Unity

UNITY: Spiritual Warfare, or, The reason the church was created in the first place

February 12, 2018

Let us begin with an exercise in imagination. I want you to picture a pie chart. At first, when you look at it, it looks like it is all one color. Let’s say, white. But as you study it, even use a magnifying glass on it, you are able to see one very fine, black line. As you pull away from the chart, the black line blends into all the white. This is the pie chart of sin. The white represents sins for which a person can atone, ask for forgiveness, and receive it. That very fine, black line represents the one sin for which a person cannot atone or receive forgiveness. One sin. So if the overwhelming majority of sins can be forgiven, why do so many churches spend so much time on justifying judgment and condemnation? One of the very [...]

UNITY: The Art Of Quilting

February 8, 2018

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture [...]

THE CHURCH: A Rant About The Job Description Of Shepherds by Allen Martin Bair

February 3, 2018

From The Rambles of a Wandering Priest I usually ramble.  Right now, I want to rant.  I feel like ranting and raving and making large gestures in the air with my hands and arms to the effect of, “What the…?  Are you kidding me?  How can you… Ughhhhhh!”  Yeah, something like that sounds about right. I used to work in a children’s home in a house full of teenage girls with emotional and psychological issues.  It’s not the only dorm on the campus, but it is the only one with girls in it.  On Sundays, a group from a local church came in and set up shop to do services with the boys on campus who want to go, but nothing is made available for the girls.  I was told that they used to do something for the girls, but they [...]

UNITY: God’s Prayers, or Smelly feet

January 28, 2018

The purpose of the church has always been misunderstood by man. Seriously misunderstood. Perhaps because Jesus ministered to us, individually and generally, we have assumed that the church takes his place and is the means for God to minister to us. We can go there to receive the sacraments, if they are available. We can go there for fellowship. We can go there to polish our self-esteem. We go there. Because the church is ours.  It belongs to us. It exists for us. When has anyone ever stepped over his church’s threshold, gotten down on his knees, and asked, What can I do for you, Father? Anyone? Ever? You see, we are supposed to be the answer to God’s prayers. It’s fine if, when we are at church, we pray for something [...]

THE CHURCH: A Ramble About Unity by Allen Martin Bair

January 27, 2018

From The Rambles of a Wandering Priest “Cursed be that love and unity for whose sake the Word of God must be put to the stake.”  I wrote that quote from the Reformation down on the title page of my Bible as I took notes in class on day in Bible School.  I hung on my professor’s every word as he taught.  I thought the sentiment was so very right, and I thought the Reformer who spoke it divinely inspired.  The Reformer in question meant, of course, that there can be no love and unity with people who didn’t subscribe to his interpretation of Holy Scripture.  More literally, he also meant those who put the word of God to the stake by burning every vernacular (common language) translation of the Bible they could get their hands on [...]

EVANGELISM: Street Walking

January 21, 2018

I was born into an Anglican church. And I do realize that my childhood stamped me in very certain ways. I was also born into a small Maine coastal town. Which accomplished even more of the stamping. A number of times a year the rector (chief priest) sat at our dining room table and chatted.  It was an expected visit.  I won’t say it was exactly an anticipated visit.  But it was a given. The curate (lesser priest) was expected to keep lonely widows and struggling families, the shut-ins and church discontents regular company.  Holy Communion was distributed to those who had not made it to the rail to receive it. I grew up knowing to my bones that church was not just something that happened inside a particular building. All the [...]

THE CHURCH: A Ramble About An Unacceptable Situation by Allen Martin Bair

January 20, 2018

From The Rambles of a Wandering Priest There is a question that is never far from my mind and usually running in the background somewhere.  How do we fix the Church of Jesus Christ? This assumes that somehow it’s broken, or somehow disordered.  Whether or not you agree with that it is, we can argue rings around each other why it is or isn’t, and get nowhere. But I see symptoms of a much greater problem.  I have previously written about the “judgmentalism” of various professing Christians, when Jesus Christ taught non-judgment.  I have previously written about these lost sheep who have run from the church, and whose faith exists in various states of ruin.  Often, the members of the visible church, because of their hypocrisy, [...]

