Lectionary readings for World Communion Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014. Exodus 20:1-20, Psalm 19, Matthew 21:33-46, Philippians 3:4-14
I'm really looking forward to this Sunday! This year, Mennonite Church Canada asked Adela Wedler (a musician and great worship planner) and myself to write materials for World Communion Sunday. The resource is available on the Mennonite Church Canada website.
It was a good experience, reading the scriptures months ahead and shaping worship service ideas with another person who loves to do this too.We wanted to pay attention to the idea that our churches are diverse, yet because of Christ, we are all tied together. Our observation of communion on this day is symbolic of that greater unity in the church.
We noticed that all the scriptures have something to do with the celebration of God's good law. Often we think of law as constrictive or limiting. God's law, however, is meant to be freeing. It provides a framework within which all people are treated as loved children.
The ten commandments are a familiar list of "rules." In order to show how rules can be helpful and freeing, I wrote a children's story about some friends who decided that soccer would be more fun without rules. My son drew the illustrations (a bonus for me, getting to work with him, and the pictures are great!)
Psalm 19 rejoices in the way that God's laws 'revive the soul." The way that good laws set people free is a fantastic message in a culture obsessed with personal freedom and individual rights. The law helps us to look to the good of our neighbours-another way to foster unity in the midst of our diversity.
Both the Matthew and Philippians pieces focus on how the intent and meaning of the law are more important than legalistic obedience to it. This is particularly glaring in the story of the wicked tenants. Instead of following through with the punishment the tenants deserve, the landowner keeps on trying to find new ways to get the tenants to understand that they are being offered new life and hope through God's ways. God applies the laws in freeing and unusual ways that invite, rather than coerce, cooperation.
The message of the need for good boundaries and laws, and the grace to apply those laws in life-giving and flexible ways, is an amazing message for today's church. When issues, diverse cultural understandings, and a complicated society threaten to isolate churches from each other, we do well to remember these passages. The Bible provides good guidelines, but it is Christ who ties us together in surprising ways.