We just celebrated World Communion Day. It is observed by several Christian denominations on the first Sunday of every October. The goal is to promote Christian unity, ecumenical cooperation and to celebrate communion knowing that you are part of a local church unified with a larger body worldwide.
World Communion Day was birthed in 1933 by Hugh Thomson Kerr. He pastored at the Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, PA. I know exactly where this church is, it is beautiful. Dr. Kerr first conceived the notion of World Communion Sunday in 1930 as he saw divisions within his own denomination and church. It was his attempt to bring churches together in a service of Christian unity—in which everyone might receive both inspiration and information, and above all, to know how important the Church of Jesus Christ is, and how each congregation is interconnected one with another.
It was adopted throughout the US Presbyterian Church in 1936 and subsequently spread to other denominations. In 1940, the Federal Council of Churches (now the National Council of Churches), endorsed World Communion Sunday and began to promote it to Christian churches worldwide.
I believe we need a similar call today, maybe it will not be something that reaches the world, but I do want it to at least reach us at Paradise.
When Jesus gathered the disciples together on Passover, there was energy building all week long. They had entered the city of Jerusalem on the Sunday before (Palm Sunday) with the chants of the crowds and the laying of palm branches and clothes in the road. The disciples were sure that this was the week, it was their time. Jesus would proclaim he was the Messiah and he and his faithful followers would close out the week sitting on thrones in a place of honor. We all know that Holy week ends in a completely different way. Jesus had told them frequently what would happen, but they really did not listen.
Jesus invites them on Thursday to share the Passover with him. This had to be the night! The Passover meal was a special event, a family event. Usually, you would gather with your family, similar to a Thanksgiving or Christmas. What would it take to get you to give up your Thanksgiving with family to go and eat with your boss or even your pastor?
The disciples ask Jesus where they should celebrate, and Jesus tells them. Basically, we have rented out a room and someone is going to cater the event. How nice! Everyone gathers, the room has energy… Then Jesus says some things that don’t fit the mood.
When the time came, Jesus and the apostles were sitting at the table. He said to them, “I wanted very much to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer. I will not eat another Passover meal until it is given its true meaning in the kingdom of God.” Then Jesus took a cup, gave thanks, and said, “Take this cup and share it among yourselves. I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until God’s kingdom comes.” Then Jesus took some bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to the apostles, saying, “This is my body, which I am giving for you. Do this to remember me.” In the same way, after supper, Jesus took the cup and said, “This cup is the new agreement that God makes with his people. This new agreement begins with my blood which is poured out for you. “But one of you will turn against me, and his hand is with mine on the table. What God has planned for the Son of Man will happen, but how terrible it will be for that one who turns against the Son of Man.” Then the apostles asked each other which one of them would do that. (Luke 24:14-23)
Wow, the evening took a hard turn very quickly. No one saw any of that coming…except Jesus. Jesus knew what would happen in just a few short hours. Despite all of it, the disciples went on arguing some of the stuff that they had argued about earlier in the week. Who was the greatest? Who was going to be second in command on Inauguration Day.
Even at this late point, Jesus is still modeling for them an attitude that is different than the world. The reaction of the disciples is typical. We cannot look at them with disdain or judgement. When we hear bad news, things don’t go our way. We tend to act this way. I know I do. If you have ever had that awkward feeling that what is happening in the room or what you are hearing is not going the way you planned or hoped. I know I want to run away, hide, be left alone.
And in fact, the disciples do that later in the garden. When Jesus is arrested, they run, scatter, hide. They want to be alone. Jesus knows this is their tendency and he knows the same for us.
Maybe they thought they wasted the last 3 years of their lives. Maybe they feared being arrested. Maybe the voices of family and friends telling them they were fools when they left their fishing nets or tax collection business began ringing in their heads. A sense of embarrassment and shame began to emerge.
This is what communion is for. It RE-minds us of the New Covenant. It RE-symbolizes some items from Passover and gives them new meaning. But it forces us, in the core of our beliefs to not run off and be alone. It calls us to come together. To RE-Member.
Alone and Christianity do not go together. One of the popular ideas in the United States in particular is the idea that we do not need church. I can do it all on my own. My prayers, my devotion, my personal relationship with God (all of which are important). I can do it all on my own. I can find God in a field. I can go out and pray on my own without people around me. Yet every time I am on 44 or 30, I look around and never see anyone walking in the fields praying or singing.
You need your church, you need each other. Yes, all of them. Your best friends, the people you respect. And even the ones you don’t particularly like or care for. The ones that annoy you. Yes, Jesus wants you to gather with them too.
To remember means to put something back together. To dismember something is to take it apart. To RE-member is the opposite. Communion is a time for us to RE-member. To RE-call and RE-cite, but literally for the members to come together again. To RE-Member. It has always been the idea that communion is best celebrated not as an individual act, but as a community.
For a few years, there was a trend in the wedding world. Maybe you have seen this. The couple receives communion at a kneeling altar during a wedding service. Eventually, some ministers caught on to the problem. It is not right to just serve communion to only the couple. Everyone who is in the room is invited to the table.
Everyone includes you. It is time to RE-member. It is time for you as a member to “Re.” RE-kindle, RE-engage, RE-attend, RE-volunteer, RE-lead. To Re-member.
Have you had some moments that make you want to run off and be alone? Sure, we have all had them. Are them some folks or situations that force you to set aside some things to be in the room with them? Absolutely.
Jesus served the first communion in a room just like that. And He is calling you to return to a room similar to remember his grace, mercy and forgiveness in community with other members in the same situation.