World Communion 2021
We went out to the dahlia beds at our son’s farm and cut blossoms to take home. It is part of the bounty of the farm that continues to grace our lives. The farm produces all of the eggs we eat, more apples and pears than we can consume and process, tomatoes to eat and to preserve for winter, and a host of other food, including herbs. There is a luxury to having all of the tomatoes and fresh basil that you want. There is also a luxury to having freshly-cut flowers in the middle of our dining room table.
The bees are really enjoying the dahlias as well. Of course the plants need the pollinators to complete their life cycle. Sometime in the next six to eight weeks there will be a killing frost and the blossoms will be gone and the tops of the plants will die for this year. Our son will then cut back the plants, wait for about ten days or so and then dig up the tubers to store until next spring. The soil around here is a bit too moist for the tubers to overwinter in the ground. They’ll be allowed to dry out and then they’ll go into storage.
All of that, however, is in the future. It was fun yesterday to watch the bees in the plants. They crawl around inside the giant blossoms until they become lethargic. They gather so much pollen that they linger before slowly taking to flight. It is as if they become drunk on the dahlias. They aren’t the least bit aggressive after spending time in the blossoms. One day I will spend some time with my camera and a good macro lens to capture images of the bees, but yesterday we were just harvesting a few blossoms to grace our table.
This morning we’ll arrange a few blossoms to take to church. We are also taking a variety of breads for the communion table. We’ve collected different breads for communion tables for many years. The first Sunday of October is Worldwide Communion Day. The day, designed to promote Christian unity and ecumenical cooperation, is observed all around the world on every continent. Knowing that there are many different kinds of bread consumed around the world, we have symbolized the wider community by collecting different kinds of bread to share for communion. One year a retired kindergarten teacher in our congregation wrote a poem about cornbread for communion that expressed that sense of connection well.
Today we have the privilege of leading the time for children during our worship service. We will also assist our pastor with serving communion. Sharing with children is an opportunity to tell them about children we know who live in different places. Of course children grow up and become adults. The children we knew when we lived in Chicago, who had traveled with their parents when a parent attended the University, have become adults. Many of them returned to their homes in far away places such as South Africa and Australia and Indonesia. A few remained in the United States and have become citizens. We’ve kept track of some of them and have heard news of them becoming parents and the names of a new generation of children born to their families.
Worldwide Communion Sunday has always been a very special time for me. It has been a reminder to think of the friends from around the world whom we’ve had the privilege to know. Our colleague who is pastor of the Community Christian Church in Los Guido, Costa Rica always is in our thoughts and prayers on this day. Our seminary classmate who is retired from decades of service with the Uniting Church of Australia comes to mind as we share the bread and cup. Christian Educators and writers from Canada who were on teams with us when we were working on curricula projects are part of the rich network of relationships that are symbolized by the various breads on the table. I didn’t have time to make fry bread this year, but the lack of fry bread doesn’t mean we won’t be thinking of our partners who live on the reservations of South Dakota. The Japanese exchange students who have shared our home are named one by one in our memories as we celebrate this day. And there are more - many more.
One of the joys of being invited to share the time with children is that we have the opportunity to tell bits of the stories of these faithful people. We also get to say their names out loud, which is a treat.
The power of our faith to reach beyond the circle of those gathered in any one place has become crucial to our practice in these seasons of covid that seem to persist. As the pandemic continues to rage, our congregation is practicing very strict limits on in-person gathering. We will be speaking to the congregation over a live video feed going out over social media. It isn’t our preferred way of worshiping. We long for the time when once again we will be able to share in person worship with a wider circle. For now, however, we are reminded of all of the years that we have shared worldwide communion with friends who have gone to their homes in distant locations. We can’t be in person with our friends in South Africa or Japan or Australia or Costa Rica, but we know that we are united in faith. We don’t worship in the same time zones and so we don’t share communion at the same moment, but still the connection is real. We are still united in the Spirit of Christ when we share the sacrament. Knowing this and having practiced it for decades helps just a little bit in this season of maintaining physical distance and maintaining safe practice in our church. God’s love transcends the differences of time and space.
The flowers on our table are ours to enjoy for a brief time. Soon they will be just a memory while the tubers lay in storage for a new year. This time of separation will also end. Our lives are experienced in seasons that come and go. Maybe the flowers will remind us to treasure the time we have as we strengthen our hope for the future.