Friday, 18 January 2013

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Today is the first day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

We read in John's gospel of Jesus praying for his disciples, "that all may be one". We are encouraged this week to make this prayer our own.

Christian unity is not simply a sentimental affair - 'it would be nice if we could all get along'. Still less is it an organisational convenience - 'with so many different types of church, we're spreading our resources too thinly'. No, the visible unity of the Church is an immediate consequence of the nature of the Church itself, and its relationship to God's Kingdom. God wills to restore all things in Christ; God wills to bring into unity the human family divided by sin. The unity of the Church is a sign, an anticipation, of this oneness. To be united is a fundamental part of the calling of baptised people.

It's a calling that it is very easy to lose sight of in our contemporary situation. Christians disagree amongst ourselves about so much, and in this context it is difficult sometimes to believe that we could ever be one. Menawhile our consumer culture leads easily into the temptation to think that division amongst Christians is somehow a 'good thing' - different types of churches cater for different types of people; I can have a church that is exactly right for me, just as I can find the car, the phone, the i-Player play list, that reflects me as an individual. On this view, for example, the Anglican 'brand' might be seen as catering for a certain type of person, the Roman Catholic brand yet another, and so on for the Pentecostalists, Methodists, Orthodox...

Against this, we are called by the gospel to work for unity, not to lose sight of the vision of the Church as imaging the reconciliation of God's Kingdom. More than that, we must pray for unity. Because unity is not ultimately something we bring about. It is a gift - nothing other than the gift of the Spirit, the bond of love between the Father and the Son.

A Prayer for Unity

Heavenly Father,
you have called us in the Body of your Son Jesus Christ
to continue his work of reconciliation
and reveal you to the world.
Forgive us the sins which tear us apart;
give us the courage to overcome our fears
and to seek that unity which is your gift and your will;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

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