Reflection: October 1

Published on Oct 1st, 2017 by Rev. David Boyd | 0

      Today is Worldwide Communion Sunday. It is a Sunday that I’ve come to appreciate as we be intentional about our world-wide kinship with other people. I remember early on in my days in the United Church, so sometime in the late 60’s or early 70’s, when an emphasis was put on World-Wide Communion Sunday; this was a shift from the traditional 4 times a year that we had communion in the United Church.
Apparently, World-Wide Communion Sunday began in the 1930’s by a Presbyterian in the USA. The intent was to celebrate the unity of the Christian Church and it was formally adopted by the Presbyterian Church USA in 1936 and began to spread to other churches. A few years later it was adopted by a national council of churches in the US, and it grew from there, gradually becoming internationally recognized until finally, today, it is known around the world and is truly a “world-wide” Christian declaration of unity.
It is interesting to note that it is a big deal for those of us who do not practice weekly communion; I remember having a conversation with a clergy-person who is part of a different denomination that practices weekly communion. This person declared that their tradition was to practice unity every week when they have communion. That may be, it is still good to focus at least once a year, and we do actually many times a year, that we are one body, we are one people.
      It seems fitting then, to read a story about Jesus in which he confronts division and discord. This story is about Jesus being confronted by his opponents and questioned about his authority: “by what authority do you do these things?” The kind of debate told by Matthew in this story was pretty typical in that day; to answer a question with a question was part of the rhetorical manner of debate. And story-telling was also part of this form of discussion also. So, Jesus, knowing full well the discussions going on in Jerusalem, asks about John the Baptist. Jesus has entered Jerusalem and stirred up controversy. He has predicted that the authorities will crucify him. Jesus knew that the question about John would flummox his opponents, and it did!
      Jesus then told the parable about the two children, one of whom does what was asked in spite of saying no initially. It was a thinly veiled reference to some of the religious leaders who were to speak of justice and holiness and yet who practiced a narrow piety that excluded and judged. Jesus pointed out that he’d sooner hang out with those who had been pushed to the margins, whose lives were lived in challenging circumstances but who truly desired peace, love, healing, and hope.
      This is the kind of humility that comes from seeking to overcome our own challenges and live in peace and out of love, that comes from experiencing healing and hope to begin anew. This humility enables us to speak of unity. We, as Christians, are often accused of being hypocrites, that our actions don’t match our beliefs and our faith. And yes, there is some truth to that in our history. But—and this is a big but—there have always been leaders among us who help us become that child who says no and then goes ahead and does what is asked, whose life may be lived in challenging difficulties, but who tries to live wholly and lovingly… every day, even every moment. It is what I’ve been saying for 30 years in ministry; we can begin again when we acknowledge our brokenness… We are not defined by our brokenness but by our seeking to be whole persons!
      So, World-Wide Communion Sunday is a symbol for me of our desire to be one Church, one people. Certainly, there are huge differences along the theological scale across the world, and there is division, but I think—through the World Council of Churches and other endeavours—we can be united by our desire to seek justice, resist evil and proclaim the power of love to paraphrase our church creed. And we can model this unity in a time in our world history when division seems to be the way for the moment. We can be bold in our declaration that love and the power of unity are far stronger than any power that can tear us apart.
And so, I leave us all with a little video that is a children’s story about being the same but different, that we all, in our diversity, contribute to the wonder and beauty of the human family. We need to get this into our heads—all our heads and dispel fear and disunity! We can be the child who says, “I’m not going to do that” and then go ahead and do it… turn our lives around, be healed and heal others, and strive to live love even in hard times and challenging circumstances!

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