--by Rev. Stephanie Gottschalk ***
Sometimes I need to know that communion is not just about me. Communion is always ‘other-focused.’ We can’t commune by ourselves; we commune ‘with’ something or someone else. We join with others in a common experience, whether it be the same meal, the same actions, the same environment, the same struggle, or the same spirit. God brings all of those elements together in the Christian sacrament of Holy Communion as we celebrate being Christ’s body and one family of grace.
World Communion Sunday is a particularly exciting celebration. On October 7, 2018 almost every local Christian community will join in this common act of table fellowship during a 24-hour period. Every minute of the day, God’s family will be sharing in Communion. (Get resources for celebrating World Communion Sunday at UMCGiving.org.)
For me, this Sunday is beautiful because it recognizes that all Christians, despite differences of ethnicity, nationality, language, income, education, gender, age, denomination, or (insert human category here), share in a unifying experience of the Triune God through bread and cup. Global doesn’t mean outside the United States; global means all of us - it chooses ‘we’ instead of ‘us and them.’ As the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways through everyday food, we experience freedom from the past and invitations into something new.
World Communion reminds us to experience the sacrament in words or languages that are new to us; to allow worship and God’s channels of grace to be different. Some use different breads, others sing culturally diverse music. In the UMC, we are blessed to be a truly global church with diverse ways of expressing ourselves and seeing God. God is worshiped in congregations and mission sites on six continents in more than ten languages.
The offering on World Communion Sunday nurtures that diversity by ensuring that our resources are shared with all those in the church. It places open table theology at the heart of who we are every day; and reminds us to play musical chairs every now and then. Why limit an open table by sitting beside the same people every time? Then we never get to experience fellowship with those on the other side of room, the other side of town, or the other side of the world. I challenge you not to miss out on what God is doing because of the comfort of a familiar seat, a familiar language, or a familiar place.
How do we make this experience of World Communion Sunday become deeper this year? How could our understanding of the body of Christ be different after THIS time at the table? God calls us to be more than consumers of goods provided by the sacrifice of Jesus; we share in the actions of sacrifice, serving, and selflessness. In this way, God not only draws us into salvation, but incorporates us into mission. Let us live out the meaning of World Communion with new efforts in collaboration that welcome confusion, new practices, and an alternative way of seeing both the church and the world. El Señor esté con ustedes!
***Rev. Stephanie Gottschalk is executive director of the Bahamas Methodist Habitat. She served until January, 2018 as Mission/Volunteers in Mission Coordinator for the Western PA Conference and wrote this piece originally for the October, 2014 edition of WPAUMC's InFocus publication.
Read Rev. Brian Bauknight's thoughts on World Communion Sunday