Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

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Readings:

Sermon:

Hello, I’m Paul Lawlor, I’m based in Redditch and work as Town Centre vicar and workplace chaplain.

Both of these aspects of my Job draw me to work ecumenically, and, indeed, across a wide range of C of E churches in Redditch and Bromsgrove, at present, as the Rural Dean of Bromsgrove.

I see part of work being to encourage different centres of worship to seek to work together for the Kingdom of God.   I love to see what God can do when we work together in unity.   It is not always easy, but it when it is working it brings such joy…as we come to our two readings, we see St Paul appealing to the church to be united in Jesus and Jesus praying to the Father that we may be united as He and Father are united.

St Paul appeals to the church in Corinth to look past the partisan grouping that appear to have developed.   People have clustered around the specific teaching or charisms (little c) of different leaders and teachers.  Paul, Peter (Cephas), Apollos or some claim the high ground of saying I follow Christ!

Does this situation have a familiar ring to it?  Even on our best days don’t we sometimes fall into this trap of having our favourite preacher or teacher.  Do, we secretly, or not so secretly, believe our way of being church is the right way and all would be well if only others just recognised that?

Paul does set the bar really high – that, “there be no divisions…that you be perfectly united in mind and thought”.  Wow…that’s hard.   Is Paul calling for a perfect uniformity here or an unthinking unquestioning obedience to one leader and one way?

If he is, then he is pointing to Jesus, the Christ, as that leader the one who reveals that single way.

So, let us turn to Jesus’ prayer in John 17…

Jesus’ Prayer – John 17 records Jesus praying, Jesus praying a really long prayer – he has spoken to the Disciples of his departure from them and the hard times that they would be going to endure.  Jesus pours our His heart praying for the disciples.  Where we pick up, Jesus’ focus moves from his follows, his Earthly friends, those he has walked and talked with, to us….

“to those who will believe in me through their message”.  v20

That’s you and me and all who have gone before and will come after.

And what is Jesus foremost desire for us, his Church?  Is it that we will build lovely building, that we will have the best possible YouTube channel, choir or worship group…no….His prayer for us is that:

 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.    v21

That we would be united in the same way that there is unity within the Trinity.   Jesus speaks of the perfect interaction, and intra/inter dependence of Father and Son.  

I believe, this shows that we are not called to be a grey uniform church.   We are called to be the incarnate church for the place and time we are called to be a part of as Jesus was incarnate.  There will and is wonderful variety in the church BUT we can be one.  Of one mind in Christ which is rooted in that relationship with the Father (and the Spirit) that is faithful, steadfast and eternal. 

As we seek to be in the Father with Christ, we, the church, have His Glory, we have the power of God’s Holy Spirit with us.    If only we can show that we can be one in Christ as His Church in all our diversity.   By being united in our difference we show to the world at large a true miracle.  

As we have watched with bewilderment the events in the US, O how we, God’s Church, need to show a different way!

We need to demonstrate the miracle of different people, in all our wonderful variety, being drawn together with one purpose – to worship the one God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit and make Him known in the word by word and deed.

The rest of the stuff – the stuff we so easily fall out over – is interesting to debate and think on but is it central to what it is to be In Christ.   The week of prayer for Christian unity comes to an end tomorrow (The 25 January) and verses from John 15 have been a thread throughout the week, as we have looked to Abide with Christ.   So today we look at what it is to be branches of the Vine, rooted and grounding in God.

Let us seek to do that more in the coming days as so many things have been stripped away.   Let us hold to Christ the Author and Foundation of our faith.  Let us follow Him – the way, the truth and the life.

Questions:

  • Do we all too easily give in (Are you resigned) to the scandal of separation of Christians?
  • What part of our tradition is vital and life giving and what can we learn from what is vital and life giving within other Christian traditions or parts of the Anglican Church?
  • What could be the impact on the world of greater unity between the churches?

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, energizing and life-giving fire and gentle breath, come and abide in us. Renew in us the passion for unity so that we may live in awareness of the bond that unites us in you. May all who have put on Christ at their Baptism unite and bear witness together to the hope that sustains them.

(https://ctbi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/WPCU-2021-English-pamphlet-Final.pdf.pagespeed.ce.SnR5lgw9dp.pdf


Page last updated: 16th February 2021 5:02 PM
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