WHAT’S IT (SAYING) TO ME?

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I’VE BEEN PONDERING the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I don’t want to let it go again just yet, don’t want simply to consign it to next January, Sunday’s having come and gone, and having made a happy visit to “someone else’s church”, because the question, the important question that such a week begs is to do with what kind of “life in all its fullness” do we think we’re looking for? What might the Divine will for unity be? What’s the ‘theme for 2011’ really asking us to see? –

One in the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. Acts 2 : 42-47

– what kind of teaching were the apostles one in? What kind of fellowship? What’s the breaking of bread about? What kind of prayer? Why does anybody care? What has any of this got to say to me, about me? Because it must be first about something that matters to, that speaks to me, before I can hope to know, to feel in another human soul, any kind of real unity. And yet I do know and I do feel real unity between me and many another human person who calls me beyond my “I” to a life-enhancing “We”. And not all of them by a long chalk walk the spiritual paths that the Church would always recognise as Christianity.

And I’m becoming more and more sure that a great deal of that knowing and a great deal of that feeling emanates from my quietly growing ability to “let it be”. The repenting, the metanoia, the turning around to look at life – and at this and that – from a different angle keeps confronting me with “let it be”.

The apostles’ teaching encourages us to follow in The Way of Jesus whose life was an essay in being free from anxious thought about anything. “Behold the birds of the air and the lilies of the field which neither reap nor spin, yet your heavenly Father cares for them”. The fellowship the apostles shared arose from their attendance at the same school of life. The bread they broke and shared spoke of hospitality given and received by a whole humankind that simply wouldn’t be alive without it! And then there was the poetry of their prayer. That which lay within them, “in there”, that every human being on earth is – one might almost say – pre-programmed to need to share. For ever and ever Amen. Even unto martyrdom if necessary.

Where’s our unity? How shall we love God and one another more beautifully? Over thirty years ago Brother Roger Schütz of Taizé and many hundreds of young pilgrims from every part of the globe sowed a seed that’s still alive in me. A seed that has flourished and been nurtured and watered through years of ensuing worship. And the gentle breeze of the Spirit that now wafts through her leaves and branches whispers “let it be” … that’s how you’ll come to know life in all its fullness, that’s where you’ll find your real self … “let it be” … that’s where you’ll find real unity.

What was it that Rachel Mann was “saying” to me over the weekend? And Giles Fraser, too:

I WONDER what it might be like for us religious types to let go of our need to matter, and to embrace our irrelevance. I suspect that we might be more relaxed and a little more attractive. – Rachel Mann

Forget church politics. The wilderness – even an ecumenical one – is an opportunity to discover what is most important: to search out the source of life, and to share that life with others. This is what all baptised Christians are called to do. – Giles Fraser

What might the Divine will for unity be? What’s the ‘theme for 2011’ really asking us to see? And what’s any of it saying to, what’s any of it got to do with me? And (in this year of the AV) with thee?

JOY OF THE KINGDOM

I’M TO PREACH AT ST VINCENT’S R.C. CHURCH tomorrow in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Isaiah speaks of a people having seen a great light; the psalm, of the Lord’s being our light and our help; Paul’s encouraging the Church in Corinth to be united in belief and practice and to preach Good News; the first disciples respond to Jesus’ call to follow; the Communion Antiphon: “Look up at the Lord with gladness and smile; your face will never be ashamed”; and the Prayer after Communion: “God, all-powerful Father, may the new life you give us increase our love and keep us in the joy of your kingdom.” So I just know it’s going to be a good day. We’re going to be given new life. New every morning. And that’s where and how we’re all truly united. God is good.

RECOVERY OF SIGHT

THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY brought two extra-ordinary gifts to St Michael & All Angels, Bramhall. Last Sunday the Reverend Geoffrey Clarke, Minister of Trinity Methodist/URC Church in Cheadle preached for us with passion and compassion. Gospel imperatives come alive in Geoffrey’s hands. Haiti came “nearer to us than when we first believed.” And this morning Margaret Dexter-Brown from Bramhall United Reformed Church brought us a “journalist’s account” of the sabbath morning when Jesus took up the Scroll in the synagogue and read from the prophecy of Isaiah …

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

“Oh, that voice! Beautifully read. Beautifully spoken. You could have sat there and listened to him all day”. A journalist’s account of a man who looked like he himself was about to bring good news to the poor. And then it began to dawn on our newspaperman that this isn’t just about a bloke called Isaiah bringing some good news; not just about a fabulously well-spoken teacher called Jesus bringing some gospel either. The word here is “me”. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. Gospel imperatives came alive in Margaret’s hands, too. And in her journalist’s.

All mindful today of God’s people in Haiti … and of his children in and around Doncaster … and of those in prison … and the millions to whom the Fount and Source of Life wishes to proclaim favour … the question that Geoffrey and Margaret have left in the air and in the heart of Bramhall Parish Church is this:

Does the Gospel imperative of an all inclusive, all embracing, all-compassionate LOVE come alive in our hands? In our churches?

God help us to make it so. For the world-changing Love of the God who anointed us to proclaim it, borne along with the cash we’ve popped into envelopes for the the Haiti Appeals, and the prayers we’ve spoken for little ones born into a fragile society, and the hopes we’ve expressed for the marginalised and the broken, could change life for God’s people in Haiti forever. And ours. (Lord, have mercy). And ours …