world communion day

The Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Ted Hicks, October 4, 2020

“We are in mystic communion because, in our essence, we are kin despite any differences we might notice or imagine between us.  Perhaps we name, describe, and practice our spirituality differently – or not at all, at least intentionally – but still we are sisters and brothers and companions as pilgrims on a common journey aboard spaceship Earth.  We cannot imagine doing harm to any other person, to any other creature, to the planet itself and its fragile eco-systems because to do so is to commit a heinous offence against our own kin – and more than that, against our one universal Creator whose divine spark lives within each of us and all matter and by whose common presence within creates that bond of communion across time and space.” 

Though in these times when we are limited by the need to control the possible spread of COVID-19 we are unable to share in Communion physically, still there is a deeper communion that we all participate in simply because we exist.  In this Service, Ted helps us explore this mystery and its ethical implications.



Psalm 19 – Song of the Stars – adapted, with thanks to Silvia Purdie,

The universe shouts your Word!

What language do stars speak?
Words of vast emptiness and infinite distance,
words of brilliant light and constant explosion,
whirling words, ancient words, alien words.

Around one Word we spin –
the Sun, light of our world,
cruising in glory across the sky;
colours all things, warms all things.

Around God’s Word we gather –
the Son, light of the world.

Christ’s way finds the lost
Christ’s truth opens blind eyes
Christ’s life conquers death
Christ’s bread feeds our hunger
Christ’s Spirit fills hearts with joy
Christ’s desire burns away greed
Christ’s touch is sweeter than honey.
May our lives shout your Word
in all we say, in all we do
out in the open or hidden in the dark.
May our lives sing your Word
in the secrets of our soul,
in trouble, in shame, in confidence.
Shine brightly, Lord
and hold us in your orbit.



Matthew 21:33-46

Jesus is teaching publically in the Temple in Jerusalem.  Among the crowd drawn to him were leading representatives of the religious establishment, placed there to monitor him and to discredit him if they could.  In the give and take of this occasion, Jesus said this ….

Listen to another parable.

“There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. “

Jesus then turned directly to his audience and asked, “Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.




For all of that “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” stuff, Jesus could be quite fierce at times, even vitriolic. Especially when it came to the power-people among the religious establishment of his day.  Take the incident and its parable that we just read from the Gospel of Matthew.  Ripped from the headlines actually.  Treachery and murder.  Judgement and vengeance.  Confrontation in the streets even.  I’m not sure if Jesus told his parable with a sly wink and a butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-his-mouth look on his face or with blood in his eyes, steam coming out of his ears, and spittle on his lips.  But the Jesus I met there made me cringe a little when I first looked at the passage to start preparing for today.  I even considered looking elsewhere for a different passage to read and talk with you about – a passage with a nicer Jesus maybe.  In the end, though, I thought it would be more honest and less cowardly to take this troubling passage on and see what we might make of it.  I wonder – when we are done – whether Jesus will have risen or fallen in our estimation.

Let’s look a bit at the parable itself for a moment.  Is it too specific and literal to suggest that the landowner represents God who created the world and gave humans the responsibility to look after it?  Well, in the parable at least, those meant-to-be stewards of the land didn’t do a very good job of it.  In fact, they exploited their position for their own benefit.  And when the landowner sent his agents to check in and collect the harvest he rightfully expected, the tenants turned on them viciously, murderously.  A veiled reference to the Hebrew prophets and maybe to himself as the son?  And perhaps to people yet to come, like Greta Thunberg for example in our day?

I think we could quite easily use this passage to focus on the environmental crisis in our times.  On the impact of climate change and the human impact on that process.  On the exploitation of the land by those with immediate profit as their priority.  On the failure of leadership to call to account the profiteers and their co-dependents, and to stand up for the longer-term well-being of the planet.

I don’t think that approach would be wrong but maybe it doesn’t go deep enough.  I wonder if what Jesus is really talking about here is the spiritual crisis of his time and ours.  For the ones Jesus has in his sights here are not the leaders in the political or industrial spheres but the leaders among the religious establishment.  Those perennial bad guys, the Chief Priests and Pharisees with whom he crossed words again and again throughout the Gospel accounts and who eventually helped to turn his parable into a personal prophecy of his own fate.  Those who bear responsibility for the consciousness-formation of the people are the ones on whom he breathes fire in today’s passage.  The ones responsible for establishing a principled foundation for leaders to build on in government and industry and every other sphere of human enterprise.  The ones who are meant to instill individually and collectively an ethical ethos that holds any baser human motives and strategies in check.

If we are truly spiritual beings on a human journey, as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin claimed, then those who nurture and attend to our spiritual nature and formation need to be counted among the essential workers of these times and every time.  Maybe the most essential of all because everything else is coloured by the spirituality that is implicit in every emotion we feel, every thought we have, every word we speak, every action we take, every choice we make – and everything  that flows from that in the way human affairs are managed and societies are ordered.  If Jesus was particularly harsh in this encounter with the representatives of the religious establishment of his day, maybe it was because they deserved it for their compromised and corrupted stewardship of the spirituality of the people of God.

Well that was then and this is now.  I am not sure how helpful it is to focus on those ancient bad guys.  Maybe that would keep our considerations at a safe and theoretical distance.  Maybe it would even perpetuate a current of anti-Semitism that has always run underground in the Christian world and sometimes bubbled its poisonous brew to the surface.   And maybe it would let the church off the hook.  I think the Gospel passage this week confronts us with the question of how well the church is now living up to its high calling as the stewards of the spiritual well-being of the people, the nations, and the planet.

