By the time you read this, the first Sunday of October will be right around the corner. Every “first Sunday” is special for us here at Klamath Falls First UMC, as it is in most churches in our denomination, and others, because we celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion as a central part of our worship on that Sunday. But the first Sunday in October has special meaning for us, as it does for other sisters and brothers in Christ, because we celebrate it as World Communion Sunday.
Most of us have heard about World Communion Sunday but may not know much about where the celebration originated. According to the website of the National Council of Churches, World Communion Sunday began in 1936 in the Presbyterian Church and was adopted by the Federal Council of Churches (predecessor of the NCC) in 1940. Since then, the celebration has grown into an international ecumenical celebration of Christian unity.
The key word for World Communion Sunday is communion, or unity. It is a day when we mark the almost universal Christian practice of breaking bread with one another and remembering both the night of Jesus’ betrayal—when Jesus instituted what we now call the Lord’s Supper as a lasting remembrance—and of Jesus’ sacrifice. So accounts of the last supper feature prominently, by virtue of World Communion Sunday being a celebration of the Eucharist. But there is a flavor of the Christian celebration of Pentecost as well, when people from around the Mediterranean world came together in mutual understanding and inspiration, by the power of the Holy Spirit. World Communion Sunday is a time for remembering that around the globe—in different languages, with different traditions and customs, and in various forms of liturgy—the Lord’s Supper is celebrated throughout Christendom. At its best, therefore, World Communion Sunday serves two purposes: it is both a joyous and meaningful partaking in Jesus’ sacred meal with his friends and a mind-opening exposure to different Christian traditions from around the world.
Yes, we have to take the divisions in the body of Christ seriously, and we need to learn how to better listen to one another in all our differences. But here at the Lord’s Table this coming Sunday we can be prophetic—we can make a faith claim. You see, this isn’t our table, it is Christ’s. And here we as the members of Christ’s Body known as Klamath Falls First UMC can find strength, hope, and new life, just like the rest of God’s children. May it be so.