At church this morning, I enjoyed reading the lyrics of the hymn, “I Come with Joy”, which we sang for communion. Here are two stanzas that particularly stood out to me, along with my comments.
“As Christ breaks bread and bids us share,
“each proud division ends.
“That love that made us makes us one,
“and strangers now are friends.”
I like this stanza because it’s about ending of the pride that divides us from people and strangers becoming friends. Can taking communion bring this about? I’m not optimistic that it solves all personal and inter-relational problems, but perhaps it’s a step in the right direction. It’s an opportunity for us to reflect on our own shortcomings and God’s unconditional love for us in the midst of our imperfection, and that can encourage us to become humbler and less judgmental of others. And it’s people doing something together: eating bread and drinking wine (or grape juice) to remember Jesus Christ. Okay, so it’s a step in the right direction, but, in my opinion, it would take a lot more than a ritual to reach deeply into my innermost self, to heal me of my pride and my resentments, and to enable me to become a friend with strangers. Still, I do have a feeling of peace and of being at home when I am at church.
“Together met, together bound,
“we’ll go our different ways,
“and as his people in the world,
“we’ll live and speak his praise.”
The reason that this stanza stood out to me is that it appears to contrast with modern evangelical emphases on community. When I attended Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, for example, the model of people going to a church service then going their separate ways to practice Christian principles was not highly praised. Rather, we were encouraged to be in community with one another.
As a loner and as one who struggles socially, I tend to flinch from communitarian language. And yet, there is a part of me that can identify with it. It’s good to have spiritual mentors or friends, who can provide one with moral support and wisdom. I know that I am braver at doing what I need to do when I have encouragement from another human being, than I do when I am alone.