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January 19, 2021

“He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.'” Mark 8:29

Yesterday was the Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter. Since 1908, this day has been the first day of an octave (eight-day observance) now known as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In ends January 25 on the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul.

What does it mean for Christians to be united? For what are we praying when we pray for Christian unity? Disunity has been present within the church since its earliest days. The disagreements between James and Paul, with Peter ping-ponging back and forth, are well documented in the New Testament. Today the church lives in a post-schism, still-reforming world. Denominations splinter and struggle for relevance. Where is our unity?

The first unity we have is that gifted to us by Jesus. He, as Peter confessed, is the Messiah. We are united because we are connected in Christ. This unity exists before and beyond our disagreements. We are one because Christ says we are one.

The second unity is the one for which we wait. Common to Christians is our hope for the world to come, the kingdom in which our disagreements will be drowned out by our songs of praise around the throne of the Lamb. When we get there, I can guarantee that we’ll all have been wrong about something. It will no longer matter.

The third unity lives between the other two. It is the unity for which we work. As those who are united by our common confession of Christ as Lord and who share the same eschatological hope, we are called to make our unity more manifest in the world today. This does not mean setting aside or papering over our differences. Quite the opposite. We are called to grapple with what it means to be followers of Jesus so that we might more faithfully live out this call. We are also called to be accountable to one another. Unity cannot exist apart from mutual accountability. We are called, too, to acknowledge that not every difference is a sign of division. Surely the Body of Christ has room for diversity, deep and wide. I love being a Lutheran, but the church would be a poorer place if everyone thought and acted just like me.

So, friends, pray for Christian unity. In thanksgiving, with hope, and for the sake of the work we share. The world needs us, church. In the name of the Messiah, united with the whole people of God, live your call.

Be well, friends. You are loved.

Gracious God, in this world of division you have united your people together in the Body of Christ. As with Peter and Paul, use us to bear witness of the crucified and risen Christ. Let us become living signs of our unifying love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Image: Saint Peter, Marco Zoppo, circa 1468 (public domain).

From → COVID-19

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