UNITY: Of Style And Substance

January 14, 2018

I was born an Anglican. This means that I have always belonged to the church associated with King Henry VIII, of England, and his break from the Roman Catholic Church.  Henry wanted a son.  His first wife, his deceased brother’s wife, didn’t bear him one.  He wanted a divorce from her so he could try begetting a son with someone else.  The Pope agreed that the marriage was invalid because it was against the church law to marry your brother’s wife. Henry had been given a dispensation for that error.  And now was being let off the hook of having made the error in the first place. How convenient for Henry. But the wife he wanted to divorce was from Spain.  And Spain was in the process of providing the Pope with war [...]

THE CHURCH: A Ramble About Lost Sheep by Allen Martin Bair

January 13, 2018

From The Rambles of a Wandering Priest Some time ago, as I was pulling one-ton pallets though the crowded aisles of the “big box store” I worked at, I got this image in my head from the Lord. There was a rancher who owned a lot of sheep, and shepherds were hired to watch over different flocks.  Some flocks were larger, some were smaller, but all the sheep belonged ultimately to the rancher, not the individual shepherd in charge of them. Some of the shepherds were doing their job well and faithfully.  The sheep were well cared for, and the shepherds had the exhaustion and bags under their eyes to prove it.  Other shepherds however were not.  Some beat the sheep under their care.  Some didn’t feed them properly.  Others overfed [...]

PRAYER: For Unity Of Faiths by Thomas Merton

November 6, 2017

O God, we are one with you.  You have made us one with you.  You have taught us that if we are open to one another, you dwell in us.  Help us to preserve this openness and to fight for it with all our hearts.  Help us to realize that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection.  O God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely, we accept you, and we thank you, and we adore you, and we love you with our whole being, because our being is in your being, our spirit is rooted in your spirit.  Fill us then with love, and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways, united in this one spirit which makes you present in the world, and which makes you witness to the ultimate reality that is [...]

UNITY: The Unity of the Spirit by J. Hampton Keathley III,

October 18, 2016

From: Biblical Studies Foundation Introduction I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6) These first verses of chapter four, first of all provide an environment that is crucial for the equipping of all saints that Paul will discuss below. It is not so much a program that is needed [...]

UNITY: Building The Church’s Unity by R. Kent Hughes

October 17, 2016

From: Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:1-6) The opening sentence of chapter 4, where Paul says, As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received, marks the turning point in the book of Ephesians.  The [...]

PRAYER: Praying Ephesians 4:1-16, by Becky Pliego

October 17, 2016

From Daily On My Way I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore he says: “When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that he also first descended [...]

UNITY: Pray Without Ceasing, by Margaret O’Gara

September 29, 2016

From No turning Back The theme of this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is “pray without ceasing.”  Taken from the short letter of Paul to the Thessalonians, this exhortation to pray without ceasing reminds us of the necessity of prayer for the Christian life.  Paul wants the church to help the weak, to encourage the fainthearted, and admonish idlers, not to repay evil for evil.  And in the midst of their rejoicing they must “pray without ceasing.”  But today this prayer without ceasing is set alongside the great prayer of Jesus for the unity of his followers.  Jesus prayed that his followers may all be one: As you, Father are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us, so that the world may believe [...]

UNITY: The Spiritual House Of God by Sharanya Tiwari

February 1, 2016

From The Catholic Register (Sharanya Tiwari is a Grade 11 Catholic high school student of Hindu faith. Out of all the entries, it was her essay on Christians united in “their rich faith in Christ” that set her apart from the others in the annual Friars’ Student Writing Award held in conjunction with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.) In a society where divisions exist within particular religions, even the strongest believers can have difficulty understanding their faith. They may even underestimate their spiritual worth. Today, there are many denominations within Christianity. However, despite these many denominations, one indisputable similarity exists between all Christians — their faiths can be traced back to Jesus [...]

