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Scripture & Reflection for World Communion

given on Sunday October 2, 2016 as part of the Service of Word and Table I in honor of World Communion Sunday

Opening scripture: Lamentations 1:1, 2b & 6 (NLT)

 1 Jerusalem, once so full of people,
is now deserted.
She who was once great among the nations
now sits alone like a widow.
Once the queen of all the earth,
she is now a slave.
2. . . All her friends have betrayed her
and become her enemies.
. . .

All the majesty of beautiful Jerusalem[b]
    has been stripped away.
Her princes are like starving deer
    searching for pasture.
They are too weak to run
    from the pursuing enemy.


Today’s focus & reflection: Lack of unity in global community

            Reading scripture written thousands of years ago does not always seem to connect to today’s world, but these verses in Lamentations can send chills down one’s spine. Jerusalem, the Jewish capital city, was captured and destroyed by Babylon.   The Jewish people were killed, captured and made slaves, or exiled fleeing their homeland.

The book of Lamentations is a sequel to Jeremiah, both written by Jeremiah. The first book predicts the destruction of Jerusalem and the second tells the story after the destruction. The prophet’s words were not heeded and the result was heart-wrenching.

The lesson today needs to be heard again. The faithful today must stand up and do whatever they can do to follow God’s commandment to love one another. Jeremiah’s prophecy to the ancient Jewish community is just as applicable today. God wants us to follow the same laws he gave Moses—the Ten Commandments.

The Old Testament records the struggles of the faithful to maintain the commandments in the global context of the ancient world. The human will faces temptations today that are just as destructive as they were in ancient times.

The place we are today whether is it here in our very small, rural community or whether it is at any other spot in today’s global community is the same as it was in Jerusalem thousands of years ago.

The place we are today in history’s timeline does not change the fact that God’s commandments are just as applicable today as ever. We cannot ignore these laws. We are faithful followers of God today and we must remain true to his law.

Today the faithful around this world join together at God’s table. It does not matter who we are, where we are, what we use as bread or what we use as wine/juice. We are God’s faithful and we renew our commitment to do all that we can to serve as stewards of this world in any way that we can.

Jeremiah wept. We weep. The stories of the Bible are lessons for us today. We are commissioned to be stewards of this earth and that means all that lives on this planet, too.

Scripture lesson: I Corinthians 10:12-18 (NLT)

12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

14 So, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. 15 You are reasonable people. Decide for yourselves if what I am saying is true. 16 When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ? 17 And though we are many, we all eat from one loaf of bread, showing that we are one body. 18 Think about the people of Israel. Weren’t they united by eating the sacrifices at the altar?

More reflection on scripture: Communion unites global community

Everybody knows that the more things change, the more they do not change. Today’s communion is no different, really, that sitting down with friends and family throughout history. We sit down at the table and chatter about the weather, the kids and grandkids, and the latest news.

One change, though, the local community now expands to reach around this globe on which we live. The advancements in communication make the stories on the opposite side of this globe as real to us on this side of the globe. The ability to witness in our own homes, in real time, the events that affect others regardless of the location makes us active participants with complete strangers.

Today we share the elements of communion that are familiar to us just like other Christians are doing at any other church or meeting site. We have learned what God did to save us. We know that Jesus was God on this earth delivering the simplest way to live possible: Love one another as you want to be loved.

Are we living our lives that way? Are we honestly loving one another as we want to be loved? Are we able to keep God at the center of our lives or are we lured away by other idols?

Today we are so fortunate to have scripture to read and to study. Today we are so fortunate to live in a country that allows total freedom to be the Christians we chose to be. Today we share in the bread and the cup as reminders of our commitment to be the faithful right here, right now.

And what better time to remember this commitment than now? As Christians, we have responsibility to live our faith out loud in all the ways that we can. As Americans, we have the opportunity to live our faith at a time that could be compared to ancient times in Jerusalem and even the faithful Paul addressed in Corinthians:

16 When we bless the cup at the Lord’s Table, aren’t we sharing in the blood of Christ? And when we break the bread, aren’t we sharing in the body of Christ?


