This Sunday, Christians around the globe join together in celebrating World Communion Sunday.
As Christians, we unilaterally celebrate the sacrament of communion. But as Christians who observe our faith differently. We do that in different ways across the world and across our different denominations.
Some Christians celebrate communion every time they gather, while others reserve it for special occasions. Some use bread and wine, and others wafers and grape juice. Still others use a combination of the two approaches.
I once took communion with my Samoan brothers and sisters, and we didn’t use bread at all. We actually observed the sacrament with a coconut.
On World Communion Sunday, we pause to consider our differences because the reality is there are many. The way a Baptist observes communion and the way a Roman Catholic does are very different.
Our ritual is performed differently. Our theological understanding of the act is different too. And yet, even as we approach it differently, it is central to each of our Christian faiths.
In communion, we are united as one. We are part of the one body. Whether we believe in transubstantiation or a table of remembrance, we recognize that in taking communion, the body of Christ is present because we Christians become the living body of Christ.
So for one day, we recognize our unity the world over. Truthfully, we should probably do this every Sunday. Or better yet, every day. Perhaps if we were to do so, we would be aware of our differences but appreciate them more, rather than thinking it odd that one aspect of Christianity does one thing, and others do another.
Ultimately, whether we are Protestant or Catholic, Methodist or Assemblies of God, non-denominational Christians or Greek Orthodox, or anything in between, the many become one.
As I think about what it means to be in world communion, I cannot also help but hear the call innate in communion. We are called to be fed and to feed. We Christians like to get metaphorical about what this means, taking on an evangelistic approach more often than not. But perhaps it is most important to take those words literally.
We live in a hungry world. We American Christians are the ones fed the literal food. We may be hungry for the spiritual food our communion can offer us, but when it comes to eating our bread, we have our fill.
So as we recognize world communion, we cannot ignore the reality of hunger. We cannot recognize our connection to God, our place in the body of Christ and our own hungers (both physical and spiritual) without recognizing that we are connected to one another and the hunger that exists in this world.
We cannot eat of the bread and drink of the cup and think only of ourselves. Therefore, in taking communion, we not only take God into our bodies as we ingest the bread, but we also take on a commitment to be bearers of bread to the world.
If this is true, communion is not a solitary experience. We are not only in communion with God, we are in communion with all of God’s creation. When we become one with God, we become one with all whom God is one with.
In one mystical moment, all the walls of difference fall and we recognize our interconnection. Thus, if a woman in Palestine is hurting and hungry, I too am hurting and hungry. If a child in Africa is starving and alone, I am with him starving and we are not alone. If I eat my fill, I am obligated to ensure that my brothers and sisters worldwide also eat their fill.
This World Communion Sunday, I invite my Christian brothers and sisters to recognize not only the healing properties of our shared communion, but also the challenge innate within it.
We are one body called to feed the world. As we find our unity in the Eucharist, may we be sustained for a journey together to look past our differences and work together to fight the injustice of worldwide hunger.
THE REV. SARAH HALVERSON is the pastor of Fairview Community Church in Costa Mesa.