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World Communion Sunday

October 17, 2011

When I first realized that I was going to be out of town and away from church for World Communion Sunday on October 2nd I was extremely disappointed. This has become one of my favorite days of the Christian year because it places the sacrament directly in the center of our attention (which is where it deserves to be) and it unites us together with Christians from all over the world in an act of celebration and remembrance. In a society where congregation members often skip church on Communion Sundays because they fear it will make the service run over time, it breaks my heart that more people do not fully understand the significance and overabundant love that exists in the receiving of the bread and cup. As clergy I take responsibility for not sharing often enough what this blessed meal means for our lives, because if we were teaching it centrally and allowing God to be fully present at each Communion service, I strongly believe people would be knocking down the doors to receive the bread and juice containing the grace of God. If you’d like to learn more about the United Methodist understanding of Communion, read on here: http://www.kintera.org/atf/cf/{3482e846-598f-460a-b9a7-386734470eda}/THM-BYGC.PDF

World Communion Sunday has become a chance to really emphasize our unity across the globe and recognize that no matter what differences we may have from other Christians, the love and grace of God brings us all together as one body of Christ. I have loved services in the past that brought together breads from around the world, music in various languages, and even fabrics and native dress representing our distinctive cultures that create a colorful palate of artwork within our congregation. So I was disappointed that I would be in Honduras and away from Snellville UMC on this high holy Sunday, until I realized that I could celebrate World Communion in another part of the world.

Honduras Youth Group

What could be more appropriate to experience global unity than sharing the bread and cup with our mission team and the people of Honduras? So in preparation for our trip I worked at coordinating with HOI a chance to share Communion with their community. I offered to lead a service either at the ranch with the HOI staff, or perhaps even in the village we would be working with throughout the week. Since Communion is about community it felt like an appropriate chance to celebrate with those we would be surrounded by all week.

Tortillas and juice make up the body and blood of Christ.

However, coordinating became a bit of a challenge, and it wasn’t until right before we left for Honduras that I got the green light to lead a service at the ranch with a group of youth from Honduras. I wasn’t sure if this meant children from a local village or what. But on any mission trip, and even life in general, flexibility is key, so I prepared as best I could for a congregation that I knew nothing about. When Sunday morning rolled around and we were making the last three-hour drive to the ranch, I found myself stressing. I kept going back and forth between scripture selections, trying to figure out what would be most appropriate to share. I worried about making this service youth appropriate and simple enough to break through the language barrier, yet sufficient and deep enough for our mission team. I let myself become distracted away from the car ride conversations our team was having, and felt bad for being so focused on something else.

When we arrived at the ranch, we unpacked our bags and headed to lunch. Immediately after lunch they brought in a group of about 35-40 youth to join us for a service. They shared with us by singing a few songs in Spanish, and then I began with a short devotional, in English. Jose, the HOI director, translated for me. What seemed most appropriate for the occasion and our congregation turned out to be a selection from 1 Corinthians 12, talking about many members of the body of Christ, all distinctly unique, and yet all needed to work together. I finally just got out of the way and let God speak, and it turned out to be exactly what it needed to be.

Preparing to sing and lead Communion together.

Jose and I shared the story of Jesus eating with his disciples; we broke tortillas representing Christ’s body, and lifted high the cup representing His blood. We taught about the grace of God being present and offered freely to all who wish to receive. We consecrated the elements and served them to one another, and the Holy Spirit was indeed present in that place. After everyone had been served, Rebecca, one of our team members, led the entire group in the Lord’s Prayer, in perfect Spanish.

David and I serving our congregation.

After the service a member of our team approached me with tears in their eyes, and gave me a hug. It was clear the Spirit was speaking and moving, and the significance of sharing this meal together had not been lost. It was a perfect reminder that no matter how much I stress or how hard I try, there’s really nothing I can do to try to make Communion special. It already is special. All I can do is get out of the way and allow the Holy Spirit to speak, and the grace and love of Christ to shine through.

World Communion Sunday, Honduras style

Rebecca leading the Lord's Prayer in Spanish.

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