In This Together – October 4, 2020, World Communion Sunday
October 4, 2020
“We’re all in this together!” We’ve heard those words a lot during this coronavirus pandemic! They speak of unity in a time of crisis. They speak of solidarity in facing a common enemy, albeit a microscopic enemy. They’re words of comfort. They help us know we’re not alone, even though we have been in a time of “social distancing.” And they remind us that “social distancing” does not have to mean “social isolation!”
I think those words go deeper, though. If you’ve heard me speak enough, you know that I believe we are “wired” to be in relationship with each other. Think about it. Friendships, interest groups, social groups, families, Church family – those are all important things to us. We seek these things. We find comfort in them. We feel stronger when we “band together” with others. We feel like we belong! I believe that’s part of how we have been created. It’s part of our DNA!
I believe that a big part of that is that we are also wired to be in relationship with God. Indeed, that’s why God made us in the first place! That’s how he made us! We have within us an innate desire to seek our creator. Every culture we have ever discovered and learned about has a God of some kind! That’s called “natural theology.” It is that desire in every person who ever lived, to seek God. It’s one of the traditional “proofs” for the existence of God, the fact that there is a desire to seek God in all people.
And yes, we break that bond with God. Yes, we fall out of fellowship with him. And getting back to him is the job of our faith – our religion. Because we do break that fellowship. But that desire for God is always there. It is inherent in us. It is part of our “wiring.” We are never fully ourselves until we find ourselves in him. Do you believe that?
So, today we find ourselves in the midst of a crisis that has sparked statements like the one we started with. “We’re all in this together!” And we’ve now come to the day that we celebrate “World Communion Sunday.” This the day I like to think of in the same way we witnessed the celebration of the new millennium when it arrived. Do you remember? We watched on TV the celebrations all around the world as they happened, first in the mid Pacific, and then moving west, time zone by time zone, around the whole planet!
That’s the way we celebrate this sacrament. We don’t all raise this cup together. It doesn’t happen that way, unless a lot of people are willing to get up in the middle of the night to do so! No, it happens from time zone to time zone, rolling all the way around the planet. And I think that’s very cool!
Well, this has to be one of the most unusual “World Communion Sundays ever! And I find myself wondering what “accommodations” other people have made in order to still celebrate this sacrament this year? We’ll be having our own “touch free” communion in just a little bit. I hope everyone is staying as safe as possible! And I do hope people – around the world – are celebrating this! As I said last week, this is our version of “We’re all in this together.” And we the church have always believed that! We have always thought of ourselves as “The Body of Christ” here on earth, wherever we are!
So, this is a celebration that recognizes our connection, not just to each other here in our church, and not just to God in this sacrament, but also to the greater Church, the Church universal, the “catholic” Church! That’s “catholic” with a lower-case “c,” a word that means “universal.” We say we believe in that – in our creed! “And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy catholic Church…” We have a special bond, we are one in the spirit, with our brothers and sisters everywhere! And that is so amazing! And it’s so important, especially in these times in which we’re now living. We say, “I believe in the Holy catholic Church.” And that’s a good thing!
And then what comes next? What’s the next thing we say we believe in? “The communion of Saints.” I think that relates to today also, and to the celebration that comes at the end of this month, a celebration which doesn’t get a lot of attention. And that celebration is… who knows? (It comes around the time of Halloween.) “All Saints Day!” That’s a part of this, too! That’s part of what we’re celebrating today!
Think about that. “The Communion of Saints.” I read a good definition of that this week. It said, “The Communion of Saints is the spiritual union of the members of the Christian Church, the living and the dead.” I believe that’s what we celebrate today, too.
So, I invite you, as you receive communion today, to think not only of the community of our church here, and the church across the internet, and the church around the world – that rolling celebration from time zone to time zone. But think also about the union with those who have gone before us – the rolling time line of the saints throughout history. And that means long term history, as well as our history, here. Think of those “saints” who have been here in this room over the years, and who have now gone before us. Think of that “Great cloud of witnesses that surround us,” as Paul told the Hebrews.
Listen again to his words. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Think about that. Doesn’t thinking of that “cloud of witnesses” give us the strength to persevere in the race set before us? Isn’t Paul right about that? And doesn’t the words, “We’re all in this together,” do the same thing?
That’s what we’re doing here today. We’re taking this special day to remember what we should remember every day, that there is indeed, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all!” That’s in our scripture from Ephesians. And working backwards in that passage, doesn’t having “one God and Father of us all,” make us want to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?” And doesn’t “maintaining the unity of the Spirit” remind us to “lead a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love?”
That’s indeed what God calls us to do. And I would remind you that those last things are things that are “choice oriented.” They don’t happen on their own. In fact, the opposite of those things tends to happen “naturally” – that is, “by our nature.” Our “natural reactions” to things are often anything but lowliness, meekness, patience, and forbearance! We must choose those things! We must practice those things. We must encourage those things in each other! And I believe we are called to be an example of those things to the world!
I hope you see all that this “World Communion Sunday” means. And I hope you think of this celebration rolling from time zone to time zone today. And I hope you think also of that rolling time line through the years. I hope you know you are not alone! We are in this together! We are the Body of Christ” here on earth! There is truly “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all!” And I hope you are inspired to live the life worthy of the calling to which you have been called!
Eternal God, make us aware of the Church universal today, and indeed of the communion of Saints. Help us to know your Spirit in our midst as we seek to be the Church, the body of Christ here on earth, and in this place. We rejoice in you this day, and that we are all in this, together. Amen.