“What a Grace Filled Table it is!”
I want to start with something funny that I found on an internet site: A four-year-old boy was in church when the wine and communion wafers were passed out. He was very interested in this and started to get up. His mother learned over and told him he was not old enough to partake in Communion. Later, when the offering plate came by, he ignored it. His mother again leaned over and tried to coax the nickel out of him. He steadfastly refused, saying, “If I can’t eat, I’m not paying.”
The good thing is that the communion table of our church is open to everyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, and any background of church denomination, social class, and faith journey. We welcome everyone; come as you are. No matter who you are, the point is that you are here, and your willingness to join the Lord’s Table at this moment.
Some churches have a restriction for participants who want to receive Holy Communion, such as age, baptism, and membership. Some churches strongly recommend that only those over 14 years old, who are confirmed and are professional members of their church can receive it. I think I shared my experience: When my father and I attended a Korean Methodist Church as new attendees, they wouldn’t allow us to receive Holy Communion because we were not baptized and not church members yet. I felt rejected and unwelcome. I looked at my father. My father said, “I’m okay because I used to drink wine often before becoming a Christian. I know how it tastes.” But I was not sure he was really feeling okay.
The good thing about the United Methodist Church is that we have open hearts, minds, and doors. One of the ways we practice being open to all is how we welcome everyone to the Lord’s Table. God loves you no matter who you are, and Jesus invites you to his Table. Everyone is welcome because it is the Lord’s Table and Jesus’ invitation to receive his love and grace. What a grace filled table it is!
Going back to Korea, I attended a Korean Methodist Church, which is relatively conservative. They used homemade bread and homemade wine and believed the bread and wine, after the pastor’s blessing, became very holy, and then they treated them carefully. After the service, they buried the leftover elements in a similar fashion to burying a dead body. The Holy Communion service was like a sad funeral service with the grief of the loss. Yes, we remember how Jesus died on the cross for us. We must also move forward to see hope in our union with Jesus, which Jesus brings us through His resurrection. This beautiful communion table is for all of us to show how God embraces all of his creatures by his grace.
The Lord’s Last Supper with his disciples was a feast celebrating the Jewish Holy Day, “the Passover.” “The Passover” is the day to remember and celebrate that God rescued the Israelites from Egypt. Holy Communion also celebrates our salvation by Christ’s love and God’s grace, remember Christ’s death for our sins, and celebrate our union with the Lord and with one another in the Lord. It reminds us we are one in the Lord, one with the Lord, and one for the ministry in the world as we share the bread and a cup. After the service, we can enjoy the leftover bread and juice during fellowship as Jesus did with his disciples.
Today, we have several kinds of bread on the Lord’s Table to share with one another. I appreciate all your dedication and preparation of the Table. Early Christians brought bread and wine to the church for Holy Communion. As we signed up for who would bring the bread, they back then also. Some could always bring it, but others couldn’t for several reasons. They ate their own bread without sharing after service. Some who couldn’t bring bread and wine were mainly those living in poverty. Eventually, Communion divided them between those who could bring bread and wine and those who couldn’t. The Apostle Paul told them, “Holy Communion is a new covenant of the Lord to love one another and unite with one another. Therefore, if you bring bread, you may share it with others who can’t bring it. Do not judge each other, but love one another.” What a grace filled table it is, He suggested!
Today is World Communion Sunday. Let’s consider the meaning and name of “Communion.” “Communion” is from the word “Community,” which means “being together,” “Union,” and “Unity,” focusing on “unity with Christ” and “unity with one another in the Lord.” Some denominations believe that the communion elements, “the bread and wine,” became the real body and blood of Christ as the minister blessed them. Some believe that Jesus Christ is present in the elements by the Holy Spirit, and some believe it symbolizes Jesus Christ’s presence. The United Methodists believe that the bread and juice elements symbolize Jesus Christ’s presence. Furthermore, some denominations use real wine, but the United Methodists use grape juice. As for the bread, there are no restriction. We can use any proper loaf of bread to share with people, such as wafers, unleavened bread, homemade bread, sweet honey bread, etc.
World Communion Sunday is the day we practice sharing our bread with those who don’t have enough bread, especially with the next generation, our young adults. If we share bread with one another monthly in our community, once a year we share with one another in a global way on World Communion Sunday. United Methodist Church keeps World Communion Sunday to share God’s grace with others who experience the lack of bread. We share several kinds of bread in a global way, but also share God’s grace and love through collecting a special offering. I am deeply grateful to the United Methodist Church for keeping World Communion Sunday. Since I studied in a seminary in the U.S.A. and struggled financially, I met a good friend who shared good information. She was a Methodist Seminarian who knew about the Methodist policies. She suggested I apply for a scholarship to the General Board of Higher Education & Ministry (GBHEM), an institution of the United Methodist Church, to support global students and seminarians who would be ministers and leaders in the future. I applied for and received a scholarship from GBHEM from 2009 to 2017. They collect special offerings from the church on World Communion Sunday every year and support many global students, American college students, and seminarians. If I had not received the scholarship, I may not be here today. I encourage you to support many needy students by giving a special offering, note “World Communion Offering” when doing so. We collect this offering and send it to the Conference. It is like we are sharing our bread with those who don’t have enough bread. Let’s join and make tomorrow different. Thanks be to God. Amen!