Done with the divide?
Romeo and Juliet gave us the Capulets and Montagues. American history gave us the Hatfields and the McCoys. West Side Story gave us the Jets and the Sharks. Professional baseball still gives us New York Yankee fans and Boston Red Soxs fans.
Today, we have those for masks and those against masks.
It is the mask division that has done me in. Yes, I am done. Completely done.
So, World Wide Communion Sunday? Oh, bring this. Bring this big time.
World Wide Communion Sunday arrives on the first Sunday in October each year. This annual, world-wide event of bringing all people together at the table should have the most appeal to all of us who follow Christ—especially now.
I am speaking from my location as a United Church of Christ pastor when I share the word unity. Others say unity—to a point. But there are lines. These lines may seem indistinguishable, but there are those who shake the dust from their feet (Matthew 10:14, Mark 6:11 and Luke 9:5) and situate themselves apart rather than with.
In the face of separatism, World Wide Communion comes along and says, “No.”
World Communion Sunday began at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1933. The Rev. Hugh Thompson Kerr and his congregation chose to demonstrate the interconnectedness of Christian churches, regardless of denomination.
Kerr appropriately chose the sacrament of Holy Communion to symbolize this unity. He promoted the realization of how important the Church of Jesus Christ is, and how each congregation is interconnected to one another.
The celebration of World Wide Communion Sunday was adopted as a denominational practice in the Presbyterian Church (US) in 1936. Churches in other denominations were invited to celebrate with us from the beginning. However, it wasn’t until 1940 when the Department of Evangelism of the Federal Council of Churches (a predecessor body of the National Council of Churches) promoted extending the celebration to a number of churches around the world that the practice became widespread.
In 1940, the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, which included all of the predecessor denominations of The United Methodist Church, adopted World Wide Communion Sunday.
Kerr was asked how the idea of World Communion Sunday spread from that first service in Pittsburgh to its world-wide practice. He said, “The concept spread very slowly at the start. People did not give it a whole lot of thought. It was during the Second World War that the spirit caught hold, because we were trying to hold the world together. World Wide Communion symbolized the effort to hold things together, in a spiritual sense. It emphasized that we are one in the Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
In the Spirit of unity, the Apostle Paul tells us that we are to “discern the body” when we partake of Holy Communion. Paul means that we are to be mindful that realize and honor our relationship to all our brothers and sisters in Christ in the celebration (1 Corinthians 11:29).
World Wide Communion Sunday is the time we mark the Christian practice of breaking bread with one another and remembering the night of Jesus’ betrayal. It was at this meal with his twelve disciples that Jesus instituted what we now call The Lord’s Supper. This meal is a lasting remembrance of Jesus’ upcoming sacrifice—His death on the cross.
It has been an incredibly challenging year and a half for all of us on this planet. Let October 3, 2021 be a time when Christians in every culture break bread and pour the cup to remember and affirm Christ as the Head of the Church as well as the Head of our lives.
Whether we share this upcoming communion in a magnificent cathedral, mud floor dwelling, meetinghouse, mountaintop or midtown storefront, be Christian. Realize and affirm that there are as many ways to celebrate communion as there are congregations.
No more divides. At least this Sunday, okay?
Join in World Wide Communion Sunday as you are able. More will profess Jesus as Lord when they see this unity, this love. This is a time for our unity and our love for Jesus and each other.