The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime (pp. 140-142)
To read this morning's office, click here.
"Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant that all of us may be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you..." (The Prayer Appointed for the Week).
What can it mean for us, for me and for you, to be "joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching"? A century of efforts by most well-meant Church folk has not brought about the unity that the ecumenical movement sought, and sometimes (or even more often than that) the disunity of local churches is an embarrassment. Debates by dignitaries, speeches by sermonizers, and the efforts by the elites simply have not brought about "unity" either "in spirit" or "by their teaching"? What can we do?
We can begin with ourselves with this commitment: if the Church is founded upon Jesus Christ and his apostles and prophets, then there ought to be greater unity -- both with what we believe as central and with how we treat one another.
Here's what I suggest: first, let us learn what all Christians have in common. Regardless of our denomination, we need to be aware of the gospel itself and creeds that shape the story of faith we tell. And, what we also have in common is celebration of the story of Jesus in the Lord's Supper. And, on top of this, we know that for this story to be our story we have to be committed to it.
Second, let us speak today only what we have in common, never uttering a word about how we differ but only of what we agree on. This can sometimes take effort, and the reason is because too often we stake out our own turf and identity by emphasizing our distinctiveness.
Third, let us learn about one another for the purpose of understanding and appreciating the wondrous diversity of God's people, a diversity rooted in what we hold in common.
Why? Because the Church, what Lesslie Newbigin calls the "legacy of Jesus Christ," is built on Jesus Christ and the apostles and the prophets and on that foundation we stand -- and if we all stand on that foundation we can be more unified.