Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio



  Ephesians 2:11-22

  John 17:20-26


This morning, the theme of our worship service is built upon two important and interrelated

principles.  The first principle is communion.  Communion is defined as the sharing and exchange

of intimacy on a spiritual level.  For the church of course, communion is enacted by our coming

together at the Lord’s Table to partake of the elements of bread and juice, representing the

broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ. 

The second principle is peace.  Peace is broadly

understood as freedom from disturbance; a state of stability and tranquility.  Peace as defined

by the Hebraic concept of Shalom as a state of perfect justice, prosperity and contentment. In

the church, peace is enacted by coming together at the Lord’s Table as well, reminding us that

through Jesus Christ, God has initiated a process of peacemaking with humankind.  As I’ve

pointed out before, the stole which I often wear for communion -- this morning draped over the

front of the pulpit – symbolically brings these two principles together.  On one side is the word

“Peace.”  On the other is a representation of communion in the body of Christ: a grain of wheat. 

One without the other would make for a rather unbalanced-looking stole.  Likewise, a theology

which doesn’t recognize peace and communion as interrelated and interdependent principles is

out of balance as well. 

       There is an overarching theme or principle in this morning’s worship which we recognize as a

vital link between peace and communion; like the stitched seam at the center of the stole which

holds its two halves together.  And that is worldwide.  On this day – World Communion and

Peacemaking Sunday which we always celebrate on the first Sunday of October – we join our

hands and hearts with churches throughout our national and global community, coming to table

together. Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians,

Orthodox; North American, European, Middle-Eastern, Asian, African, South American; all of us

rising above the walls which divide us, and declaring peace in the name of Jesus Christ.  The One

who declares peace between us and God calls us this day to seek peace with each other, re-

gardless of ethnicity, language, culture, denomination, theology, doctrine, worship style, or

anything which threatens to separate and divide us.  World Communion Sunday is, in large part,

about building bridges where there were once barriers, calling us all to oneness and peace in


      It is my belief that among the apostle Paul’s greatest heartaches in his ministry was that

there was so much division within the church.  We’ve talked before about how in the early

church, competition among Christians of varying gifts built walls and barriers within and between

churches, and built walls between individual believers.  Paul was also pained by the fact that

Jewish Christians [those Christians who were described as circumcised in the flesh] and Gentile

Christians [those called the “uncircumcised”] weren’t willing and able to come together under the

new covenant of peace in Jesus. 

      We read earlier Paul’s somewhat anguished words to the church in Ephesus which he loved.

The occasion of Paul’s writing was in response to the ongoing and bitter disputes between the

Jewish and Gentile Christians as to whether Gentiles were required to live under the Law of

the old Jewish covenant in order to be reconciled to God; in order to be at peace with God.  Paul

was trying to convince both groups that there was a common denominator making the dispute a

non-starter.  For all, Paul teaches – Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female – Christ is the

foundation and cornerstone of the church’s existence; Jesus sent to bring communion and

ultimate peace.  And upon these two interrelated and interdependent principles, the church is to

be built. 

      During what was called “The Renaissance” in the downtown area of Pittsburgh during the

1980’s, several of the city’s largest skyscrapers were erected.  In those days, Vale and I would

visit downtown often.  We would notice what would be called an architectural no brainer. Before

even the first floor of these gigantic structures could be set in place, workers had to dig deep,

very deep, in order to lay a solid foundation which could support the tons of concrete, steel and

glass above.  Without the deep foundational sub-structure, the above-ground features would

have zero chance of holding together.  There would be no structural harmony or integrity.  Put

another way, architecturally speaking, the building could not be at peace with itself.  Without

that deep, solid foundation, under stress, the building would eventually collapse into rubble.

      So it is with the church.  If Jesus Christ is not the deep, solid foundation of the church – not of

just the Presbyterian, or Pentecostal, or Roman Catholic, or North American, or European, or

Asian church, but of the universal or worldwide church – the principles of communion and peace

become little more than unstable structural elements of an institution destined to collapse under

stress.  Paul understood this, which is why he was so intent on urging, begging, the church to

allow the reality of Christ’s love and grace to break down the dividing walls of hostility. And Jesus

understood this, which is why His last prayer with His gathered disciples on the night of His arrest

was that the disciples be one with, at peace with, one another, as He was one with the Father. 

      Needless to say, Paul’s and Jesus’ vision have still not come to pass; their voices often

drowned out by the noise of construction equipment erecting walls of denominationalism,

nationalism, politics, theology, and style.  But the good news is that God’s word spoken though

Paul is not and will not be drowned out.  And that is why we celebrate what we do this day, even

amid churches in conflict, and nations at war.  The significance of World Communion Sunday is

that we still carry a vision of a church truly in communion, and a church truly at peace – with God,

and with itself.  I suppose there will continue to be barriers which divide us.  As long as there are

differences between Christians, there will be differences between Christian churches.  But this

blessed meal, this sacramental feast, which visibly and tangibly points to the invisible and

intangible, is about both present reality, and a foretaste of the reality to come.  Someday, Christ

will gather His church into a perfectly unified and integrated body.  In the New Jerusalem, which

is spoken of in the book of The Revelation, there will be a holy temple; the church at perfect

communion and peace; the church at rest.  As we come to table this morning, may our prayer be

that Jesus establish it swiftly.  And may we remember that in spite of our present divisions, the

church’s one foundation has been, is, and will always be Jesus Christ, her Lord.  Amen.