your spirit to think of those things, and to feel that same spiritual high – without all those other images.
As you think about that, let me say that this event, this World Communion, is (I think) just as important, and just as big. In some ways, by sheer numbers, this is even bigger! Yes, there were eight-hundred-thousand people celebrating this sacrament on the Parkway last week. But there are way more than that celebrating it today! What would you say? Twice that many? Ten times? It’s just that they’re not all in one place, and there are no TV cameras.
So, be your own TV camera! Be your own aerial view! Picture this celebration rolling around the world! Feel the thrill, the “spiritual high,” you felt last weekend. Feel the joy you felt for the light that shined to the world then, and the afterglow that is still being felt. Let this be a big thing, too! I hope you’ll do that! We are the body of Christ here in this place, sharing this sacrament. But today we also celebrate with the body of Christ around the world!
Ok then, that’s one thing. The second thing I want you to do here is to let this event today promote in you the unity, the love, the hope, and the desire for peace and goodwill that we saw last weekend. Because, if we only let this sacrament make us “feel good,” it would only fulfill half it’s purpose. Let this make a difference in you! And let that make a difference in the world around you. And notice, that word “difference” is only two letters off of the word “different.” In order for something to make a “difference” for us, we might need to be “different!”
Think about that! Pope Francis reached out,, in heartfelt ways to all kinds of people Maybe you remember the images of those people. He blessed the faithful. He kissed babies. He hugged people in wheelchairs. And I’ll never forget the look in his eye when he received that small gift from the boy who sang the “Pie Jesu.” I don’t even know what it was, but I remember the Pope beaming, and asking “for me?”
About the only thing I know of that he turned down (besides coming to Eddington!) was a luncheon with the U. S. Congress! What does that say? He went to feed the homeless instead. And he rode around in a tiny Fiat! That was great! And what does that say about the “humility” I was talking about last week?
Besides all that, though, he also reached out to people with whom we may have been uncomfortable! He reached out to prisoners. He dialogued respectfully with people of different religions. He did feed the hungry! And as I thought about all that, it occurred to me that he was doing things Jesus would have done! Think about that! What does that mean for us, the body of Christ here on earth?
So I ask you, can this sacrament, and all it represents, help us to remember to be that same kind of compassionate and caring people? Can it make a difference in our lives and in our witness to the world? I hope so! But it will only do so, if we choose to let it do so. It will only do so if we open ourselves to the Spirit of God working within us, empowering us, giving us that same kind of joy and enthusiasm!
So, let us do that. As we prepare for this sacrament, let those images from last week fill our minds, and let them fuel our hearts as we seek to know that same spirit in what we do here.
Eternal God, help us to be uplifted and inspired to serve you and each other. Help us to know the joy of your kingdom among us. As we share this sacrament with our brothers and sisters around the world, help us to be part of that light shining out for all to see. For this we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.