WORLD COMMUNION SUNDAY
World Communion Sunday offers us a special opportunity to know ourselves and experience Holy Communion in the context of the global community of faith. The first Sunday of October is when Christians in every culture break bread and pour the cup to remember and affirm Christ as the Head of the Church. This Sunday, we recall that we’re part of a wider body of believers.
As this troubled world swirls around us—Ebola in Texas, Isis in Syria, riots in Hong Kong–we relate to these issues not only through the talking heads of the nation-states, but also through the heart and minds and souls of brothers and sisters in Christ who dwell in all of those places.
For me this raises a vital question for any generation: on what basis do we engage the world? How to we answer the vital issues of our time as people of faith in a global era? If we go too far reaching out into the world, we lose our own identity and character as Christians. We become coopted and accommodated. If we don’t go far enough, we become a veiled enclave, a spiritual club, failing to put the light of God out there to be seen, but instead hiding it under a bushel.
Sunday’s epistle text, I Peter 2.4-10, was written to churches who were ridiculed, rejected and disrespected by the world. In that moment, they heard, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” I find that much stronger and more fortifying than facing into the world, say, as “nice people” or “aware citizens of America.”
Our Gospel lesson, Matthew 5.10-16 uses images like salt and light. Salt is about our character as Christians and how a little bit of our influence around us can make everything more savory. We don’t need to dominate countries or take over governments (are you listening, Islam?). After all, a little salt sprinkled where other ingredients predominate beats out a plate of salt.
Jesus’ image of light is about how our words and deeds in Christ’s love show all the way to God.
Hear this from a cool book from 25 years ago, Resident Aliens, pp. 43-47: “In saying, ‘The church doesn’t have a social strategy, the church is a social strategy,’ we are attempting to indicate an alternative way at looking at the political, social significance of the church. We seek to influence the world by being the church, that is, by being something the world is not and can never be, lacking the gift of faith and vision, which is ours in Christ. The confessing church seeks to make visible to the world a people who are faithful to their promises, love their enemies, tell the truth, honor the poor, suffer for righteousness, and thereby testify to the amazing community-creating power of God….A confessing church shows the world a radical alternative in the congregation’s determination to worship Christ in all things. As Jesus showed, the world, for all its beauty, is hostile to the truth. The confessing church is a church of the cross. The cross is a sign of what happens when one takes God’s account of reality more seriously than Caesar’s. The cross stands as God’s (and our) eternal no to the powers of death, as well as God’s eternal yes to humanity, that is, God’s remarkable determination not to leave us to our own devices.”
I love the sound of those lucid, helpful words, sending me back into the world in Christ’s name.