“[Jesus prayed,] ‘Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you, and these [disciples] know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them and I in them.’” (John 17:25-26, NRSVue)
This Sunday, we will observe World Communion Sunday, when Christians from around the world will share in the sacrament of Holy Communion. For 24 consecutive hours, millions of Christians from every time zone will commemorate Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection through the sacrament as a sign of our unity as the Body of Christ.
World Communion Sunday began at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1933. The Rev. Hugh Thompson Kerr and his congregation sought to demonstrate the interconnectedness of Christian churches, regardless of denomination.
Rev. Kerr appropriately chose the sacrament of Holy Communion to symbolize this unity. In 1940, the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America adopted World-Wide Communion Sunday as a celebration for all Christian denominations.
In a world constantly dividing itself into regions, factions, ideologies, and parties, the Christian church can show the nations a different way of relating to one another. By celebrating World Communion Sunday, we highlight our unity as believers as hundreds of thousands of churches of all denominations celebrate the sacrament with Jesus Christ as the universal head of every church.
When Jesus prayed the night before his crucifixion, he said that the non-believers in the world would come to know his Father as his disciples and followers lived as one. Jesus’ prayer at the end of his life was that his people would be a witness to the world through unity. World Communion Sunday is a testimony to our common heritage as faithful followers of Jesus Christ from various cultures and traditions who share the sacrament in common.
One of the ways we, as United Methodists, demonstrate this unity is through our open communion table, where anyone can receive the sacrament, even if they are not a member of the United Methodist Church. Our Book of Worships says, “All who intend to lead a Christian life, together with their children, are invited to receive the bread and cup.” This practice is a carryover from John Wesley’s view toward openness to whoever responds to Jesus’ invitation to come to his table. No one is denied access to this symbol of God’s amazing grace.
In an age of spiritual individualism and sectarian religious identities, we must celebrate World Communion Sunday as a sign of our commitment to being a part of the larger community of Christians who broaden and deepen our understanding of God because of our differences. Join us this Sunday with expectant hearts to see what God has in store for us through his mystical symbol of Holy Communion. And invite a friend! — Senior Pastor Rev. Dale Cohen