Friday, January 26, 2018

Christ's Unifying Love

2018 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord,
beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another in love,
making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling,
one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

                                                                             Ephesians 4:4-7

Well, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is over, with yesterday being the final day. Did you realize this? Probably not, because there are fewer and fewer congregations participating in this event each year. Twenty years ago I was calling it the Week of Prayer for Christian Apathy because there seemed to be so little enthusiasm for seeking unity even though we are supposedly disciples who celebrate "one Lord, one faith, one baptism."

I was blessed in some communities I served to develop worthwhile relationships with other pastors and priests of every background and my life was enriched by the experience. During my ten-year pastorate in Bowmanville a number of congregations closed church doors on a Sunday in June each year to worship in a downtown park. We all felt that it was a way of bearing witness to what we shared as Christians rather than our differences.

I was surprised when I came to Belleville and discovered that there wasn't a ministerial and very little cooperation between congregations. The joint sponsorship of Syrian refugees by three United Churches, and a Roman Catholic congregation, as well as the mosque and members of the Bahai community revived my faith in ecumenism. Even in retirement I chat with one of the RC members about the sponsorship at the gym.

I appreciated that some Christians are too pure and bible-believing to associate with the apostates such as the sinners in the United Church. Of course I thought we are all sinners, but some are worse than others, I suppose. I'm not sure what they think of the apostle Paul's encouragement to bear with one another in love.

In the end the invitation to Christian Unity doesn't expire after a week, or a year, or a millennium or two. Didn't Paul also say that love never ends?

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