Summary: Full service for ecumenical service - Praying about unity is a waste of time if we do not work for unity too; we have to be people who value variety & difference in one another.
CTW - HP 882 Psalm 133
HP 252 All hail the power of Jesus’ name
Prayers of adoration
Prayer of thanksgiving
1 Thessalonians 5: 12a, 13b-18
SOF 303 Jesus stand among us
SOF 43 Bind us together
SOF 388 May the fragrance of Jesus
HP 758 In Christ there is no east or west
Why are you here today?
Because you always come to these Churches together things?
Because you feel strongly about Christian unity?
Because you are passionate about prayer?
Because there was nothing on the TV?
Because you wanted to see me? – Ok probably not!
Next question: where are you from?
Where has your journey of faith taken you?
Perhaps you have always from toddler to whatever age you are now been an Anglican or Catholic. Maybe you are a 5th generation Anglican or 3rd generation Methodist.
Me – well without my knowledge & certainly without any level of parental commitment I began life being baptised as a Methodist, but my parents quickly forgot this. Then we were sent to the local Baptists for Sunday School & BB. I came to faith / was born again in a Pentecostal Church after being brought to that place by Christian Union at college full of people who belonged to predominantly Pentecostal Churches. I returned to my Baptist Church & simultaneously attended a Pentecostal & a Methodist Church. Then & threw my lot in with the Methodists. . . . & it seems I belong here - for now! I don’t say that flippantly but genuinely because I think it is really a state of flux.
I don’t think I am that unusual – a lot of people these days journey to Jesus via different denominations & sometimes never really feel like they belong in any one completely. I know that I used to balk when asked at hospital to name my denomination & always wanted to just say Christian. Maybe you identify with that, maybe not.
Why is this important – well what unites us is far more important than what separates us, & as we move on in this generation where our denominational differences mean less not to us but to those we need to reach it is vital we understand that.
There are so many more people who have no history with us & unless we work closer together & for the kingdom & not our own little empires the more impact we will make for Jesus will be reduced & harmed.
We are here to pray for Christian Unity, but of course not for Christian Uniformity. I think it is a sign of God at work with & through us that there is such variety & richness in our Churches. There is much difference between us, before we think about our different Church cultures & this is something to be valued. We are made up of so many different histories, so many different personalities, so many different stages of life and faith, and yet Christ longs for us to be together, to share what we have with each other. We are stronger when we walk, talk & work together, so much stronger.
Think about a sheet of paper - anyone can rip one or two pieces but if you stack paper on paper on paper eventually you find that it becomes more & more difficult. In that same way we need to learn Church that there is great strength when we stand together.
Our passage from 1 Thessalonians 5 exhorts that as we stand together we should encourage one another, be patient & joyful with one another & be continually at prayer. Are we about these things in practice though? Too often I think we end up noticing one another’s problems & differences. We are not patient with those who prefer to do things differently or see things differently within our own Churches let alone across the denominational divides. In practice the prayer meeting is probably one of the poorest attended meetings in our Churches & Churches together events?
I think we need to hear the challenge of the scriptures.
We need to value one another more & work more closely together for these communities we serve & for the sake of Jesus our Lord.
But what needs saying too is that praying about unity is a waste of time if we do not work for unity too. We have to be people who value variety & difference in one another. We have to talk more freely together & see being united as one of our priorities. I have to say as a relative newcomer to this Community the level of support for Churches Together is not exactly wonderful. Attendance when we worship together is mostly poor & getting our people excited about being with the Methodists or the Anglicans or even the URC’s is hard isn’t it?!