Psalm 8 – with quotes from the Metta Sutta by Thich Nhat Hanh

Mark 10:2-16

There’s a lot in the Mark passage I wish I had time to go through with you, but I’m going to try to keep this short and focused (shorter and more focused in the worship service than in this text). Kids, you’re up front to help us celebrate World Communion Sunday, and that’s what this is about. It’s tricky because it sounds like Jesus is talking about something very different. Some of the religious leaders asked him a question about divorce, about whether people who are married should be allowed to end their marriage.

So I need to talk about that really quickly, but it’s not the real point. The point I’m going to talk about is Communion. Here’s the really short version: Jesus says that it’s not a good thing for people to get divorced. It’s very painful for everyone involved. Some of you know this because your parents are divorced. I know this myself because my parents have been divorced since I was 12. Several of the adults in the congregation know it because they’ve been through divorce, or their parents or children or siblings have been through it. We know that it’s a very sad thing to end a marriage, even though sometimes it’s the best thing two people can do.

Jesus knows how sad divorce is, but he also says something else more important. He says that our responsibility to each other doesn’t end just because we need to end a relationship. My parents made that very clear to me: they promised that even though they couldn’t be married to each other, they would both still be my parents. They worked as hard as they could to be kind to each other during and after the divorce. They weren’t always able to do that, but I know they were trying very hard.

That’s the point Jesus makes. Even when our relationships break down, we’re still responsible for each other. Even though we sometimes hurt the people close to us, we still belong to each other. Jesus doesn’t say that we can’t get divorced because he gets mad at people for being unable to keep their relationships together. He tells us that asking about divorce is the wrong approach if you want to talk about marriage. It’s like asking a doctor if she’s in favor of amputation; she may be, but she’s going to make that decision on a much more focused scale than that!

What Jesus wants us to focus on is covenant. A covenant is a relationship based on promises and responsibilities for each other. Marriage is a covenant; so is the baptism that identifies us as members of the church. When they bring up the end of a covenant, the religious leaders are asking the kind of question religious leaders have tended to ask from the beginning of religion: “how might we judge people unfit to be part of our religious group?” Jesus wants to tell us that the real deal is to be open to receiving others into your relationship, into covenant with you. God is a relationship-making God.

That’s what this all has to do with World Communion Sunday. Ever since Paul’s time, we’ve insisted that people have to be “worthy” to receive Communion. Ever since Jesus’ time, people have been judged in part based on the table company they keep. Ever since Moses, people have looked for ways to cut the circle of God’s love down to something they find appetizing. Presbyterian churches used to keep their Communion Table up behind a wall or a railing, to indicate that people couldn’t join us at the table unless they were the right kind of people. We used to tell people they couldn’t come to the Table unless they had checked with the pastor first and gotten his okay that they were the right kind of Christian to share this meal with us.

I mean that we used to do the kinds of things that the religious leaders want to do. We used to do the kinds of things that even Jesus’ disciples do in this story. In the second part of the story, people are bringing children – kids no older than you guys – to be with Jesus and to let him bless them. Well, the disciples try to send these kids away, as if they were not big enough or important enough for Jesus. But Jesus said, “no, let the children be here too. You learn how to be faithful to our covenant with God by welcoming these children.” Kids, you know that you’re often the first ones left out of the serious conversations and the important rituals. Jesus says that’s not how it’s supposed to be. Everyone we’re responsible for belongs at God’s table, and we’re responsible for everyone!

In 1936, the Presbyterian Church learned a new way to remember this. We realized that there were millions of Christians all over the world. There have been billions of Christians throughout the years. They don’t all speak the same language we do, and they don’t all worship the same way we do. They don’t even all believe the same things we believe, and some of these Christians might tell others of these Christians that they aren’t really Christian at all. But we realized that we are all Christian anyway, no matter what we might disagree about or what we might think about each other. We realized that we’re all Christian because God’s love in Christ is big enough to wrap us all up, to welcome us all at this table.

So we decided to have a Sunday about that. We decided that whatever else we think, we should have one day when we say out loud that we’re all one great big church. We decided that even though we’ve spent many years keeping each other away from the Communion Tables in “our own” churches, we would remind ourselves at least once a year that this table isn’t so different from the other tables other people use. This food isn’t so different from the food other people share. When we come down to it, the invitation Christ gives us is way bigger than the differences between us. We’re all invited – all of us here, everyone everywhere. We’re all invited to join at Christ’s table, to receive God’s goodness in a form we can see and smell and touch and taste, to share what we have with all the rest of the world.

So we’re going to ask you to lead us in singing our Preparation Hymn. Then we’ll start sharing with our offering, then share the same Communion meal that billions of Christians share. Let’s all stand and sing together: # 514 Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