Today, we join the global community of God’s faithful. Let us remember our covenant with God and do whatever we can do to lead others to God and to live our faith out loud as models to others of God’s love.

Closing Scripture: John 3:16 (NLT)

 16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave[a] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.


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World Communion Sunday

Sunday, October 4:

The following selections were used as part of United Methodist’s long liturgical service of Word and Table.

Scripture Lesson:            Psalm 25 (lectionary) –NLT

Declare me innocent, O Lord,
for I have acted with integrity;
I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me.
Test my motives and my heart.
For I am always aware of your unfailing love,
and I have lived according to your truth.
I do not spend time with liars
or go along with hypocrites.
I hate the gatherings of those who do evil,
and I refuse to join in with the wicked.
I wash my hands to declare my innocence.
I come to your altar, O Lord,
singing a song of thanksgiving
and telling of all your wonders.

I love your sanctuary, Lord,
the place where your glorious presence dwells.

Don’t let me suffer the fate of sinners.
Don’t condemn me along with murderers.
10 Their hands are dirty with evil schemes,
and they constantly take bribes.
11 But I am not like that; I live with integrity.
So redeem me and show me mercy.
12 Now I stand on solid ground,
and I will publicly praise the Lord.

Response to the Word/Reflection:

Participating in Communion today connects all Christians here, there, and everywhere. Today, no denomination can claim ownership of this sacrament. Today, communion brings all Christians to be one in all.

In the Apostles’ Creed, the use of the term ‘catholic’ does not mean that the Catholic denomination, it means the entire or universal church. It is a word that means all Christians who worship are of one church, God’s church.

Reading through Pope Francis’ address to Congress, the audience he tries to reach is American, but he expands it to all individuals. He refers to a ‘catholic’ society, a unified society trying to exist in a global community. He by-passes the boundaries that define the various countries, he appeals to humans who are seek peace and justice for all individuals.

Pope Francis referenced four Americans for four different qualities. He chose Abraham Lincoln for his efforts to defend liberty. Martin Luther King was referenced as he keeps the ‘dreams’ for all humans.

Two others are not as well known, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Day was known for her efforts to achieve social justice and the rights of persons. Merton was a Cistercian monk who a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.

A primary theme of the Pope’s address to the Americans via Congress can and was summarized by one rule, the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Mt 7:12). He said,

This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

The Golden Rule is the New Covenant. All laws need to be tested by the filter of the Golden Rule. Pope Francis talked about other issues, but he put theology into action by speaking out on each topic and showing how the Golden Rule puts theology into action which protects liberty, creates and encourages dreams, fights social injustice, and promotes peace between one another.

Therefore, today as the Christian world join in communion, let us join in the Apostles’ Creed knowing that this statement of faith unites us and with the Golden Rule we are equipped to live as Christians and to lead others to Christ, too. These are the tools of our faith; they are the foundation of our faith; and we can put our theology into action here, thee, and everywhere.

Scripture lesson: Hebrews 2:5-13 (lectionary) 14-18 (added emphasis) –NLT

And furthermore, it is not angels who will control the future world we are talking about. For in one place the Scriptures say,

“What are mere mortals that you should think about them,
or a son of man[a] that you should care for him?
Yet you made them only a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.[b]
You gave them authority over all things.”[c]

Now when it says “all things,” it means nothing is left out. But we have not yet seen all things put under their authority. What we do see is Jesus, who was given a position “a little lower than the angels”; and because he suffered death for us, he is now “crowned with glory and honor.”

Yes, by God’s grace, Jesus tasted death for everyone. 10 God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation.

11 So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters.[d] 12 For he said to God,

“I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.
I will praise you among your assembled people.”[e]

13 He also said,

“I will put my trust in him,”
that is, “I and the children God has given me.”[f]

14 Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had[g] the power of death. 15 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.

16 We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters,[h] so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. 18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.


Response to the word/Reflection: 


            Do not be afraid to put what you believe into action. God loves each one of us. He loves us so much that he decided to walk along side of us as a man known as Jesus Christ. He gave us one golden rule by which to live. And he died for us. His death we remember today–here, there and everywhere.

