“While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” (Matthew 26:26-28, NRSV)
Sunday, October 3, 2021, the First United Methodist Church of Florence joins Christians from around the globe to observe World Communion Sunday. According to information provided by United Methodist Communications, 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, which included all the predecessor denominations of The United Methodist Church, adopted Worldwide Communion Sunday. I love serving Holy Communion on any occasion; however, I find significant meaning in sharing the Sacrament with our congregation on a day when over 100 million other Christians also receive this symbol of God’s grace, all on the same day. I sense the interconnectedness between Christians near and far envisioned by Rev. Kerr and his congregation.
One of the distinctive ways we participate in the Sacrament of Holy Communion is that United Methodists believe in an open table, meaning anyone may receive communion regardless of their church membership. Membership in any church is not a requirement to receive Holy Communion in our congregation. 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.” John Wesley, the 18th-century founder of the Methodist movement, believed that even someone who wasn’t sure about the Christian faith could receive Holy Communion. He emphasized that by participating in the Sacrament, even a non-believer might experience the power of the Holy Spirit and receive the gift of salvation as a result.
Some people refer to Holy Communion simply as the Sacrament, although this may be confusing because we observe two sacraments in United Methodism: Holy Communion and Baptism. Some other names for Holy Communion include the Lord’s Supper and the Eucharist. The Lord’s Supper comes from the last meal Jesus shared with his disciples before his crucifixion. The Eucharist is another word for “thanksgiving,” noting that we give thanks to God for the gift of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We hope you’ll join us this week as we participate in the worldwide celebration of God’s grace through the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Bring a friend who needs to hear about our God who loves them and who would do anything to demonstrate his love for them! See you Sunday!