In the midst of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity we can rejoice at all the signs of growing cooperation amongst the Christian Churches, especially as we experience it here along Prince Street. The fact is that there are lots of things to agree on and that can unite us than we have to disagree about. Admittedly, neither the Week of Prayer nor the programs of the Prince Street Churches have brought unity. At least, not as most of us would understand unity.
At home amongst his family and friends and quoting from Isaiah, Jesus proclaims his mission as the Christ by saying he brings good news and healing, and he proclaims freedom and forgiveness. At the core of each Christian Church is Jesus the Christ, on that we can agree. There’s not much more to say except that beyond Jesus we find stuff to disagree on: authority; sexuality; evangelism; and on.
Perhaps, one of the most divisive parts of our faith expression is the Eucharist. The Great Thanksgiving can be an intimate, visceral experience of the divine. The one thing that ought to have the greatest power to unite us, divides us. Rarely does a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity include a Celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
Yet, I will not be discouraged. From our Collect (the Third Sunday after Epiphany) we pray, “Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call.” This petition recognizes that God does not call us in our perfection, but in our imperfection. God does not expect “worthy” partners in mission, but ones who are open to the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide and to make worthy. Even the word “worthy” doesn’t suggest perfection, but an arbitrary choice. In this case, it is a choice made by God, thankfully.
After all these decades of weeks of prayer for Christian Unity we have gained significant cooperation and understanding, but not unity. We have also gained a knowledge that we are worthy of God’s call for unity amongst God’s people. May we be strengthened by God’s Spirit. Amen.