God of Many Colors and Voices

October 5, the first Sunday in October, is World Communion Sunday. This is the day we set aside to join our fellow Christian sisters and brothers all over the world for the feast around our Lord’s Table and call “the Church to be the universal, inclusive Church” (UM Book of Worship, p. 431).

We practice open communion as is our Methodist tradition. Every Sunday we are happy  to affirm that the communion table is God’s and not ours, in the hope that we learn something about God’s unconditional love each time we come forward to participate in this holy mystery. I love what our United Methodist Book of Worship has to say regarding communion: “Laypersons as well as other clergy may assist the pastor in giving the bread and cup. All who intend to lead a Christian life, together with their children, are invited to receive the bread and cup. We have no tradition of refusing any who present themselves desiring to receive.  Any or all of the people may receive them….” (p. 29). We are further instructed that “every effort should be made to make each person, and especially children, welcome at the table” (p. 30).

The title of the anthem our chancel choir is practicing to sing on that Sunday is “Many Colors Paint the Rainbow.” I quote here some of the lyrics by Herman G. Stuempfle, Jr.:

Many colors paint the rainbow arching over land and sea.
Many colors form the fabric of our human tapestry.
……………..
Many faces round the Table wait for Christ, the Risen Lord,
for he comes with love to meet us in the Loaf, the Cup, the Word.
All are welcomed, none rejected, bound by Christ in unity,
naming others sisters, brothers, in a world-wide family.
…………….
Many voices sing God’s praises in a language all their own.
Tongues confused at Babel’s Tower now are joined around God’s throne.
Free our hearts of hate and discord till our lives in concert blend.
Alleluia be our anthem without end.

The Calving College Alumni Choir commissioned this particular piece for its first international tour to five Asian countries in 2000. The conductor of the choir explains: “The choir sang this piece with local singers to audiences of many colors—truly a vivid reminder that the Body of Christ transcends regional and denominational boundaries. Even with the language barriers, there were many powerfully touching moments as we worshipped and shared communion with our brothers and sisters in Asia. On two occasions, we invited hearing-impaired children to sign while the choir sang—yet d different ‘color’ in the tapestry of praise.”

Let us come and celebrate the all-inclusive love of God that calls us into one great human family. Show your color and don costumes of your home. Bake a special loaf of bread and bring it to the communion table. Bring a dish of home to be shared at potluck after the worship service. I am because you are. Praise God of the many colors and voices!

Many Colors Paint the Rainbow
words by Herman G. Stuempfle, Jr.

Many colors paint the rainbow arching over land and sea.
Many colors form the fabric of our human tapestry.
God, with joy and hope, you made us by a pattern you had planned,
weaving varied threads together with a skilled and loving hand.

Many people bring their treasures, as those kings who traveled far,
drawn from all earth’s scattered places back to Christ, the Morning Star.
All may offer gifts to others and from them receive in turn.
In the gathering of nations, help us God, help us teach and learn.

Many faces round the Table wait for Christ, the Risen Lord,
for he comes with love to meet us in the Loaf, the Cup, the Word.
All are welcomed, none rejected, bound by Christ in unity,
naming others sisters, brothers, in a world-wide family.

Many voices sing God’s praises in a language all their own.
Tongues confused at Babel’s Tower now are joined around God’s throne.
Free our hearts of hate and discord till our lives in concert blend.
Alleluia be our anthem without end.

Lead me to places of loneliness and pain.
May Your words shine in my mouth.
May I trust that the way You have made me
is the way that is needed.
–Rachel Naomi Remen, MD

We regard our living together not as an unfortunate mishap
warranting endless competition among us
but as a deliberate act of God
to make us a community of brothers and sisters
jointly involved in the quest for a composite answer
to the varied problems of life.
–Steven Biko, d. 1977

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