Sunday, October 1, is World Communion Sunday on many church calendars. It is a reminder that the Body of Christ (the Church) is much bigger than our local assemblies, our denominations, our nationalities. The Church is everyone who believes in Christ as Lord and Savior, wherever they may live and however they may express that relationship. There is no nation on earth, even those where it is illegal to gather in Jesus’ name, where the Church does not exist.
I grew up as the son of a Baptist minister, so most of my early days were spent in Baptist churches. I naturally assumed that we must be the “right” church and all the others were the “wrong” churches. I knew my mother had grown up in another brand of Christianity and so, one day, when I was a teenager, I asked her, “When did you realize that the Baptist church was the right church?” Her answer shocked me.
“I never did, I just married a Baptist minister, so I became a Baptist,” she replied.
That popped my balloon of preconceived ideas. You mean there could be others out there, who worship differently, who are also “right”? That rocked my world. Since then, I have been officially identified with Baptist, Presbyterian and Methodist churches. I have also been a pastor of a non-denominational church, and have worked in an ecumenical organization. I am currently helping out preaching in a Cumberland Presbyterian church. Some of the closest relationships I have had have been as part of the Kairos ministry in the prisons with Episcopalians, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, and many more. In several communities I have had closer contact with pastors of other labels than with fellow United Methodists.
I have come to see that different churches are like different personalities. Some are extroverted and some are introverted. Some are loud and some are quiet. Some are active and some are passive. But all are children of God. All express their faith in accordance with their basic temperaments. One is not right while the other is wrong. One is not superior while the other is inferior. We are a big family and big families have their struggles and their difficulties, but they are still family.
So this Sunday, when you gather with others to worship, remember that the elements of communion are ties that bind us together, not walls that separate us. Whether your faith community celebrates communion every Sunday, once a month, or quarterly, this Sunday it will be happening in places all over our world. Some will be in cathedrals and mega-churches, while some will be in storefronts, small rural buildings, even houses. While we slept, people in east Asia, Australia and the Pacific islands met to break the bread and drink the cup. As the sunlight moved across the globe others in central Asia met together. Then it was the folks in Europe and Africa. Finally believers in North and South America joined in. And after we have gone home, there will be others in later time zones who are still at worship. We are all one bread, one body. We are all children of the Heavenly Father. And that is something to celebrate.