Pope Francis radiates love of this earth and all that is in it. When the news reporters noticed the change in his face as he reached out to the peoples, he witnessed theology in action. Christians around this world know the wonder witnessed on the Pope’s face as God’s love.

Each one of us can share our theology, our love of God, every day. We simply must love one another as we want to be loved and we must do all we can do for all we can in any way we can. God grants us grace, so we must offer grace to others, too.

Today we thank God for his creation, for his grace, for his love, and for the gift of his son. Communion reconnects us to God, it reaffirms our faith, it shares the hope we have for salvation, and it fuels us with love. Communion is theology in action.

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Oktoberfest: Christians’ Global Grapevine

Sunday, October 5, 2014–a set of scriptures and thoughts concerning World Communion Sunday

The structure of this reflection is different as it was presented in sections while conducting the Service of the Word and Table I from the United Methodist Hymnal.

Isaiah 5:1-7 (NLT): A Song about the Lord’s Vineyard

5 Now I will sing for the one I love
a song about his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a rich and fertile hill.
He plowed the land, cleared its stones,
and planted it with the best vines.
In the middle he built a watchtower
and carved a winepress in the nearby rocks.
Then he waited for a harvest of sweet grapes,
but the grapes that grew were bitter.

Now, you people of Jerusalem and Judah,
you judge between me and my vineyard.
What more could I have done for my vineyard
that I have not already done?
When I expected sweet grapes,
why did my vineyard give me bitter grapes?

Now let me tell you
what I will do to my vineyard:
I will tear down its hedges
and let it be destroyed.
I will break down its walls
and let the animals trample it.
I will make it a wild place
where the vines are not pruned and the ground is not hoed,
a place overgrown with briers and thorns.
I will command the clouds
to drop no rain on it.

The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
The people of Judah are his pleasant garden.
He expected a crop of justice,
but instead he found oppression.
He expected to find righteousness,
but instead he heard cries of violence.


[First thoughts to be read after Old Testament reading, Isaiah 5:1-7.]

Oktoberfest is here! Granted most of us are thinking Blue October since the Royals are in the battle for a World Series birth, but the other blue of October can be found in grape juices being pressed from the vines in wine country.

Growing up about 30 miles north of Herman, Missouri, and Oktoberfest was a huge event. No one could ignore the fact that the grapes were being harvested and it was time to celebrate. Still, only this weekend did my thoughts turn to how World Communion Sunday can be directly connected to Oktoberfest through the grapevine.

Consider these ideas:

  • Missouri’s connection to the wine industry is the German heritage of the immigrants who moved in along the Missouri River.
  • Grapes have been harvested forever and even the ancient tribes of Israel knew that grapes made wine.
  • Grapes are grown around the globe. Think of the labels we find in our own grocery stores of the grapes from Chile and Peru can outnumber those grown within the United States.
  • Grapes grow as native plants, but also can be a carefully cultivated, introducing stock from other regions with different flavor characteristics.


A more thorough study of the grape industry could add many more facts and figures to show how the grapevine is a common plant and food source familiar in households around the globe. The familiarity of people to the grapevine makes the scripture references a unifying symbol for explaining Christianity regardless of the cultural and language differences around this world.

[Break for mission moment and offering.]

Back to Oktoberfest! The first Sunday in October is the international, the world-wide day to celebrate communion everywhere the Christian community comes together. There may not be any rides or vendors or fireworks or concerts in our churches, but every church in every denomination in every location around this globe joins together for communion. The mental picture creates an image of people standing side-by-side though they were the fruit of a grapevine wrapping around the world.

God’s vision is a world filled with people in peace and in harmony standing side by side. The goal of worldwide peace may seem impossible, but we come close on World Communion Sunday. When you realize that each church regardless of denomination or location is participating in the very same practice of faith, you can sense the connectedness of fruit on a vine.

