The Unity of the Spirit – October 3, 2021, World Communion Sunday
Psalm 116:1-14, Ephesians 3:14-4:16
October 3, 2021, World Communion Sunday
In the past couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about “Living in the Spirit” and then “Walking by the Spirit.” Now today we’re talking about “The Unity of the Spirit.” And I think that works well for “World Communion Sunday!” This is the day we celebrate this sacrament – in unity – with our brothers and sisters in Christ, all around the world.
Over the years I have referred to this as what I’ve called a “rolling celebration” of this sacrament. Because this isn’t a matter of all Christians raising this cup at the same time. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a celebration that “rolls” all around the world, from time zone to time zone.
Think again about Y2K. Do you remember that? New Year’s Day, the year 2000. Throughout a 24-hour period, we saw on our televisions the New Year’s celebration from each of the time zones as the New Year reached them all around the world.
I love thinking about World Communion Sunday like that! I’d never thought of it that way before Y2K! But I’ve picture it that way ever since! This celebration started in the wee hours of our morning, somewhere in the Asian Pacific – possibly New Zealand! Then, hour by hour, it made its way west, until it reached us at this hour. And after this, we’ll hand it off to our brothers and sisters in Central Time – Central Daylight Time – except maybe those who are watching this service, with us, right now! Then throughout the afternoon it will continue to move west, finishing up somewhere in the Central Pacific – maybe Hawaii.
I love the idea of that! And I think there’s no better verse to read this day than Ephesians 4. “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Then this. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one Hope that belongs to your call. There is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all, and through all, and in all.”
“The Unity of the Spirit.” That’s what this sacrament means to me on this special day. That doesn’t mean we believe all the same things, or that we even celebrate this sacrament the same way. But we are, as you sang earlier, “one in the Spirit!”
Think about that. Think about the variety of cultures and nationalities all joining in this celebration. Picture the diverse people of varying ethnicities, some in big cathedrals, some in small tribal churches, some in churches much like ours, all celebrating the body and blood of our Savior. Know that you are part of something big! Think of the “Communion of Saints” that we talk about in our creed. Think about all who have gone before you and have handed down the faith to you over the centuries! I wonder if Paul had any idea of what this was going to look like two thousand years later, when he wrote these words!
When you use Ephesians as your scripture lesson, it’s hard to know where to start and end the reading! Because Paul packs so much into sentence after very long sentence! Each time I thought I had it decided this week, I thought, “No wait! I have to read this part, too!”
I’m actually going to wait on the first part of what I read today, and leave it until the very end – as my benediction. Because it reads so well as one, even though it’s only the end of chapter 3! But I’ll leave that for now and focus on “The unity of the Spirit” as it is expressed in chapter 4.
I love how Paul says this! And I love how he makes it an “urgent appeal!” “I therefore a prisoner for the Lord, beg you!” “I beg you to lead a life worthy of the call of God!” Think about that. Before we go any further, ask yourself, do you lead a life worthy of the call of God? That’s a big question, isn’t it?
And if you’re not sure, if you’re not sure what that even looks like, look at the “characteristics” Paul gives us of that life. “Lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another in love.” He tells us that those are the characteristics of the life worthy of God’s call. And he tells us that those are the things by which we maintain the Unity of the Spirit. Again, do they describe you? Think about it. “Lowliness, meekness, patience, forbearance.”
Contrast that to the attitudes of the world around us. Too many people in our world are the opposite. Too many people today are “Self-serving, arrogant, impatient, and intolerant.” Those are the corresponding words to Paul’s! And people are like that, aren’t they? Do any of those words describe you? By the way, “intolerant” is a “hot button” word in our world! There are those who talk a lot about having tolerance of others. And the funny thing is, that sometimes, those who preach “tolerance” are sometimes very in-tolerant towards those they see as intolerant! That confusing-sounding sentence will make more sense after you think about it for a while! But it is akin to the one I said a few weeks ago. “There are people in this world who do not love others, and I hate people like that!”
So, in contrast we are called to these other things – “Lowliness, meekness, patience, and forbearance.” Do those things describe you? Should we get out the permanent marker and write those words on our refrigerators? “Lowliness, meekness, patience, and forbearance.” That’s what Paul is begging the people to be! Because those are the things that maintain the “Unity of the Spirit!”
And, that’s what God wants for us. And this sacrament is centered around the greatest example of “Lowliness, meekness, patience, and forbearance.” Because those words describe Jesus. They speak of the humble, meek way he went to the cross. And I hope you see what great strength there was in that. He was all those things as he made that sacrifice for us, the sacrifice represented here in this sacrament, here in these elements!
And so, on this World Communion Sunday, may the Church, here in this place, and the Church around the world, know, this day and always, the “Unity of the Spirit,” through our Savior, and through his great love for all of us. And may we live lives worthy of “the calling to which we have been called!”
Eternal God, whose great love for us was shown once and for all in this sacrifice made for our sake, help us to know the unity of your Holy Spirit, that we may indeed live lives worthy of your calling. Help us to show your great love to the world, this day, and always. For we pray in the strong name of Jesus, Amen.