Matthew 26:26-28; 1Corinthians 11:17-34
“It is the Lord’s Table”
I want to start with something funny. I found this from 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 that he was not old enough to partake in Communion. Later, when the collection 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.”
Today is World Communion Sunday. I want to talk about “Communion” and “why we keep World Communion Sunday.” First, let’s consider what Communion is and how it got it’s name. The Holy Communion or the Sacrament of Holy Communion is a liturgy to receive a piece of bread and a cup of wine (juice) at worship service. Christians believe that as we receive the bread and wine (Communion), we remember how the Lord died for our sins, forgiveness, and love. We believe that we are one in the Lord and one with the Lord as we share the bread and wine. Jesus, our Lord, commanded us to do so as often as possible.
Some churches call it “The Lord’s Supper”, or Eucharist. “The Lord’s Supper” focuses on what “the Lord” has done with his disciples and commanded us to do it. It stresses “the Lord’s Supper.” Catholic Church usually calls it “Eucharist.” The word “Eucharist” is from the Ancient Greek “Eucharistein,” which means “Great Thanksgiving.” It is from when Jesus first gave “thanks” to God at the first Lord’s Supper. The name Eucharist focuses on the meaning of “thanks,” or “gratitude.” The United Methodists typically use the name “Holy Communion.” The “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.” Therefore, whatever you call it, it doesn’t matter; it is the meaning we should keep in our minds.
Some denominations of the church believe in “Communion elements” differently. 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. With regards to the bread case, there are no restrictions. We can use a proper loaf of bread to share with people; like wafers, unleavened bread, homemade bread, sweet honey bread, and so on.
Some churches have restrictions for participants who would receive Holy Communion; such as age, baptism, and membership. Some churches strongly recommend that only people who are over 14 years old, confirmed and are members of the church can receive it. I think I shared my experience: When my father and I attended a Korean Methodist Church as new attendants, they didn’t allow us to receive Holy Communion because we were not baptized and not members of the church yet. I felt rejected, not welcome, and like an outsider. I looked at my father. My father said, “I’m ok because I used to drink wine often.” But I was not sure he really was ok.
The good thing about the United Methodist Church is that we have open hearts, open minds, and open doors. One of the ways we practice these beliefs is we welcome everyone to the Lord’s table. No matter who you are because God loves you, and Jesus invites you to his table. Everyone is welcome because it is the Lord’s table and because it is Jesus’ invitation to receive his love and grace.
As I mentioned before, 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 like we bury a dead body at a funeral. The Holy Communion service was like a sad funeral service with the grief of the loss. Only those who have a church membership could receive Holy Communion.
However, since I came to the United States, I joined the United Methodist Church and learned about a joyful Communion service. It is like a celebration of a feast at the Lord’s table. The Lord’s Supper was a feast celebrating the Jewish Holy Day, called “Passover.” “The Passover” is the day to remember and celebrate that God rescued the Israelites from Egypt. The Lord’s Supper, namely, Holy Communion, is to celebrate 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 Lord, as we share the bread and a cup. It is the table of the Lord’s invitation to receive His love and grace. After the service, we can enjoy the leftover bread and juice at fellowship as Jesus did with his disciples.
Early Christians brought bread and wine to the church for Holy Communion as we read the Letter of 1 Corinthians in today’s scripture. As we sign up to determine who will bring the bread, they also did so. Some were always able to bring it, but some couldn’t do it for several reasons. They thought Holy Communion was like a Potluck, showing up whose bread looked and tasted good, but didn’t share with others. They ate their own without sharing after service. While at the service, some ate the bread and wine because they were hungry. Many of those who couldn’t bring bread were poor. Eventually, Communion divided the people 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 couldn’t bring it. Do not judge each other, but love one another.”
World Communion Sunday is the day we practice sharing our bread with those who don’t have enough bread, especially for next generation of young adults. In conclusion, I want to share the rest of my story. Since I studied in a seminary in the U.S.A. when I struggled with financial issues, I met a good friend who shared good information. She was a Methodist Seminarian who knew about the Methodist policies. She directed me to 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 hadn’t received the scholarship, I would not be here today. I encourage you to support many students in need, giving a special offering, and noting it as “World Communion Offering.” We collect this offering and send it to the Conference. These offerings provide us with credit for our apportionment, like UMCOR giving. It is like we share our bread with those who don’t have enough bread. Let’s join and make tomorrow different. Thanks be to God. Amen!