Today is World Communion Sunday.
If that statement sounds familiar, rest easy, this is not a repeat of a previous World Communion Sunday sermon. Apparently that’s how I start all my World Communion Sunday sermons. I know this because in preparation for today, I went back through my previous World Communion Sunday sermons and found that common opening line.
At first I thought it was because I am unoriginal. Then I thought—nah, everything I preach is completely original—a veritable onslaught of never before considered theology!
But today is World Communion Sunday. The day when Christians all gather around the Table of our Lord and partake of the Eucharist—and remember what God has done through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
World Communion Sunday used to be called World Wide Communion Sunday. Which makes me wonder…
If it was still called World Wide Communion Sunday, would we, today, feel inclined to call it World WEARY Communion Sunday, because, today, the world seems rather wearisome.
Natural disasters of unpredicted repetition. Racial tension and racist acts. Protests that elicit divisive rhetoric from every perspective. The looming threat of war and terrorism. School shootings and church shootings. The overwhelming feeling that everyone is potentially my opposition. It all causes an existential dread to hover over us like a cloud, making us wonder, “Are we going to be ok?”
It all causes us to be a weary world, on World Communion Sunday.
These days when there’s an existential dread that hovers over us like a cloud, and we feel like, “Oh no, we’re not going to be ok.” the weariness of it all can leave us in a tough place, and it’s easy to get stuck there in that weariness.
Fortunately there are places…there are events…there are people that show us we can get un-stuck, and we can move through the weariness to a joy filled life. I believe the Church can be one of those places. I believe World Communion Sunday can be one of those events. And I believe one of those people can be Bishop Desmond Tutu.
Desmond Tutu is an Anglican bishop, first black Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, and South African anti-apartheid and social rights activist.
After the abolition of apartheid in South Africa, Bishop Tutu helped to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, or TRC, a court-like restorative justice body that assembled witnesses identified as victims of gross human rights violations—or more commonly known as genocide.
Years later, the TRC assembled witnesses who had seen people come into their village and slaughter countless people with machetes. These witnesses were invited by the TRC to give statements about their experiences, in front of the perpetrators of the violence they witnessed. The victims would stand before the person who killed their mother, father, husband, wife, son, daughter, Aunt, Uncle—they would stand before their family’s murderer and tell the impact it had.
Then after hearing this, the perpetrator, in front of this person and their village, would apologize for what they did. And then, upon hearing them apologize the survivor of the atrocity forgives the person.
There are a number of these documented cases of reconciliation where the two people become friends.
Do you think the survivors of these apartheid atrocities were weary? Do you think those who endured this period of genocide were weary? We can bet they were. But they faced it head on—and they came through to new life.
So how do we deal with the weariness? The same way. We face it head on, and go through it. We go to the very heart of our deepest worries, our deepest fears, and face them all.
You see, a lot of people are stuck in weariness because they don’t go far enough into the weariness, believing it is too painful, so we avoid as much of it as possible—which is understandable. But we need to further understand if we don’t go all the way into our weariness, and face what is causing it head on, we will never get out of it, we will never rid ourselves of the weariness, we will never be free from the hold it has on us.
Do you think the survivors of those apartheid atrocities wanted to face and forgive their family’s murderers? Of course not! But what happened when they did?
When we go at our weariness—and stop trying to ignore it and hope it just goes away—we can find the same way through our weariness.
Yes, all the worst things that could happen could happen! You might be a small business owner, and you might get sued and lose everything. You might have a job, a home, a spouse, and they might all be lost. You might be a parent and your kid might end up a drug addict, they might end up in prison.
Yes, any manner of horrible things we can think of—and we think of them all—might just happen—but stay with me because I’m saying we need to do things none of us wants to do…
We have to go to the heart of the worst things because when we do go into the heart of the worst things then we eventually push through and realize… I’m still here today. I’m here. Today. We realize the worst thing hasn’t happened yet, and we still have a chance to try, to work, to do whatever we can, today, to make something other than the worst thing a reality. You do get to run a small business. You do get to be a spouse or a parent or a grandparent. You do get to raise your child. When we go all the way into the heart of our weariness, our fear, our anxiety, then we realize we have today—and we get to give today a shot.
