A World at Communion

Proper 22 (World Communion Sunday) texts at www.textweek.com

Lamentations 1:1-6 or 3:19-26    Psalm 137    Psalm 37:1-92    Tim. 1:1-14    Luke 17:5-10

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’             Lam. 3:21-24

Every Sunday when the people of God gather–everywhere people of God gather–we hear the word of God, we speak words of peace to one another, we lift hymns (and we even lift praise choruses!), we respond to the grace of God–every Sunday, we are participating in a world-wide communion.

At least symbolically.

And at worst, merely theoretically.

Symbolically, the people of God are one, no matter our song styles, our first languages, our attire, or our surrounding architecture. Symbolically, our separate worship gatherings stretch across the miles, connecting us all in a web of worship. Praises are raised up and joined together from all corners of the earth. Invitations are answered, thanks are given, plates are filled, bread and cup are received: the world is gathered in communion.

But in practice, how can we possibly be one people, one body, one worshipping voice, one eucharistic, thanks-giving world, when we are separated by lines in the sand? How can our oneness be anything more than a theory when our Sundays are clearly designated by color, by gender, by income, by age, by choice, by party? When our congregations are best known by our witty church-sign slogans and our preaching-to-the-choir sermon topics?

And how can we seek unity for the world, when we can’t even imagine it in our own neighborhoods?

How can we find holy communion, when we can’t find anything in common?

The poetry of Lamentations grieves over the destruction Jerusalem: the lonely city, weeping in the night, comfortless and friendless (1:1-2). She is in exile, with no place to rest, overtaken by her enemies. (1:3-4) She suffers, while they prosper. (1:5) She is broken by the constant reminder of her pains. (3:19-20)

And yet she has hope.

No demographic, no platform, no clever signage or snappy sermon title can embody the communion of Christ: the sharing of the bread of sorrows, and the cup of promise. Sorrow and promise; lament and hope. Around the table, we listen to the laments rising up around us, around the world, and in each other’s hearts. We share in the brokenness of Christ’s own body, and taste the tears of those who still cannot find comfort. We drink the cup of promise, and feel it burning the backs of our throats, a constant reminder of blood still poured out in Jesus’ name. We voice the words of great thanksgiving, so even those who cannot yet speak hope can sense its presence.

We share lament and hope–not only in theory–but in the symbol of the feast, where lament and hope make the Body out of us. Only shared lament and hope can bring connection out of isolation. Only shared lament and hope can stretch across divides. Only shared lament and hope can give birth to community.

Around this table–in spite of all that would divide us, the drawn-in lines and made-up slogans that keep us exiled from each other, in spite of enemies who rejoice in suffering and grow rich on pain–around this table, sharing lament and hope, we can be one.


First published 9/26/2016 at www.bwim.info/blog

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