One day I would like to truly have communion with the whole church.
Once a month we offer the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, the bread and the cup that symbolize the body and blood of Christ Jesus. Occasionally I mention that the table in front of that particular congregation is linked by this symbolic bread with every other congregation, not merely those within the Presbyterian Church USA but Presbyterians who have chosen to go separate ways, with congregations of other Reformed Churches, with Roman Catholic congregations and with Baptists and with induependent churches. Our unity through this sacramental meal is nothing short of miraculous.
In most towns where I have lived once or twice a year, typically for Thanksgiving, the various congregations come together to worship. We share bits and pieces that are uniquely from our heritage and from what we hold in common, occasionally editing out words that might divide us. Only once have we celebrated communion together, and then it was because the other pastor and I came from Churches that had officially recognized each other’s sacraments.
For, to begin with, when you come together as a church,
I hear that there are divisions among you;
and to some extent I believe it.
— 1 Corinthians 11:18 (NRSV)
Yet I continue to hope that one day we might briefly share one loaf demonstrating our oneness in Christ. Imagine six pastors from six congregations representing six different denominations all lifting one loaf of bread as we simultaneously say the words of institution, then breaking that one loaf to share with people from these congregations. In that moment there would be no visible divisions between us.
That day may be coming as various denominations recognize each other yielding a daisy chain kind of oneness as one denomination recognizes another and that recognizes a third who recognizes one that the first might have differences with and so forth. Perhaps in my lifetime, if we arrange the pastors in the right order, I could break bread with a Lutheran pastor who could break that loaf with an Episcopal priest who could …
And perhaps someday in the distant future such unity might last longer than a few minutes and have more than symbolic implications.
I will have more to say about this passage on Sunday, October 4th, at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Yours in Christ,
Robert Shaw, Pastor