This reflection was shared by the Rev. Amanda Currie at an ecumenical worship service at Calvin-Goforth Presbyterian Church in Saskatoon.
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2014
Reflection for Day One: “Together, we are called to be saints.”
1 Peter 2:9-10
This Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is the eleventh one that I’ve celebrated here in Saskatoon with all the 7am services. And I don’t know how it happens, but I believe this is the third time that I’ve been stuck with leading worship at 7am on the Monday. Three times! And Monday is supposed to be my day to sleep in!
But I didn’t realize until just the other day that Monday morning this year is the perfect day for me to get a few words in as we begin the pilgrimage of 7am services (and other services at more reasonable hours). You see, I had the privilege of being involved in the development of the prayer resources this year, and in particular, I worked on the eight days of material that we will be using for our prayer times all through the week.
If you didn’t already pick up a copy of the little booklets we produced for this week, I encourage you to take one home today. The booklet includes the main scripture passage from 1 Corinthians, a theological reflection on the text, and the readings, reflections, questions, and prayers for the eight days.
I know that some of you will consider this week a journey and come to as many of these services as you can. But even if you can only come to a few, I encourage you to read and reflect on the days that you miss.
What we will be doing in our prayer this week is walking carefully and reflectively through the main scripture text, 1 Corinthians 1:1-17. Even though we won’t read from that text most days, the themes for each day connect to Paul’s message to the Church at Corinth, which, like the Church at Saskatoon, is called to be saints, and enriched in every way so that they are not lacking in any spiritual gifts.
Unfortunately, both the Corinthian Church and ours are deeply divided as well, with different Christians identifying themselves with different leaders and groups. And although the Corinthian divisions were presumably recent ones, and ours are mostly inherited from those who came before us, the result is the same… that we proclaim our own churches’ particularities instead of together proclaiming Christ, and him crucified for us.
Yesterday, at the opening worship service, Father Bernard deMargerie preached about the importance of conversion. And he wasn’t talking about a conversion to Christianity, as if we hadn’t already experienced that. And he wasn’t talking about some of us converting to a different church tradition or denomination so that we can all be the same.
He was talking about the need to be converted to a ministry of ecumenism – a conversion of the heart that causes us to yearn and long for the full visible unity of all Christians in the one body of Christ. We have to really want it, and our churches have to really want it. We can’t be content with the way things are, because they aren’t how they’re supposed to be. We can’t get comfortable with reasonably friendly relationships and occasional shared worship when we continue to be divided in our ministries and missions, and most especially at the Table of the Lord.
I have to change directions in this reflection, though, because it won’t be until later in the week that we will have to come face to face with the scandalous divisions in Corinth and in Saskatoon. Paul will eventually challenge them and us to answer the question, “Has Christ been divided?”
But this morning is Day 1, and today’s theme is based on the greeting at the very beginning of Paul’s letter: “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”
We begin the week with a reminder of who and whose we are: that we are the church of God, that we are sanctified in Christ Jesus, that we are called to be saints (God’s holy people), and that we are – even despite our present divisions – we are all these things together with all those who call on the name of the Lord. Together… we are called to be saints.
I hope that you heard this morning’s readings as an encouragement and a blessing, because at their heart, each one is a proclamation of the truth that we (every one of us, and all of us together) belong to God. We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, God’s own people. We are a holy nation, God’s treasured possession. With God as our fiercely loving shepherd, we are the sheep of his hand. We are the adopted family of Jesus – his brothers, and sisters, and mothers.
Sunday by Sunday, in our worship, we have courage to admit our sins and failings because we know that God is gracious and full of mercy. And we keep on trying day by day to follow the way of Jesus despite out weaknesses and mistakes, because it is not our sin that is our primary identity. We are God’s beloved children, made in God’s image, gifted in many ways, and called to reflect God’s light and love in the world.
So this morning, we must remember that the church is not by nature divided. The church is one. It is one body of Christ of which we are all members. It is one people of God to which we all belong. Although our sin has caused division and separation, together with all those who call on the name of the Lord… we are called to be saints.
I hope that many of you will be able to join in the journey together through this week, and through 1 Corinthians chapter one. As we pray together, and eat together, listen for God’s Word together, and grow together in unity, may we become more and more the one church at Saskatoon that God has made us to be.
For we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, God’s own people… in order that we may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.