I don’t think there is one black and white answer to that question.  Certainly the history of civilization and the part the church has played in that is a litany of misguided strategies and outright atrocities.  The Crusades.  The Inquisition.  The expansion of empires and the imposition of colonization with specific practices such as residential schools in Canada.  The scandal of enmity between religions and competition between denominations.  Horrific stories of clergy abuse.  You will make your own additions to this list.  We might simply generalize and say that, especially since the 4th century when Emperor Constantine ended the policy of persecution against the Christian movement and made it, instead, the official religion of the Roman Empire, the trend in the church has been more and more towards privilege, entitlement, and status accompanied by all the compromise and corruption that comes with power.

At the same time – even though the resistance often came most fiercely from within the church itself – individual Christians and the church as a voice for the voiceless have also been at the forefront of change on the long and winding road towards justice, peace, human rights, and environmental integrity.  In ending slavery and the on-going battle against racism.  In countering misogyny and advancing the rights of women.  In calling out homophobia and affirming the full humanity and equal rights of those who self-identify on a spectrum beyond just heterosexuality.  In welcoming in differently-abled persons.  In standing on the front-lines of the movement for disarmament and peace.  In blowing the whistle on the exploitation and abuse of our planet.

Well it would take more time and expertise than I have to create a full list and complete a thorough analysis of the impact of the church – for good or for ill – on the critical issues our world has faced and is facing.  On balance, if you were to fill in a report card on the church’s record as stewards of the spiritual fabric and well-being of the world and its people, would you give it barely a passing mark, a modest B or even a generous A-, or an outright F?  If Jesus were here today would he pat us on the back and say good work, would he acknowledge our mistakes but shrug his shoulders and tell us its ok, or would he subject us to the same kind of harsh rebuke thrown in the face of the Chief Priests and Pharisees of old?

Again let me say that to fully explore the implications of recognizing the calling of the church to be the stewards of the spiritual formation of the people and the spiritual well-being of our global community and the planet would require more time and brain power than I can muster.  Still, let me dare to suggest one implication of that calling as it applies to this occasion – to World Communion Sunday.

Who are we in communion with this day?  As we humbly meet here this morning, we imagine ourselves mystically in communion with other Christians across this globe: others in other gatherings in other places also marking the occasion – and where COVID conditions allow – perhaps actually celebrating the ritual meal Jesus instituted during his last supper with his community before his arrest, trial, and execution; others in different geographical settings and natural landscapes, speaking other languages, meeting in or around buildings with their own distinctive architectural styles, influenced by other cultural traditions, living in their own circumstances and dealing with the most pressing issues facing them. Perhaps, living into the reality of what the church calls “The Communion of Saints”, we can imagine ourselves deeply connected with the faithful from generations long gone and even yet to come.  I can’t help but think of Norm and Joan today, for example.  Can we also imagine ourselves in communion with folks who name, describe, and practice their spirituality differently altogether than we do?  I know some of us try very hard to do just that.  Can we go so far as to recognize ourselves in communion with all the myriad creatures with whom we share breath and even with the land beneath us and the stars beyond us?  I am learning to do that.  Maybe the most profound insight that is dawning on us as stewards of spirituality in our times and which we are called to awaken others to is this: that the whole of Creation is one in the Spirit because each and every atom in us and in each speck of stardust within the most distant galaxy in this ever-expanding universe contains a spark of the divine energy from which it was created.

We are in mystic communion because, in our essence, we are kin despite any differences we might notice or imagine between us.  Perhaps we name, describe, and practice our spirituality differently – or not at all, at least intentionally – but still we are sisters and brothers and companions as pilgrims on a common journey aboard spaceship Earth.  We cannot imagine doing harm to any other person, to any other creature, to the planet itself and its fragile eco-systems because to do so is to commit a heinous offence against our own kin – and more than that, against our one universal Creator whose divine spark lives within each of us and all matter and by whose common presence within creates that bond of communion across time and space.

As this little community of seekers continues to explore new paradigms and dares creative experiments in being church, I wonder if it is helpful and even essential to embrace our calling as stewards of the spiritual formation of our people, and the spiritual well-being of our immediate social setting, the global community, and the planet itself.   I wonder.



  1. In what ways do you experience an inherent sense of belonging both to a community of people and to the natural order of creation?
  2. What are the ways we can enhance that sense of belonging?
  3. What are the practical and ethical implications of such deep communion?
  4. And this quotation from Teilhard de Chardin to ponder:

“We are one, after all, you and I. Together we suffer, together exist, and forever will recreate each other.”


At CommunionA Poem by Madeleine L’Engle, from “The Weather of the Heart”, Shaw Publishers, 1978

Whether I kneel or stand or sit in prayer

I am not caught in time nor held in space,

But, thrust beyond this posture, I am where

Time and eternity are face to face;

Infinity and space meet in this place

Where crossbar and upright hold the One

In agony and in all Love’s embrace.

The power in helplessness which was begun

When all the brilliance of the flaming sun

Contained itself in the small confines of a child

Now comes to me in this strange action done

In mystery.  Break time, break space, O wild

and lovely power.  Break me: thus am I dead,

Am resurrected now in wine and bread.



From “Guerrillas of Grace”, by Ted Loder

An excerpt from his poem/prayer, “Let Something Essential Happen to Me”, LuraMedia, 1984


O God,

let something essential happen to me,

something more than interesting

or entertaining

or thoughtful.

O God,

Let something essential happen to me,

something awesome,

something real.

Speak to my condition, Lord,

and change me somewhere inside where it matters,

a change that will burn and tremble and heal

and explode me into tears

or laughter

or love that throbs or screams

or keeps a terrible, cleansing silence

and dares the dangerous deeds.

Let something happen in me

which is my real self, God.   


Peace to you. 


Share this page