“My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes… For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!” (Isaiah 5:1b-2, 7, NRSV)
Isaiah 5 is a poem written by a friend of a disappointed Father. It expresses God's pain at his people's failure to faithfully live in their relationship with him according to the design God had in mind in their creation. It's emblematic of the world that has existed since the Fall in the Garden of Eden. The Fall set in motion the dichotomy of an either/or world. It created absolutes and polarities, winners and losers, and us and them. And God's heart breaks at such divisions.
This Sunday, October 4th, we will observe World Communion Sunday with Christians from every nation, signifying our desire for unity as the Body of Christ in the midst of all that separates us. We will celebrate our common sacramental bond in hopes of moving closer to the oneness Jesus prayed that his followers would achieve through loving one another. And yet, we gather at the Lord's table in a world filled with geopolitical divisions that threaten people's security, natural disasters on several continents that have taken on extreme proportions, and a pandemic that endangers the well-being of our planet's entire population. Every time we celebrate the sacrament, it foreshadows the day when all the world's peoples will sit at one table, as one, as God's people. With the psalmist, we cry, "How long, Lord? How long?"
In the early church of the 1st century, there was a time of examination before Holy Communion. People reflected on any of their relationships with others in need of repair before receiving the sacrament. The idea was that before we came to accept the sign of God's forgiveness for us, we needed to be sure to have sought forgiveness from those we may have harmed or extend forgiveness to those who may have hurt us. Participants knew we all needed our relationship with God repaired, but it would be hard for God's forgiveness to penetrate our hearts if ours contained a lack of forgiveness for others.
The only way I know to heal the world's divisions is to be sure that I have healthy relationships with those within my sphere of influence. If we attend to promoting and maintaining vital relationships, even with those with whom we disagree, we are doing our part to set the table for the heavenly banquet that is to come. World Communion Sunday is an expression of our hope that our world can be one. May it be so. Amen.