Pastor’s Email Devotion
The Week of Epiphany 2
January 18, 2015
Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. (John 17:11, NRSV)
It was good to be away … it will be good to get back home. I often find myself saying this at the end of vacations. I like being away from my normal life for short periods of time, but I also look forward to returning to that familiar life. That is how I felt this morning about the privilege of preaching at Highland Presbyterian Church, as part of our Manheim Township Ministerium pulpit exchange Sunday. I got to worship with a number of Christian friends who are rarely in the same sanctuary as me on Sundays. I got to preach at both their traditional and contemporary venues. I had the chance to strengthen ties with a couple of pastoral colleagues. I had a front row seat for two baptisms that were celebrated. And I was the recipient of a lovely spirit of hospitality. But … I will also be glad to be back at St. Peter’s next weekend. I missed the sacrament of the altar. I missed our rich liturgy. I missed the chance of being involved in Christian education between our worship services. I missed a number of aspects of our New Day worship environment. I missed many of our members, and the chance to catch up on life events that have arisen since last week. Yes, it was good to be away, and it will be good to get back home.
What might have been the best thing about the morning, however, was the sense of common purpose between the Presbyterians and this Lutheran. And as I experienced this ecumenical spirit directly, I knew at the same time that our flock at St. Peter’s was also warmly welcoming Pr. Josh from the Lancaster Brethren in Christ church. And the same spirit was being embodied at three other congregations in our township. It sounds like a small thing. But in a world that feels as if it covets polarization in so many facets of life, this felt like a small step forward. We have not always played nicely with each other as the Church of Jesus’ followers. But maybe there is still hope for us to embody Jesus’ prayer above from St. John’s Gospel.
As you pray and reflect on life and faith this week, first, pray for the Church … the entirety of the Church. No matter how many pulpit exchanges we celebrate, we will never have a credible witness of Christian unity, until we can get past our differences surround how we dress, or how we sing, or how modern our worship services are, or what we think about baptism and communion, or the level of authority with which we empower our leaders. We have far more in common as Christians, than we have that divides us. What a blessing it would be if we could act as if we understood that. Pray for that understanding, my friends.
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 whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one body and one Spirit, 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 peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
~~ A Prayer for the Unity of the Church, Church of England