October 5 is World Communion Sunday. It is an annual event, the first Sunday of each October, in which Christians worldwide celebrate our oneness in Christ. At the center of these celebrations will be, aptly enough, Communion. Some call it the Eucharist; the Lord’s Supper; the Sacrament of the Altar; or the Last Supper. The terms used by Christians are varied.
But regardless of the theological technicalities involved, it’s how we come to the table that is more important, I think. We must be careful with the familiar observance not to lose the wonder and sensation that Christ has given himself for us and the world. And we must endeavor to welcome all followers of Jesus to share the elements of bread and cup, especially those followers who we consider outside our particular tradition. All should be welcomed.
I was reminded of this when I recently attended an Episcopal service where a dear friend is the minister. It was a magnificent experience of sights, sounds, and beautifully orchestrated liturgy; so much unlike anything of my own Christian tradition, and infinitely more formal than my freewheeling approach.
It took me a while to catch on and to catch up. I sluggishly stood, always a few seconds behind the crowd, and wound up standing alone, dropping to the pew after everyone else took their seat. I fumbled with the order of worship, never able to find the readings or the songs on time. After the homily, and a number of other confusions, the invitation was offered to receive Holy Communion.
Finally something I understood! But I wondered: “Will I be welcomed?” because churches have tons of rules about who can and can’t participate—even fellow believers. I gladly discovered that the invitation was for all. Even those who felt out of place had a place at the table.
As I knelt at the altar, I was joined by a young family—dad, mom, and three small children. The youngest, four or five years old, stood right beside me at the rail, too short to kneel. I looked at him and smiled. He smiled in return, wiped his wet lips with the back of his tiny hand and coarsely whispered, in a voice that could have been heard at the back of the sanctuary, “This is going to be good!” And it was, because it’s always good to be welcomed to the table.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.