You see the problem with weariness is that it clings to our minds, our hearts, our souls, and it becomes addicted to outcomes. Often time weariness comes because people cannot acknowledge just how much they can’t control and they lose all joy because they are gripping so tightly—“white knuckling” life because of fear and anxiety which all leads to weariness.
But here’s the problem with white knuckling—you are trying to control the situation, you’re trying to get guarantees—guarantees on that business, on that marriage or relationship, on that kid’s future—but we don’t get guarantees in life. Our desperate addiction for guarantees robs us of the joy of today—that we have today to do what we get to do, to work for the future we want.
This is why the people who stood before their family’s murderer can offer forgiveness and live with joy, because when you have seen how horrible it all can go, then the only proper response is to cherish this moment right here, right now. Cherish this gesture, this relationship, this kid, this day, this moment. You have today to be a spouse, a parent, a grandparent. You have today to enjoy the blessing of today. That’s what we get.
And when you can learn to embrace this truth, then you aren’t scared anymore. You aren’t weary anymore when you face your worst fears, realizing it could all go south, but right now it isn’t. Right now it is this wondrous, miraculous thing called your life that you get to live, today.
You see, when we realize how fragile life is, when we realize how death and loss could be just around the corner, when we realize that everyone is just barely hanging on—that’s actually where the strength and robust vitality for life is discovered.
There are no guarantees except for right now.
So we can let the weariness consume us, and stay stuck in our weariness…
Or we can push through the weariness—face the worst, acknowledge it may happen—then push through by saying, “But it’s not right now, so I’m going to embrace this moment, right now.” For when we do—when we say it and push through it—we will find we are actually free. Free to enjoy each moment. Free from our worst fears. Free from our stress and anxiety. Free from weariness.
Now maybe some of you are still skeptical. Maybe some of you are thinking, “That’s nice Rev. Good pep talk. But you don’t know what I’ve been through, or why I’m weary.”
If that’s you, then let me just say this… You’re right. You’re right. Some of you here have been through a lot that has rightly made you weary. I won’t deny it, and I don’t aim to diminish it. But if this is you, then please, just do one thing… Remember. Remind yourself…that while you have been through a lot…You’re still here. You’re still here.
All of this brings us to the Apostle Paul, who knows a thing or two about weariness.
Paul writes, telling us, reminding us, just what it was he has been through—afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonment, riots, hard labor, sleepless nights, hunger—all manners or causes that lead to weariness.
But still, because of who he is, and whose he is, Paul knows he’s free and that weariness has been left behind and nothing can make him weary.
Paul knows that no matter what comes, he still has right now, to be the holy and faithful child of God who Christ Jesus died for.
Listen again to what he says…
“We are treated as impostors, and yet are true. [We are] unknown, and yet are well known. [We are] as dying, and see—we are alive. [We are] as punished, and yet not killed. [We are] as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. [We are] as poor, yet making many rich. [We are] as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Paul is saying, all that has happened has happened, and it has been bad, it has been tough, it has been wearisome, but yet we are still here, still being led by God to a new day.
We are living in a wearisome world with all manners of places, events, and people causing us to be weary. An existential dread hovers over us like a cloud. But we have today. We have right now.
And today, right now, is World Communion Sunday—World Wide Communion Sunday.
The day when all Christians gather around the Lord’s Table to remember what Jesus did for us, to remember what he promised—a new day.
So may we face the wearisome world as Jesus would have us, and as Paul has shown us.
May we face our weariness head on, ready to say, “Yes, the worst that could happen could happen. But until it does I’m going to live right now—in this moment and keep working for the future God has shown me through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Amen.