On World Communion Sunday, my church has a tradition of filling up the communion table with breads from around the world. We have naan and pita, corn tortillas and rye, sourdough and baguettes. After worship, we take these breads and share a simple meal together with our varied breads and sandwich toppings. The joy of celebrating communion with Christians from around the world ushers us into the fellowship hall as we share both bread and our stories with each other.
But, what does World Communion Sunday look like when people of every country around the world have been wounded and stretched thin? What does it mean to celebrate together at the Lord’s table when we are also bringing with us nearly two years filled with losses? What will our common meal be like when we are also laden with so many common burdens?
As I was reflecting on these questions, I stumbled across a quote from Henri Nouwen’s book The Wounded Healer:
“…human withdrawal is a very painful and lonely process, because it forces us to face directly our own condition in all its beauty as well as misery. When we are not afraid to enter into our own center and to concentrate on the stirrings of our own soul, we come to know that being alive means being loved.”
For so many months, we have gone through a forced process of human withdrawal. We have looked inwardly at our own frailty, at our own “condition,” and some of us have found great sorrows – both inside our own hearts, and through the painful losses we have experienced outside of ourselves. Nouwen says that the fruit of such honest self-examination is the realization that being loved is central to what it means to be alive. Apart from one another, we are not flourishing. Apart from being loved, we are not truly alive.
The quote from Nouwen continues:
“This experience tells us that we can only love because we are born out of love, that we can only give because our life is a gift, and that we can only make others free because we are set free by Him whose heart is greater than ours. When we have found the anchor places for our lives in our own center, we can be free to let others enter into the space created for them and allow them to dance their own dance, sing their own song and speak their own language without fear.”
I am approaching World Communion Sunday differently this year. Rather than my typical exuberance and creativity, I am finding myself weary and hoping for God’s healing presence. As I often do when I am struggling to process what I’m experiencing, I decided to write something to express both where I am and what I’m longing for. The fruit of that is this prayer for World Communion Sunday. You are welcome to use this prayer personally or in worship, if it is helpful in your context.
A Prayer for the Weary on World Communion Sunday
we have gathered here on this day
in this place
to gather around your worldwide table.
We gather in weariness,
carrying burdens and griefs,
fatigue and worry,
heartache and disillusionment.
Gather us in like a mother hen.
Hold us close in your protective and tender hand.
Draw near to us, your brokenhearted people,
and mend us, Lord.
We gather in bitterness,
bringing with us grudges and resentments,
misdirected anger and ill wishes,
a spirit of divisiveness and contention.
Embrace us like a forgiving parent.
Meet our rough places with your overwhelming grace.
Offer us your water of wholeness and restoration,
and mend us, Lord.
We gather in cautious hopefulness,
longing to push beyond the cynicism and hopelessness
of endless months of struggle.
Holy Spirit, open our eyes to the places where
life springs up new,
to the hearts you are transforming,
to the gilded trees and crimson leaves on the sidewalks
reminding us that you have not given up on change,
even when we have.
Awaken our guarded hearts,
and mend us, Lord.
Invite us to your worldwide table, generous God.
Draw us in, burdens and all.
Receive us as we are, we pray,
and renew us,
With our siblings around the world,
we have gathered here, hungry.
Would you meet us once again?