Saturday, June 23, 2018

Walking, Praying and Working Together

Pope Francis praises “ecumenical day” in Geneva for WCC anniversary
And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

1 Corinthians 3: 1-9 NRSV

Pope Francis was in Geneva, Switzerland this past week for the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches, with the theme of Walking, Praying and Working Together. It's only about 900 kilometres from the Vatican to the home of John Calvin who some have called the historic pope of Protestantism. Still, Francis' presence does mark a significant moment in the lengthy journey toward reconciliation and understanding between two of the great streams of the Christian religion.

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Christians are really skilled at not getting along with one another. Jesus had to tell his disciples not to squabble about who would be the greatest in heaven and in the fledgling days of the Christian community the apostle Paul admonishes, then encourages followers to get along.

In my lifetime I've been involved in ecumenical groups, working with Christian pastors of every stripe, but at times so frustrated with the "my faith is better than your faith" attitudes that I wanted to abandon the enterprise. Often it has been conservative Protestant Christians who supposedly really love Jesus who have been the least charitable and open to finding common ground.

Francis seems to have the ecumenical spirit of a predecessor, Pope John the 23rd, whose Vatican II Council encouraged dialogue and prayer with other Christian denominations. This was a huge shift in outlook but some of John's successors were less inclined to honour the tone of Vatican II, including Pope Benedict, whose arrogance about Roman Catholicism as the true faith was disconcerting to many Catholics and non-Catholics.

During his flight home Francis said to reporters “For me, to be a peace church is the mandate of God. I believe that all the churches that have this spirit of peace must come together and work together, as we said in our speeches today.”

Hey, this sounds downright biblical and Christian!

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