On this World Communion Sunday, we will gather at the Lord’s table. Followers of Jesus from across the world and across the aisle will gather at the table of grace. All who believe in Jesus will be welcomed at the banquet table—black and white and brown, old and young, rich and poor, urban and rural, Dakotan and Minnesotan, progressive and traditionalist. At the Lord’s table, we experience the fullness of Christ’s love, grace, and forgiveness. At the Lord’s table, we remember our identity, recover our hope, rediscover our unity, reclaim our purpose.
Our world, country, and beloved United Methodist Church are in a season of distress, disruption, divergence, and division. We are struggling to find and claim the center that binds us together. We find ourselves searching for our shared core values that we can carry into a future yet to be revealed.
I believe the core values—that center that anchors us in the midst of the storm—are found at the Lord’s table. For me, that center can be summarized in three words: Jesus, mission, and connection.
Jesus is our host at the table. Jesus is our salvation. Jesus is our hope. Jesus makes God’s love, forgiveness, and grace fully available and tangible for us at the table. One of my favorite hymns is “My Hope is Built.” You probably know and can sing this poem from memory:
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare hot trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
Jesus is the solid rock. Standing on this solid rock—building our hope on nothing less—is the only thing that can carry us into a future together. Jesus made his mission to the world perfectly clear at the table. You surely remember what he told his hometown synagogue in Nazareth about his mission.
“The Lord has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners, and recovery of sight
to the blind, to liberate the oppressed and to proclaim the
year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
Jesus, once again, expressed this mission when he washed his disciples’ feet at the table. Then he broke the bread, teaching all who follow him that we, too, must be broken open and given in service to heal a broken world. John the baptizer may have said it best: “Jesus must increase and I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Jesus makes us all one at the table. As disciples of Christ formed in the Methodist way, we understand ourselves to all be connected. We like to say we are connectional, or we are a connected people. But when we get mired down in connectional structures and regulations, we sometimes forget being connected is first and foremost a spiritual matter—a gift of the Holy Spirit. This spiritual gift of connection is made known to us at the Lord’s table. That is why, before we receive the bread and cup, we pray:
By your Spirit make us one with Christ,
one with each other,
and one in ministry to the world,
until Christ comes in final victory
and we feast at his heavenly banquet.
Friends, I encourage you to come with anticipation and joy and thanksgiving to the Lord’s table this World Communion Sunday. Return to the core values—the center—that anchors us in the storm and that will carry us into the future. Remember that Jesus is our host. Embrace the mission Jesus has given us. And remain connected to Christ and one another. May it be so!
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Bishop Bruce R. Ough is resident bishop of the Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church.