The Church, all denominations, follows Jesus’ teachings of caring for one another. The mission efforts of The Church does not see a division in people, it sees the face of God in all people. Today’s worldwide communion can remind us that we are to reach out to all who have needs. John Wesley’s efforts to go out into the community to minister to whatever need there was in any way that he could put God’s compassion into action. Faith is for everybody, everywhere. Faith is worldwide.

[After offering and before Thanksgiving & Communion.]

John 15:1-17 (NLT): Jesus, the True Vine

15 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

[After reading the Gospel scripture: John 15:1-17.]

Today’s scripture from John 15 is a follow-up explanation for the Old Testament scripture. Jesus is teaching the Apostles the significance of the grapevine as a symbol. For the agrarian culture, even the typical household where wine was used with the meals, the grapevine was real. The Apostles and others understood the methods of pruning the vine to maintain the strongest plant and the best production. The grapevine’s fruit production depends on how well it is maintained.

The message that Jesus was sharing is timeless. The symbol of the grapevine is so common that even today we understand the lesson’s meaning, too. Studying this passage, the obvious meanings stand out, but there are more complex meanings that begin to surface.

One of the more obvious explanations is that found in verses 2-3:

He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.


The value of pruning is a key to this explanation, but a deeper reading of the symbolism points out that there are two forms of pruning—separating and cutting back branches. Study notes connect the physical action into the spiritual lesson:

Fruitful branches are cut back to promote growth. In other words, God must sometimes discipline us to strengthen our character and faith. But branches that don’t bear fruit are cut off at the trunk because not only are they worthless, but the often infect the rest of the tree. People who won’t bear fruit for God or who try to block the efforts of God’s followers will be cut off from his life-giving power. (Life Applications Study Bible)


Pruning the grapevine branches is much easier than cutting it completely back. The significance of the lesson is one most do not want to hear, but it is a truth anyone anywhere in the world can understand when they are familiar with sound agricultural practices.


[Continue with the hymn, “Be Present at Our Table,” Lord, UHM 621.]

Now Oktoberfest has expanded to mean much more than just a celebration of the grape harvest. October harvest includes apples, pumpkins, corn, beans, even turnips all filling pantries, grain bins, and cellars. The lesson Jesus bases on the grapevine is not limited to one type of fruit. Digging deeper into the scripture, another surprise appeared from verse 5 & 7:

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

. . . . But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!


A literal reading od the scripture keeps one thinking the discussion is centered on grapevines and the abundance of the grape harvest; yet reading and studying for a fuller understanding yields even more:

Fruit is not limited to soulwinning. In this chapter, answered prayer, joy, and love are mentioned as fruit (15:7, 11, 12). Galatians 5:22-24 and 2Peter 1:5-8 describe additional fruit: qualities of Christian character. (Life Application Study Bible).


Harvesting a deeper understanding from scripture takes commitment. The grapevine of Christianity is carefully cultivated, pruned, and cut back by reading the scripture. Maybe October is when we should re-commit ourselves to learning more, doing more, sharing more with each other so the harvest does continue to improve. And, yes, the harvest does mean the growth of Christianity not only here among our peers, but beyond our own comfortable fields.

Studying the scripture and prayer are methods of cultivating Christianity. As we join at the table with the bread and the cup, we remember the words Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer. We remember the words he spoke to the masses along the roads and the hillsides of ancient Israel. We remember the practices of healing and teaching that he demonstrated so that his Apostles and the earliest disciples or followers could carry God’s grace and love forward.

As Christians gather at the table today, we use the same words of the Great Thanksgiving. We may not speak the same language, but the Holy Spirit fills us up as we hear the words and experience unity of the grapevine. So, welcome to Oktoberfest. We celebrate with fellow Christians using the ancient ritual of communion.

[Resume the liturgy of the Great Thanksgiving, the breaking of the bread and the giving of the bread and cup. Follow with the hymn, ”You Satisfy the Hungry Heart,” UMH 629]


With all the grace and love that God has given us, may we follow what he teaches us. Join in Oktoberfest and invite others too. May you experience just a portion of the excitement God feels when we celebrate harvesting for God.

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