It used to be that Catholics and Protestants would not speak to each other or associate with each other. They called each other names, were convinced the other side was all going to hell, and often did far worse to the other side. On the whole there was plenty of downright un-Christian behavior on both sides. Thank God that has all now pretty much come to an end. At least since Vatican Council II, Catholics and other Christians have prayed and worked together, and carried on years of dialogues on official church levels. Here at St. Austin we are proud to be part of the founding group of congregations of Micah 6, which does so much to feed the poor, help people in need and now is stretching to reach out more effectively to homeless youth in our area. Joining our efforts together we are able to do so much more. All this is VERY GOOD!
However, this progress brings with it another danger, one that is less obvious but none-the-less insidious, and that is the danger of complacency. Because we now get along much better, because we have come to not only tolerate each other but respect each other as we work together on projects of common interest, we can become comfortable, accepting of and complacent with the status quo. We think, “Well, some Christians are Lutherans, others Presbyterians or Baptists, still others Catholic, and it is all OK.”
But it isn’t OK because we are still divided. On Sunday mornings we still trundle off to our own places of worship and all call on Jesus as Lord, but each doing it separately. It is like the Body of Christ is broken into parts, an arm here, a leg over there and so on. And that is NOT what Jesus wanted. Jesus wanted just the opposite!
According to the Gospel of St. John, at the end of His life, just before His betrayal and arrest, Jesus prayed for His disciples. And what Jesus prayed for us is that we be ONE. “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. (John 17: 20-23)
This was Jesus’ fervent wish at the end of His life ― Unity. That the followers of Christ are NOT one is a terrible SCANDAL. Our divisions are the primary block to the effective preaching of the Gospel, preventing the world from coming to believe in Jesus. As long as we claim Jesus as our Master and try to follow His will, then we cannot accept the current situation of division among the followers of Christ. In some ways, complacency about our division is worse than our previous fighting with each other. At least then we knew our division was important. Now it all too easily becomes acceptable.
One way to combat this complacency is prayer. Every year, from January 18 to 25, there is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Anticipating that week a bit this year, the Micah 6 Congregations will hold an Ecumenical Prayer Service this Sunday, January 15 at 3 p.m., right here at St. Austin Church. I encourage you to attend and to pray for Christian Unity and for an end to the scandal of separation in the Body of Christ. Certainly pray during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and all through the year as well. Thank you.