This Sunday, we begin worship with a hymn that is probably familiar to you, "The Church's One Foundation." It was written by Samuel Stone in 1866, as one of twelve hymns on the twelve articles of the Apostles' Creed. This hymn is included under the ninth article, "The holy catholic church, the communion of saints." Stone wrote this as a direct response to the schism within the Church of South Africa caused by John William Colenso, first Bishop of Natal, who denounced part of the Bible as fictitious, caused a major uproar, and was therefore deposed for his teachings.
Stone alludes to this schism in the following verse:
Though with a scornful wonder this world sees her oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping; their cry goes up: "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.
One dictionary defines schism as "a split or division between strongly opposed sections or parties, caused by differences in opinion or belief."
If we are honest with ourselves, we are "rent asunder" by all kinds of schisms daily, don't you agree? It didn't start with the pandemic... or any particular presidential election... and we find ourselves divided from friends, family, and even the strangers we should be welcoming. If we are always angry about something, how well are we loving our neighbor? And who do we define as our neighbor? You know the answer. It's not only the person who believes all the same things you do.
Are we compelled to reach out to our neighbor next door, or do we avoid them because of the campaign sign in their yard? Have we stopped talking to a family member because of their opposite beliefs about the pandemic? I cannot believe that God wants us to live with these divisions. Brothers and sisters, we don't have to live this way. We are told to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."
Instead of avoiding our neighbor, what if we let go of the things that divide us and focus on what we share in common? This Sunday, we celebrate communion, a symbolic gathering at the table. You never know who's going to come to this table... thanks be to God, it's there to feed all of us!
Elect from every nation, yet one o'er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation: one Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food,
And to one hope she presses, with every grace endued.