World Communion Sunday has become one of my favorite Sundays of the year. On the first Sunday of October Christians all around the world from all kinds of denominations partake in the sacrament and remember other Christians around the world. The practice began at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, PA in 1933. Here are a few ideas that I have tried to emphasize this day:
- Use a variety of breads for Communion. I like to use bread of different colors, textures, and types of bread. The plate or basket then becomes a neat representation of all of the different kinds of people eating different kinds of bread for communion on that day. My experience is that my church (and others) often eat the white bread first, but the visual is still cool
- Wear vestments fitting for the day. Last year I made a special stole out of burlap. Burlap now comes in a roll like ribbon so it is easy to make a stole with it. I also wore a wooden cross from the Holy Land. Think of a way that your appearance can portray both the importance and the global nature of this special Sunday.
- Give a special children’s sermon. I give children’s sermons as much for adults as I do children. Talk about what it is like to go to church in other places around the world. Teach the kids about a missionary that your church partners with. Teach them words in another language. Whatever you do, use that as a time to share about that day.
- Pray for other Christians around the world. Most pastors shape the theme of the service through the liturgy, the hymns, and the sermon. I have found that the pastoral prayer actually anchors the theme as much or more than any other thing in the service. For World Communion Sunday, pray for Christians around the world. I would suggest you use Voice of the Martyrs to note a couple of very recent instances of persecution. (www.persecution.com)
- Try a creative communion liturgy like this one that I wrote last year:
It began last night- as you were going to bed—World communion Sunday.
Asian Christians shared the bread and the wine. Churches in China met in secret so that they would not be arrested. Christians in the Middle East, some of whom were saved only by having dreams of Jesus, met under the watchful eye of the government as they celebrated the Eucharist. In Europe, Christians gathered in churches that used to be much fuller and celebrated the Lord’s Supper. In African the sacrament was celebrated in great numbers by a growing number of Christians, many of whom bare scars of persecution as they Commune together.
Those celebrating today include Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Baptists, thousands of other denominations, and even those without denominations.
Christ followers met both in public and in secret. Some met in freedom while others gathered under threat of persecution and death. Some take the sacrament today with organ music, others with simple singing, and still others in quiet so as not to be arrested.
In wealthy churches and in desperate poverty the sacrament is observed. In churches, homes, huts, and in God’s creation this seal of the covenant was experienced. The bread is given to people that could overeat all day and to people who had no idea what they would eat or where they would get it today.
The one thing in common- We all come to the same table of our Lord.
In many different languages, by ordained clergy and volunteer pastors, something like these words of institution were given.
On the night He was betrayed Jesus took bread. And when he had given thanks and blessed it, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, “This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way after supper Jesus took the cup and gave it to His disciples, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Drink you all of it.”
The bread is many different types and colors and from many places. Some created primarily from wheat, others from rice or other kinds of grain. Some will have bread left over. Some with very small pieces that could barely give every Christian there a morsel. Still- it represented the body of Christ broken and sustained the body of Christ around the world today.
The juice around the world will be different. For many it will be wine, some will have juice, some will celebrate with water that had to be carried from a dirty well some miles away. Some will use individual cups, others fancy goblets, still others have been passing around whatever cup was in the home where they were meeting Still- it represented the blood of the covenant in their place and in their communities, just as it does in ours.
Let us pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we thank you for this sacrament of communion shared with Christians around the world. Pour out your Holy Spirit on these elements and on those who partake—that we may be your body and the representation of your covenant in our lives and throughout the world. Amen.
Today, as you see the bread come around, you will see many different colors and types of bread. Remember as you see the plate all of those around the world with whom you share the table today.
What other things have you used for World Communion Sunday?