Helen and I had a great Sunday celebrating the 100th birthday of Rose City Park United Methodist Church. Hope you had a great Sunday here, too. October 6 was World Communion Sunday. I wanted to be with you for that special day so, irregular though it is, we are going to celebrate World Communion Sunday, out of sync with the rest of the world, on October 13.
The idea for World Communion Sunday dates back to the 1930’s. It was a time with similarities to our own. Economic turmoil. Ominous developments in other parts of the world and uncertainty about whether America should get involved. A Presbyterian pastor named Hugh Kerr came up with an idea. Christians around the world could demonstrate their unity and their prayers for a better world by joining in the Sacrament of Communion on the same Sunday. So starting on the other side of the international date line, while it is still Saturday here, our Christian brothers and sisters in the Pacific islands would begin and eventually Sunday morning would dawn in the American west and we would take our turn. I remember World Communion Sundays in my home church with various parts of the service led in languages other than English to dramatize that, though our world is divided by nation and by language, we still are one people under one God.
As we know now, a terrible war was fought in the decade after the 30’s. Terrible things happen in war, but God is there even in the worst conditions imaginable. I’ve come across a communion story from World War II. A British infantryman found himself in a prisoner-of-war camp in Poland. It was winter. There was no heat. There was hardly any food. Prisoners were given a single bowl of thin soup and a small crust of bread once each day. Men were dying of exposure and of starvation. Some men were choosing to end their own lives by climbing the barbed wire fence around the perimeter of the camp where they could not climb far before they would be shot.
In the middle of the night this soldier walked to that fence. He hesitated. He was thinking about climbing it. Then he heard movement on the other side. It was a Polish farmer. This farmer extended his hand through the fence and handed the prisoner half a potato. In heavily accented English, his words were still understandable: “This is the body of Christ.”
The rest of the world is a week ahead of us this year, but I do look forward to World Communion Sunday, 2013. We need it.