Observed on the first Sunday in October, World Communion Sunday calls the Church to be the universal, inclusive Church. The day was first observed by Presbyterians in 1936, adopted by the Federal Council of Churches in 1940, and shortly thereafter observed in Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren churches. Perhaps, it is fitting on this week, when we celebrate the unity of the worldwide church, that we address one of the most important issues in our world today—or any day—forgiveness.
Forgiveness is one of the Bible’s substantial subject matters. For this reason, we address when considering World Communion Sunday. Realistically, we all know that the topic of forgiveness is one that begins long before the Christian faith developed in the New Testament. Indeed, in the Hebrew Bible, almost from the beginning of God’s relationship with God’s covenant people, the idea of forgiveness occupies a prominent place.
One memorable story recounts the haggling between Abraham and Yahweh over the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18). In this account, Abraham sounds similar to an auctioneer. By asking for mercy on the evil city of Sodom, Abraham asks God, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” To which the Lord answers, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.” Abraham then barters with God as he might an open-market hawker of merchandise. In due course, the divine voice declares, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.”
Forgiveness is the key element. Genesis recounts that Yahweh cannot find ten righteous people. The chronicle concludes: “Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord; and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the Plain and saw the smoke of the land going up like the smoke of a furnace” (Genesis 19:27-28).
Perhaps forgiveness can pave the way to abundant life?