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Faith: Week Of Prayer For Christian Unity Coming January 23 – 29
By Fr. David McElrea. “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” So said Samuel Johnson, one of the literary giants of the English-speaking world. The things a person focuses on and prioritizes in their last days tells us a great deal about the importance of those things.
Almost two thousand years ago Jesus of Nazareth was facing his own death by hanging upon a Roman cross. The night before he gave himself up for us all, he prayed a prayer which tells us something of what his greatest priorities were. His prayer, often called the “High Priestly Prayer” is recorded in the 17th chapter of John’s gospel.
Speaking to the Father on behalf of his disciples, Jesus prayed “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
The principle of Christian unity, then, is close to the heart of Christ. In one sense all those who trust in Christ are one, we may argue, but Jesus’ prayer goes deeper than abstract unity. He prays that his people will share the same kind of unity that he shares with the Father. His prayer must also be ours.
If truth be told, we’re a long way away from this kind of unity. Whatever tradition we stand in, we are part of a divided Christendom. Some reasons for present divisions may be good ones; some not. True Christian unity must have as its basis the person, work, and truth of Christ himself. In the Anglican Tradition we pray every week that “all they that do confess thy holy Name may agree in the truth of thy holy Word and live in unity and godly love.” These three things are of a piece: truth, unity, and godly love. Whatever our differences, we can pray this for each other without fear, and perhaps we can learn from each other along the way.
Whatever our background, and whatever our tradition, Jesus calls us to pray that we might be one.
These past decades have seen a remarkable coming together of Christians from different denominations, recognizing that the things we have in common are greater than the things that separate us. We have discovered that we can learn from, and encourage, each other. We have discovered that we can worship and pray together. We have discovered that, separated though we may be, if we belong to Christ, we are brothers and sisters in one family.
Fr. David McElrea is the Assistant Priest at Saint Matthew’s Anglican Church (ANiC), which meets at Grace Evangelical Bible Church in Abbotsford. He and his family moved to Abbotsford in the Summer of 2010 and are happily putting down roots in the Valley.