PRAYER: Prayers For The Peace And Unity Of The Church by Arthur Judson Brown

February 1, 2016

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace, give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions.  Take away all hatred and prejudice and whatsoever else may hinder us from Godly union and concord, that, as there is but one body and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may henceforth be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen. O God of Peace, who through your son, Jesus Christ, did set forth one faith for the salvation of mankind, send your [...]

UNITY: Ecumenical Dialogue by Pope Francis

January 26, 2016

From The Joy of the Gospel Commitment to ecumenism responds to the prayer of the Lord Jesus that “they may all be one.”  The credibility of the Christian message would be much greater if Christians could overcome their divisions and the church could realize “the fullness of catholicity proper to her in those of her children who, though joined to her by baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her.”  We must never forget that we are pilgrims journeying alongside one another.  This means that we must have sincere trust in our fellow pilgrims, putting aside all suspicion or mistrust, and turn our gaze to what we are all seeking: the radiant peace of God’s face.  Trusting others is an art and peace [...]

PRAYER: For The Week Of Prayer For Christian Unity 2016

January 25, 2016

Created by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Prayers for the Holy Spirit Holy Spirit, gift of the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ, dwell in us all, open our hearts and help us to listen to your voice. Holy Spirit, come upon us. Holy Spirit, Divine Love, source of unity and holiness, show us the love of God. Holy Spirit, come upon us. Holy Spirit, Fire of Love, purify us, removing all divisions in our hearts, in our communities and in the world, and so make us one in Jesus’s name. Holy Spirit, come upon us. Holy Spirit, strengthen our faith in Jesus, truly divine and truly human, who carried our sins of division to the cross and brought us to communion in his resurrection. Holy Spirit, come upon us. Father, Son, and Holy [...]

PRAYER: Salt Of The Earth, Day 8 — The Fellowship Of The Apostles

January 25, 2016

A Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2016; created by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Starting Point Reflections from Levi Ivars Graudins, the founder of the Gaizins House of Prayer. Set in Gaizins, Latvia’s highest hill, this house of prayer regularly hosts the 40-hour fellowship of Christian leaders who, for the duration, are supported in prayer and worship by the faithful.  These encounters renew the leaders as fellow-workers in Christ, and help shape the visible expression of ecumenical life in Latvia. Jesus’s commandment to love one another is not theoretical.  Our communion of love with one another becomes concrete when we gather together intentionally, in apostolic simplicity, as Christ’s disciples to [...]

PRAYER: Salt Of The Earth, Day 7 — Hearts Burning For Unity

January 24, 2016

A Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2016; created by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Starting Point Reflections inspired by Latvians who have come to faith through the Alpha Course. The disciples who leave Jerusalem for Emmaus have lost their hope that Jesus was the Messiah and walk away from their community.  It is a journey of separation and isolation.  By contrast, they return to Jerusalem full of hope with a Gospel message on their lips.  It is this resurrection message that drives them back into the heart of the community and into a communion of fellowship.  So often Christians try to evangelize with a competitive spirit, hoping to fill their own churches.  Ambition overrides the desire for others to hear the [...]

PRAYER: Salt Of The Earth, Day 6 — Hospitality For Prayer

January 23, 2016

A Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2016; created by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Starting Point This reflection comes out of the experience of an ecumenical prayer chapel in the center of the small town, Madona. The chapel grew out of the experience of praying through the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity together.  The group represents Lutheran, Catholic, and Orthodox traditions.  They continue to join in round the clock prayer. As long as God’s people are divided and Christians are estranged from one another, we are like Jesus in Samaria, strangers in a foreign land, without safety, refreshment, or a place of rest.  Isaiah tells us of the Lord’s mighty act: he posted sentinels on the walls of Jerusalem so [...]

