Coming to the Table: Strength and Help for the Journey by Rev. Ruth Faith Santana-Grace

“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10

I confess I’ve started writing this Spirit Soundings at least three times using three different scripture texts. I wondered how I could weave together World Communion Sunday with our 300th Anniversary Celebration next week. I’m sure you’ve experienced this kind of journey – when you start down one mental path only to ultimately find yourself elsewhere.

Perhaps it is because of living overseas and working with Christians of differing denominations in Western Europe and Latin America, but I treasure World Communion Sunday. I love the sounds of different traditions and languages all affirming their faith and renewing their strength for the journey at the timeless and embracing table of our Lord Jesus. The image of peoples of different shades and customs fills me with hope for who we are called to be – across all that would historically divide us.

More than ever, I cherish the message of encouraging Christian unity and ecumenical partnerships across our many traditions, especially at a time when divisive rhetoric (even among Christians) promotes fear, violence and hate – tempting us into isolation so as not to be overwhelmed by all that we cannot control. And there is much that seems out of control.

The hurricane damage continues to haunt us. This past week I have painfully followed my family and friends in Puerto Rico who are still without electricity. We have all been contacting one another, trying to learn about the status of towns and relatives. And then, on an even more personal note, the situation with my mom’s declining health continues to be agonizingly complicated as we navigate her care through a broken health care system for the elderly. Yet even as I share these dimensions of my journey, I am keenly aware of the challenges many of you are carrying in your daily lives. I carry those challenges in the prayers of my heart.

But it was here that the words of God, through the prophet Isaiah, unexpectedly spoke to me, moving me deeply – “I will strengthen you and help you.” There is no more powerful way to claim these words as a people of faith than coming to the Lord’s Table – that place where we can be renewed and sustained. It is that sacred place to which we can come broken and tired, knowing we will be received, embraced, loved, and renewed. It is that place where we remember God’s faithfulness throughout human history and hold on to God’s promises of resurrection possibilities for today and tomorrow.

So as I started down one path, I came to realize just how related this Sunday’s World Communion Sunday is to our 300th Worship Celebration October 7th. We as a presbytery will pause to gather. We will come together – across our diverse realities and contexts – to join our voices in song and prayer. We will hear the good news of the Gospel proclaimed through Word and music. We will offer prayers of gratitude for God’s faithfulness in our lives. We will celebrate the generosity and success of our mission campaign.

But most importantly, we will come from the eastern, western, northern, and southern corners of our presbytery to gather at the Table of our Lord. And at this beautifully diverse table of Jesus, we will once again affirm “who we are” because of “whose we are” as we are fed with that spiritual sustenance that will renew and carry us forth into the next century. In the midst of all we carry with us – the celebrations, the thanksgivings, the challenges, the unknowns – we will hear God’s voice echoing across human time- “ I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

So now I find myself on a clear path – a path that will lead me to where we will come together, gathered around that table of grace, expressing our gratitude for God’s companionship and faithfulness along the way.