The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is celebrated by many Christian communities around the world this Sunday, Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic. The resources for this year have been written by the Christians of Latvia. There are devotions for each day and can be found at https://www.councilofchurches.ca/our-faith/week-of-prayer-for-christian-unity/eight-days-biblical-reflections/
I was nurtured and serve in a particular branch of the Church of Christ known as ‘Reformed’. And today I remember that at what is acknowledged as the beginning of this tradition, Jean Calvin prayed for the purification and renewal and reformation of the Church, not its division.
In April 1552 Calvin in Geneva wrote to Archbishop Cranmer “Amongst the greatest evils of our century must be counted the fact that the churches are so divided one from another that there is scarcely even a human relationship between us; at all events there is not the shining light of that holy fellowship of the members of Christ, of which many boast in word, but which few seek sincerely indeed. In consequence, because the members are torn apart, the body of the church lies wounded and bleeding. So far as I have it in my power, if I am thought to be of any service, I shall not be afraid to cross ten seas for this purpose, if that should be necessary.”
The ‘greatest of evils’ is even greater for the four and half centuries that have passed since. I believe we are being brought to understand how much our communion and our witness is undermined by our division. Our different perspectives and experiences of the Holy One revealed in Jesus are not exclusive but complementary. Our different gifts provide balance and therefore strength. And perhaps most important of all, our unity is the express will of the one whose name we bear – ‘There will be one flock, one shepherd’ (John 10:16).
This morning at St. Andrew’s we will celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by welcoming the newest addition to our downtown Christian leadership, The Rev. Susan McAllister of Princess Street United Church. Join us in praise, and especially in prayer (ample free parking is available along the streets and in the public lot behind the church just off Queen Street; a nursery for infants and programme for children is offered during the service).
I conclude with a phrase in the Latvian liturgy that introduces the reading of the Scripture lessons … ‘The Word of God is an explosion of love in our lives. Thanks be to God.’ So may it be!