21 January 2023
Praying through the Week of
Christian Unity and with USPG:
21 January 2023
Christmas is not a season of 12 days, despite the popular Christmas song. Christmas is a 40-day season that lasts from Christmas Day (25 December) to Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation (2 February).
Throughout the 40 days of this Christmas Season, I have been reflecting in these ways:
1, Reflecting on a seasonal or appropriate poem;
2, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’
However, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began earlier this week (18 January 2023), and until next Wednesday my morning reflections look at this year’s readings and prayers.
Churches Together in Milton Keynes continues to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity today with a Mission Fair in the Church of the Servant King, Furzton, from 10 am to 4 pm.
A large number of charities and mission agencies are based in Milton Keynes. They make a huge difference to our communities – and to the wider world. This is an opportunity to meet some of these change-makers and find out how they can be supported in their crucial work. There will be stalls, talks, activities and cake.
The afternoon will finish with a ‘Cost of Living Summit’ at 3 pm that includes speakers from key agencies.
Day 4: Look, the tears of the oppressed
Ecclesiastes 4: 1-5:
Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed – with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power with no one to comfort them.
Matthew 5: 1-8
… Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted …
“Look, the tears of the oppressed.” One can imagine that the writer has witnessed atrocities like this before with sickening regularity. And yet perhaps this is the first time the writer has truly seen the tears of the oppressed, has fully taken in their pain and their subjugation. While there is much to lament, in a new looking and a new seeing there is also a seed of hope: maybe this time this witnessing will lead to change, will make a difference.
A young woman looked and saw the tears of the oppressed. The video she shot on her phone of the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 was seen all around the world and unleashed a holy rage as people witnessed, and finally acknowledged, what African Americans have experienced for centuries: undue subjugation by oppressive systems in the midst of privileged blind bystanders. Acknowledging this painful reality has led to a global outpouring of overdue compassion both in the form of prayer and protest for justice.
The progression from simply looking to seeing and understanding gives encouragement for us as actors in this earthly reality: God can remove scales from our eyes to witness things in new and liberating ways. As those scales fall, the Holy Spirit provides insight, and also, conviction to respond in new and unfettered ways. One response the churches and communities made was to establish a prayer tent at George Floyd Square, the place of his murder. In this way, these churches and communities were united in offering comfort to those who mourned and were oppressed.
Matthew’s account of the Beatitudes begins with Jesus seeing the crowds. In that crowd he must have seen those who were peacemakers, the poor in spirit, the pure in heart, men and women who mourned, and those who hungered for justice. In the beatitudes, Jesus not only names people’s struggles, he names what they will be: the children of God and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. As Christians we are called to see the holy struggles of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
How have you engaged with Christian groups addressing oppression in your neighbourhood? How can the churches in your locality come together to better show solidarity with those suffering oppression?
God of justice and grace, remove the scales from our eyes so we can truly see the oppression around us.
We pray in the name of Jesus who saw the crowds and had compassion for them. Amen.
The reredos in the Unitarian Church, Dublin, is inscribed with the Beatitudes, one on each panel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
USPG Prayer Diary:
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began three days ago (18 January), and the theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is the ‘Week of Prayer For Christian Unity.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday with a reflection from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches.
The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:
Let us give thanks for the World Council of Churches. May our different Churches unite to confront injustice and oppression in our divided world.