PRAYER: Salt Of The Earth, Day 5 — Listen To This Dream

January 22, 2016

A Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2016; created by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Starting Point Reflections from the editors of an ecumenical journal, Kas Mus Vieno? (What Unites Us?), founded in 2005 as a response to disunity. Christian disunity hurts.  Churches suffer from their inability to be united as one family at the Lord’s Table.  They suffer from rivalry and from histories of combativeness.  When Joseph shares his dream with his brothers they react with anger and violence as the dream implies they must bow down before him.  In Egypt, when they ultimately do bow before him, they experience reconciliation and grace rather than the abasement and dishonor they feared. Jesus, like Joseph’s story, [...]

PRAYER: Salt Of The Earth, Day 4 — A Priestly People Called To Proclaim The Gospel

January 21, 2016

A Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2016; created by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Starting Point Reflections inspired by the Producers of Vertikale, a Sunday morning Christian program on Latvian TV. They have learnt “that only when we recognize other Christians as brothers and sisters can we dare to take God’s Word into the public space.” Words flood our lives: in conversation; from television, radio, and social media.  These words have the power to build up and to knock down.  Much of this ocean of words can seem meaningless: diversion rather than nourishment.  This ocean could drown us, where there is little meaning to grasp.  But the saving Word we have heard has been thrown to us as a lifeline. [...]

PRAYER: Salt Of The Earth, Day 3 — The Witness Of Fellowship

January 20, 2016

A Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2016; created by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Starting Point This reflection is inspired by Chemin Neuf. Chemin Neuf in an international Catholic community with an ecumenical vocation that has been present in Latvia since the early 2000s.  Catholic and Lutheran members experience the joy of the “common life” in Christ which is “to welcome, love, serve, pray, and witness with Christians from diverse traditions.”  They also experience the pain of disunity: “The world cannot believe that we are Jesus’s disciples when we cannot receive together the body and blood of Christ.”  As a sign of this division, they place an empty paten and chalice on the [...]

PRAYER: Salt Of The Earth, Day 2 — Called To Be Heralds Of Joy

January 19, 2016

A Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2016; created by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Starting Point Reflections from the creators of Christian programming at Latvian State Radio In the Soviet era, a Christian presence through public media was impossible in Latvia.  Since independence, Latvian State Radio broadcasts Christian programs providing a forum for leaders from diverse churches to encounter one another.  This public witness of mutual respect, love, and joy contributed to the spirit of Latvian ecumenical life. The joy of the Gospel calls Christians to live the prophecy of Isaiah: “to bring good news to the oppressed.” When we are saddened by our own suffering, we may lack the vigor to proclaim the joy that [...]

PRAYER: Salt Of The Earth, Day 1 — Let The Stone Be Rolled Away

January 18, 2016

A Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 2016; created by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland Starting Point Reflections from the Catholic Youth Centre of the Archdiocese of Riga [Latvia] (CYCAR) From their experience of organizing an annual Ecumenical Way of the Cross, the CYCAR reflect on the meaning of the passion and resurrection in their context, and the Lord’s mighty acts that Christians are called to proclaim. Latvia’s Soviet history continues to cast a shadow.  The grief and pain of wounds inflicted are difficult to forgive and, like the stone at Jesus’s tomb, they can imprison us in a spiritual grave.  Jesus’s resurrection is the earthshaking event that opens our graves, frees us from pain and [...]

THE CHURCH: Unity And The Soul

June 10, 2014

The other day, I was handed a piece of paper, printed double-sided.  It was a copy of an article from First Things, entitled The End of Protestantism (Peter J. Leithart).  In this article he claimed the church is moving away from anti-Catholicism as a whole, and should just put down any expressions of reformist nonsense. Be still, Anabaptists! Oh wait.  Perhaps not.  Perhaps just the opposite. But you get the idea, I imagine. And as I read through this article, and read through this article, and again, I wiggled about in my seat and twisted my head around and wondered at the boldness of this assertion.  And I wondered where, exactly, it came from. Well, the truth is, I know exactly where it came from. It comes from Rome. I have [...]