Saturday I spent an interesting and fun evening with friends at a neighbor’s home. This is something we try to do every month or so and involves quite an eclectic bunch of people. We are loosely drawn together by our friendship with the host couple and the fact that we all have an interest in spirituality. On this particular Saturday evening besides good food, fun conversation and lots of laughs, we took communion together. It was a simple ceremony in which we broke bread together, dipped the bread in the wine and partook of this commemorative of God’s grace and love for us.
In the room we represented different traditions, church affiliations and spiritual avenues in our understanding and relationships with God. But here we all were partaking of the same cup and the same bread in unity with each other and with our understanding of the grace of God. I couldn’t help but think how often in life we let differences separate us instead of being united by the things we have in common.
Paul wrote these beautiful words to the Ephesian church while in prison. “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:1-6
I don’t know about you but when I read these words I feel a bit guilty. What a wonderful high calling Paul has presented before us and yet how lightly we respond to his plea for unity and love within the body of Christ. I grew up in a tradition that believed they had all the Biblical knowledge that was possibly needed. I am sad to say it gave us a bit of a feeling of superiority over other Christians because we were sure our brand of Christianity was at the top of the heap. Over the years I have met Christians from scores of other traditions that also believe their church or denomination taught the whole truth and the rest of us were a bit defective theologically in a number of areas.
How easy it is for all of us to forget Paul’s admonition to remember that we “have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” When we set our particular nuances aside it becomes clear that when we believe in the grace of God we are all God’s children. As the old saying goes, we must never compromise in the essentials of the Gospel, but in the non-essentials we must have charity.
Yes, sitting around the front room Saturday evening, I am sure we all have different approaches to certain aspects of our faith but we all had unity in our understanding that we need Christ in our life and it is only through the grace of God that any of us could ever experience the wonders of redemption. Taking communion with my friends gave me a wonderful realization of what Paul was saying when he told the Ephesians, “there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all.” Ephesians 4:4-6
Over the centuries we have done a good job of breaking God, the Spirit, and our faith up into little chunks. We then hold onto our piece of the Gospel tradition and bat away anything that might move us spiritually beyond our comfort zone. Yet, at the same time, we believe that we have been called to present the gospel to a lost world but we can’t even agree on how to baptize or the nuances and understanding of communion.
Saturday evening we moved beyond all that and experienced unity and what connected us all together was love. Whenever we read the writings of Paul we cannot help but be impressed with this theme of love for God, God’s love for us and our love for each other that flows through the pages of his work. As Ruth and I walked home it had started to rain and I couldn’t help but think about the joy of the spiritual rain that had flowed over us when we all took communion together.
I need to say one last thing before I close this post. If you don’t belong to a small group, a cell group, a fellowship group, call it what you will, I couldn’t encourage you more to do so. It might be a group through your local church or like the three that I belong to that are made up of people from different spiritual traditions but are all on the same path. However, one word of caution, please avoid groups that use their small groups to try and get you to buy into their particular brand of Christianity. God’s love and grace is bigger than any one church can possibly hold by itself and therefore our study and fellowship together should be for spiritual growth and unity in the Spirit.
Oh, I no longer feel that twinge of guilt when I read Paul’s words in Ephesians 4 because when we can partake of the wine and the bread in the unity of the Spirit there is nothing that God can’t do through us, and that has exciting possibilities.