THE WORD 1 Corinthians 12: 12-17, 24b-26 Rev. Susan
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?…
…God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.
THE MESSAGE “Ten Commandments for World Communion Sunday”
It began with twelve close friends sitting around a passover meal with one they had grown to love and follow. They didn’t know it would be their last meal together when he broke the bread and passed the cup, and asked them to continue to do this in remembrance of him.
But they did as he asked, as they later gathered in their homes to share a meal and break the bread. For over 2,000 years in homes, and country churches, and huge cathedrals, Christians have gathered to share the sacrament that has united us as the Body of Christ.
And while it united us, it has also divided us, as theologians argued over the centuries about “what communion actually means”, “what happens when the elements are consecrated”, “who can consecrate them and who can receive”.
Today approximately 2 billion Christians are splintered into 41,000 different denominations and organizations, 1,500 of them in the U.S.. Maybe it’s a reflection of the divisive, polarized world we live in.
The preamble of the constitution of the UCC declares Jesus Christ to be the sole head of the church. Another of our mottoes is the phrase “In essentials unity, in nonessentials diversity, in all things charity. In First Corinthians Paul makes it abundantly clear not to confuse unity with uniformity; he does not think that believers must all have identical views on all things or that they must walk in lock step. He values the distinctiveness of believers, appreciates their differences of gifts and graces.
The difficulty that remains with us today is in the ability to distinguish the essential from the non-essential in our faith and practice. It must be redefined with each succeeding generation. Jesus did state what was most essential to his tradition: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind....and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And these were the commandments that brought the founders of our church into Christian unity with their brothers and sisters in Christ. “If one member suffers”, Paul tells us, “all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”
These two commandments were a summation of ten commandments given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai, ones that Jesus would have been more than familiar with. The first three have to do with loving God, and the last six with loving our neighbors. In between we’re reminded to honor the sabbath.
As I thought about Christians throughout the world today, I asked myself “How do we build bridges in a world that seems more interested in erecting walls? - bridges among Christians, among people of different faiths and no faith at all.”
As I was looking at prayers for World Communion Sunday, I found a contemporary version of the ten commandments written by Maren Tirabassi entitled “Ten Commandments for World Communion Sunday.” It applies that ancient wisdom to our lives today, and helps us see in ourselves where we have room to grow and reach across the barriers to others.
So this morning I’ve asked Jan to read each commandment as written in both Exodus and Deuteronomy. I will follow with Tirabassi’s version for World Communion Sunday and then ask you a related question. We will give you a brief time to think about how you would respond before we move to the next.
1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
I am God of a World Communion – don’t put any of your little particular religions between you and God. What do you put between you and God?
2. You shall make no idols.
Don’t make idols of race or money or power or national identity and bow down and worship them. What do you make idols of?
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Don’t make a wrong use of God’s name to justify your own ideas or your politics or even your interpretations of the Bible. When do you aline God to your own viewpoint?
4. Keep the Sabbath day holy.
Remember that Sabbath means that you should rest your body, mind, and spirit and that you should create a society in which affordable rest care is a primary agenda for all people. What prevents you from observing the sabbath?
5. Honor your father and your mother.
Honor all the elderly, listen to their wisdom and care for their wellbeing, for this is the only way to receive a heritage. What elderly person has given you wisdom? Who needs your care?
6. You shall not murder.
You shall not kill with your death penalty. You shall not kill by letting guns be unconscionably accessible to those ill of mind and spirit. You shall not kill migrant children for lack of a welcome. You shall not kill by starvation unnecessary in a world of abundance. You shall not extinct the critically endangered Amur Leopard, Black Rhino, and Mountain Gorilla. You shall not kill by war. Who are we killing in our world today, and how can we, each in our own way, prevent others from dying unnecessarily?
7. You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not commit abuse in loving relationships, or permit human trafficking. How do we reach out to those who are being sexually abused?
8. You shall not steal.
You shall not steal others’ money, possessions, ideas, or writings and pass them off as your own, or participate in fraudulent activities, knowingly deceiving others of what is rightfully theirs for your own gain. Where do you see this happening the most in our country today?
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not lie about the earth and that which damages it. You shall not lie in negotiations between nations, in the emissions of corporate greed, in the paying of the taxes that sustain a common life. You shall no longer lie about the past, for our indigenous native brothers and sisters are weeping. You shall not swallow lies about the present, neither in congress or in court. You shall not invent lies about the future that steal our children’s world. What are the most harmful lies being told in our country and world right now?
10. You shall not covet.
And hardest of all in an era so divided between rich and poor that the rich always serve a gold-calf brunch to their friends with someone else’s ewe lamb, you shall not covet what your neighbor has, because wanting what someone else has tears the world’s communion to pieces, and breaking bread is meant to be a blessing to share. What do you covet and what do you share?
If followed, these commandments could change our world. What would that world look like? What bridges could be crossed? How would a world communion really be celebrated?