Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Reflection

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has two features worth noting.  First, it follows the pattern of scripture readings leading up to Sunday and then reflecting back upon Sunday from Wednesday to Tuesday.  It does that by starting on a Wednesday.  That is a traditional approach to the daily lectionary.  Additionally, The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an octave (eight days) beginning and ending on Wednesday.   For more information, please visit http://www.oikoumene.org.

Figure 1 - Artwork from James Shaffer

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis, we are presented the heroic figure of Aslan.  Aslan, through a variety of trials, becomes the perfect sacrifice as a substitute for sinful Edward, who by rights, should be executed.  As such, as a sacrifice that is sinless, Aslan saves not only Edward, but Narnia.  This is, of course, a beautifully told metaphor of Jesus.  During the death scene, Aslan is on the table and stabbed by Jadis, the witch.  The party being over, he is abandoned, left on the table.  The girls, Susan and Lucy, watch the whole scene from the woods.  After his death, they notice little mice gnawing on the ropes that bind the great Lion (of Judah).  The girls look off to the sunrise over the sea.  Suddenly, they hear a crash behind them.  They turn to see a broken table and a missing Aslan.

In many ways, this is what the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity calls forth in me:  An awareness of a broken table and a missing Christ.  A Christ missing from our dealings with one another as presentation of Christianity falls short of the universal church of Christ.  I am further reminded of this when I read the Preamble to the Constitution of the United Methodist Church.

The church is a community of all true believers under the Lordship of Christ. It is the redeemed and redeeming fellowship in which the Word of God is preached by persons divinely called, and the sacraments are duly administered according to Christ's own appointment. Under the discipline of the Holy Spirit the church seeks to provide for the maintenance of worship, the edification of believers, and the redemption of the world. The church of Jesus Christ exists in and for the world, and its very dividedness is a hindrance to its mission in that world.[2]

The Preamble acknowledges the nature of the broken table and that our brokenness is a hindrance to Christ's mission:  to feed the hungry, give drink to thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and to visit the imprisoned.[3]  We, the people in Christ's universal church, are responsible for the failure of the church and the failure of the completion of God's mission on earth.  That is incredibly sad.  However, the hope that comes from the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is an acknowledgement of our brokenness and a way of looking at living into the unity of the church through being united with Christ.  We don't have to all be the same, going to the same church, members of the same ecclesial body, but through serving Christ, we become united with Christ[4] and with each other.  This is a gift of God that happens in glimmers and sparks everywhere, every day.  In prisons, in hospitals, on the street as help is given to a homeless man or woman…each one a glimmer of the church of Jesus Christ that exists in and for the world. 

We have a theological saying that is frequently used when we speak of the reign of God:  The Kingdom now, but not yet.  By this we acknowledge that God's Kingdom can be seen in the places in the world where love reigns, but it is not a universal fact for all.  The same can be said for the church.  And perhaps that is the biggest gift the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity gives us.  A reminder of what the Church now, but not yet, is.


1 Image from http://web.nrcs.k12.oh.us/wilcox/shaffer/wardrobe/image011.jpg

[2] No Author (2009-01-01). The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2008-2012 (p. 21). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.

[3]   Matthew 25: 35-36

[4]   John 12:26

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