Communion: Holy and Humble Attention

Philippians 2:1-13
October 7, 2018: World Communion Sunday

 

For this World Communion Sunday, it’s about more than all these different kinds of bread. It’s more than even the connection of Christians across the world sharing this sacred meal together, even though that’s a very cool part of it too.

For this moment, World Communion needs to be about how we are in communion with the world.

How we remind ourselves of our core connections to our siblings far and wide.

And how we encounter, in this holy meal, a story we meet with our senses of what real power looks like.

 

Paul writes to the church at Philippi to not act on selfish purposes, but to embrace sacred humility. This looks like not always looking after yourself first, but considering first the needs of others. This is Communion—this is loving your neighbor.

Now, whenever we’re talking about calls to humility in church, I want to be very clear—and if you listen to anything, listen to this—a call to put others before yourself is only sacred and holy and necessary for those with some power to share.

 

I mean, Paul is talking about Jesus, the incarnation of God of the Universe. Giving of that power is significant good news. That’s different than asking the same thing of someone marginalized and trampled by the world.

 

You can’t ask those who have no power to begin with to give it up—this is hurtful and traumatizing, especially when attached to the name of God. Some people have struggled their whole lives to gain some power against impossible odds. Power itself is not bad; it’s the consolidation of it. If self-giving is to be a good thing, than the sacred invitation is that

literally everyone

needs to do it in mutuality; not just those who are socialized to give of themselves faster.

 

And perhaps today, perhaps this week, we need to hear that the current dominant powers are not ultimate powers.

When power ignores even the most courageous vulnerability for its own consolidation, let us trust that dominant powers are not ultimate powers.

And that we follow in the way of a different sort of power—that which brings the full love of the universe, all that has been, all that will be, to break apart systems of oppression.

 

And some days, it seems like the world is broken. Is falling apart.

Some days, it might seem like we are falling apart.

We hear of Flood, earthquake, disaster, defeat and death. Our hearts can only take so much, and it is so convenient to just turn off the TV, close the computer, put down the paper.

 

World Communion invites us to keep paying holy attention.

To not turn away from the heartache of the world, but embrace our shared humanity and bear the burdens together.

And I believe that we, as a body here, can do that more readily, more unflinchingly, in our connection.

To bear one another’s burden so that nothing might be too heavy when shouldered alone.

 

So as we prepare to receive this meal that tells a story of a body broken and freely given, full of consent, so that we might know fullness of life, I invite you to meditate on these words

from Anne Blaedel, a fierce pastor in Iowa:
blessed are you who know that divinity resides in despised, abused, violated flesh.
blessed are you who know deep in your bones that you are good. and beautiful. and beloved. and sacred. and worthy. and believed. and held. and capable of healing beyond your wildest imagination.
blessed are you who remind others they are good. and beautiful. and beloved. and sacred. and worthy. and believed. and held. and capable of healing beyond their wildest imagination.
blessed are we when we stay tender.
blessed are we when we stay fierce.
blessed are we when we dare to imagine repair, and transformation.
blessed are we when we labor together to make it so.

 

One way we can imagine repair, practice the sharing of power that looks like giving and receiving, is in Communion.

 

Communion:

 

For in Communion, we live, just for a moment, in a reality where there is truly enough for all. Where the stuff of life is not hoarded, but shared.

Where we are nourished in body and spirit.

Where we know these things, with every means with which we know, at this table.

 

World communion Sunday connects us across time and space with others who gather at this

Christ followers meet both in public and in secret.

Some meet in freedom while others gather under threat of persecution and death.

Some take the sacrament today with organ music, others with simple singing, and still others in quiet so as not to draw attention.

 

The one thing in common—the table here is where we encounter Christ

and so encounter one another.

In many different languages, something like these words of institution are given:

 

On the night He was betrayed Jesus took bread. And when he had given thanks and blessed it, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, “This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

In the same way after supper Jesus took the cup and gave it to His disciples, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Drink this in remembrance of me.”

Let us pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we thank you for this sacrament of communion shared with Christ followers around the world. Pour out your Holy Spirit on these elements and on those who partake—that we may be your body in our lives and throughout the world. Amen.

The bread is many different types and from many places. Some created primarily from wheat, others from rice, corn, or other kinds of grain.

(Break Bread)

The juice around the world will be different. We’re most familiar with juice here, but for many it is wine. For many, it is water perhaps carried from far miles.

Some will use individual cups, others fancy chalices, still others pass around whatever cup was in the home where they were meeting.

Heck, I’ve taken communion with a stale bagel and Dr. Pepper because that’s what we had.

What matters is the encounter. Our attention. This practice of giving and receiving.

At this table, we know Christ’s presence and so meet one another in sacred love.

(Pour Cup)

Here, we celebrate at an Open Table.

Come, for all things are ready.