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A Foretaste of the Feast to Come

By Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor

Sometimes it seems as if cell phones have become a necessity of life. This wonderful piece of technology allows us to stay connected to the significant people in our lives.  Any time day or night, that phone can ring and we will answer it. They have become so popular that some folks are using cell phones as their primary telephones. Many people have even discontinued their residential telephone service.

Sometimes it seems as if cell phones have become a necessity of life. This wonderful piece of technology allows us to stay connected to the significant people in our lives.  Any time day or night, that phone can ring and we will answer it. They have become so popular that some folks are using cell phones as their primary telephones. Many people have even discontinued their residential telephone service.

As cell phones have become more and more important for staying connected, researchers have invented new applications to add to these phones. Cell phones are no longer just phones. They are now smart phones. They have calculators, calendars, email, internet web browsers, cameras, and alarm clocks. You can save contact information with addresses and phone numbers. You can download pictures, games, and music for your enjoyment. Recently a young S.C. pastor explained that his cell phone was teaching his baby the sounds of animals. He then gave me a demonstration as he pushed a button and I heard these words, “What does a cat say?  Meow. What does a cow say? Moo.”  Little Isaac smiled as he heard the question and answered along with the phone.

All of the latest features and gadgets, prompt us to carefully select the cell phone model that best suits our individual needs. We then make it our own by choosing the special music, ring tones, or sounds it will produce when someone calls.  Phones come in different colors, shapes, and sizes, but they all share the same purpose of making it possible to talk to someone. They keep us connected.

Every year on the first Sunday in October, we United Methodists join other Christians as we gather around the table for World Communion Sunday. We believe that the Lord’s Supper is a sacrament, an opportunity to actually connect with God and with one another.  For the sake of unity, we put aside those things that separate us from others in the family of God. On that Sunday, we do not think about what is distinguishing and unique about United Methodists, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians or Baptists. We focus solely on the faith we share in common as the body of Christ.

On World Communion Sunday the world becomes smaller and more connected.  Beginning in Tonga and ending in Hawaii, for 24 hours the church will abide by those words of our Savior, “Do this in remembrance of me.” During that day, we will live into the reality that we are a global church. Just as there is one loaf, we who are many, are one body for we all partake of the one loaf.

It inspires me that around the world it will be the same. Whether in great cathedrals, in wooden framed countryside churches or in open fields under the shade of spreading Acacia trees, people will gather with the same purpose. The bread may be baked from different recipes and the wine may be held in simple clay cups or elaborate silver chalices, yet in this service of worship the bread and wine become for us the precious body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In the Service of Word and Table, we ask the Holy Spirit to make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world. We invite God’s spirit to connect us. It is the same everywhere.  We all confess that Jesus died for our sins and the sins of the whole world. Gathered around the Lord’s Table, everyone comes with the same need, to have our sins forgiven.  We all come eager to connect with the risen Christ.

I do not think I will ever understand why Communion Sundays are often Sundays when church attendance is low. Either we don’t understand what Jesus did for us or we don’t recognize our need to receive that which Christ alone supplies.

It reminds me of the man who was on his way to surgery when his pastor stopped by the hospital to have a prayer with him. The man said he was mad at God and until God apologized he would not be praying. The minister prayed for the man anyway. For years this parishioner would not speak to his pastor. Then one day the man realized how wrong he had been to feel that way. Refusing to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion is like saying you don’t want to be prayed for. We need prayer and we need to receive the Lord’s Supper as often as possible. Both are ways God gives us to stay connected.

There is a wonderful service in The United Methodist Book of Worship that is used in the consecration of a sanctuary. The service includes this special prayer for the Dedication of the Lord’s Table: “Lord God, we thank you that when we gather at the Lord’s Table the living Christ is known to us in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup;  and we are renewed as his body, whose life is in his blood. When we eat this bread and drink from this cup, refresh all those who partake at this holy table. Feed the hunger of our hearts with the bread of heaven, and quench our deepest thirst with the cup of salvation.  Strengthen us for your service in the world, and give us a foretaste of the feast to come, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Amen.

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