So That the World May Know The Sunday Sermon – October 4, 2015

go John 17:20-23

 Hear the message: So That the World May Know

Today is World Communion Sunday. I remind us of this every year, but I’m going to do it again this year until I’m sure it sticks in everyone’s mind: This celebration was formerly known as “Worldwide Communion Sunday” and it originated in the Presbyterian Church, itself. It quickly spread beyond our own denomination because it celebrates the unity that all churches share in our common profession of Christ as Lord as Savior. Congregations around the world have gathered, are gathering and will gather this morning, this afternoon, or this evening to share the common meal that, more than any doctrine or dogma, procedure or practice, unites us all in our Christian faith. It occurs every year on the first Sunday of October. And as such, it occurs one week before something special we do here at Pewee Valley Pres.

If you’ve read this month’s newsletter, online or mailed to you, or if you’re just paying close attention to what time of year it is in our church community, you know that we are fast approaching Stewardship Season. We’ll begin our stewardship messages, our renewed awareness and sharing and hoping and dreaming next Sunday. But in the years that I have served this congregation, we use this Sunday to ground us in our very reason for being: Remembering, celebrating, and sharing the Good News of God in Jesus Christ.   No better place than around our table. No better time than World Communion Sunday.

This year we read from the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John. A familiar passage used for any number of occasions in the church, but I want us to explore it this morning, So That the World May Know who we are. Listen for the Word of God …

Read John 17:20-23 … The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

It was a remarkable time in history when a vision of the world as it might be, as it should be, and the history of one actual community came together – when a new way of living with one another on this earth was imagined. Such was the case for the men, women, and children who gathered to read this Gospel in John’s community. They were a community formed in the wake of the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Bound by their common experience of the resurrected Christ, of Jesus and his Way alive in them still, in spite of his crucifixion, a community was formed that recognized the worth of all its members; that understood it must not conform to the ways things are, but needed to transform them, and; that realized the only way to save the world, or anyone in it, was to literally love them to death.

I said that such a community was at least imagined in the first century, because there isn’t any real record of whether or not this first community actually practiced what John preached, what he wrote about. John wrote of a way of life that finds the future in the now, that find the Kingdom of God present here, as it works through the gifts of God – grace, hope, peace, joy, and love. But we don’t’ have any other evidence that the community, or any that followed them, succeeded in this vision. In fact, we have a decent amount of evidence that even the earliest communities gathering in Christ’s name didn’t lead a life of mutual, let alone sacrificial, love.

In just a few moments, as we gather around our table, I’ll recite some of the most familiar words we know from our scripture. After the Christmas and Easter passages, our Words of Institution are some of the most familiar. I remind us from time to time that of the broader context in which the “Words of Institution” were originally spoken. There was trouble in Corinth. Those who were free and able to come early have been doing so and have been eating and drinking early, probably the choicest food and best wine already set out. When the others arrive, “those who have nothing,” they find their fellow members drunk and have only leftover food! The basic and most powerful meaning of the “Lord’s” supper that Paul has taught, namely that the life of faith is a life of community, has been minimized and even lost altogether. The meal in Corinth was fractured already. And this was only about thirty or forty years after Jesus’ death! As for today, we can sure point to many communities we know who don’t practice the peace, love, joy, hope, and compassion that Jesus prays for in John’s gospel.

On World Communion Sunday, when we celebrate the unity of the church, I think it’s good to remind ourselves of how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go. We have work to do, but still … we continue to imagine what John does in his Gospel – a way of life that offers abundance to all. And we continue to work for God’s Kingdom to come … on earth, as it is in heaven.

We do this for ourselves, yes. As we prepare our hearts, minds, bodies and souls for the Season of Stewardship ahead and the seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas that follow, we do this for ourselves. But we do it for something greater, too. We, the church universal, orders its life together in the Way of our Christ so that the world may know of a more excellent Way.

We continually examine ourselves as a church – from our own congregation, to our denomination, to the church universal. We need to examine ourselves because we will be able to bear other’s burdens only according to the measure of our own faith. If we are feeling less than trusting of others, then we will be less than trustworthy. If we are not feeling hopeful, then we can’t offer much hope. If we are full of joy, then those we journey with cannot help but be joyous themselves. If we are experiencing the grace of God in our own lives, then we will offer that grace to others in our lives. And the world will know. The table set before us is the ideal place for self-assessment to happen.

And in addition to examining ourselves, we constantly “discern the larger body.” We examine our relations with the others who make up the body of Christ here in Pewee Valley, in the larger denomination, and in the church universal. Starting here, as we share, we must discern our relationships with everyone in this room. You don’t need to look around, but take a moment to “sense” the presence of the others here with you. How do they make you feel? It may not all be good! That’s okay, but let’s recognize it so our Communion together may begin to transform it. As you discern your relationship with other gathered here, think about your larger community … and then think about your world. Where are you broken? Where are we broken. How can we mend and tend our lives together to the world may know a more excellent way of life?

Jesus long prayer for his disciples, for us, is part of his Communion with us in the Gospel of John. Jesus “communes” with all of us, breaking the bread and sharing the cup to show us what we have to do to live together: Share this meal. Remember me, re-member yourselves, and take your new being into the world so that the world may know …

In the weeks ahead we’ll celebrate what we have done and what we, as good stewards of our time and talents and money, hope to accomplish in the year ahead. But we begin here. So … after we sing and empty ourselves in offering, let us come to the table again, this morning with congregations around the world to thank God, to remember Christ, to commune with the Faithful, to celebrate the Kingdom Meal, … and to be made whole for all that lies ahead.


Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor / Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / October 4, 2015