19 January 2023
Praying through the Week of
Christian Unity and with USPG:
19 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 yesterday (18 January 2023), and between now and 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 this evening with ‘Come and Sing Evensong’ at 7:30 in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford. I hope to be part of this service this evening as a member of the choir in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church.
Choral Evensong is one of the great English musical traditions, with its rich biblical language and emotive music. Choirs and singers from across Milton Keynes are gathering for a brief rehearsal at 6 pm. The Revd Lisa Kerry, the Baptist Regional Minister, is speaking and the Moderator of the United Reformed Church East Midlands Synod, the Revd Geoffrey Clarke is leading the intercessions.
Day 2: When justice is done …
Proverbs 21: 13-15:
When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous, but dismay to evildoers.
Matthew 23: 23-25:
Justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done.
From the beginning, the Book of Proverbs sets out to provide wisdom and instruction in “wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity” (1: 2). Throughout its oracles of wisdom, the call to act justly and to pursue righteousness is a constant refrain, relentlessly shared and affirmed as more acceptable to God than sacrifice. In a one-sentence pearl of wisdom, the speaker testifies that the righteous rejoice when justice is done. But justice upsets the workers of iniquity. Christians, across their separations, should be united in joy when justice is done, and prepared to stand together when this justice brings opposition. When we do what the Lord requires and dare to pursue justice, we may find ourselves in a whirlwind of resistance and opposition to any attempt to make things right for the most vulnerable among us.
Those who benefit from the systems and structures buttressed by White supremacy and other oppressive ideologies such as “casteism” and patriarchy will seek to delay and deny justice, often violently. But to seek justice is to strike at the heart of the powers, making space for God’s just ordering and enduring wisdom in a world all too often unmoved by suffering. And yet, there is joy in doing what is right.
There is joy in affirming that “Black Lives Matter” in the pursuit of justice for God’s oppressed, dominated, and exploited beloved. There is joy in seeking reconciliation with other Christians so that we may better serve the proclamation of the kingdom. Let that joy manifest itself through our shared experiences of God’s presence in community in the known and unknown spaces where God journeys with us toward healing, reconciliation and unity in Christ.
The religious leaders Jesus addresses in the Gospel passage have grown accustomed and comfortable with the injustices of the world. They are happy to perform religious duties such as tithing mint, dill and cumin, but neglect the weightier and more disruptive demands of justice, mercy and faithfulness. Similarly Christians have grown accustomed and comfortable with the divisions that exist between us. We are faithful in much of our religious observance, but often we neglect the Lord’s challenging desire that all his disciples be one.
How can local congregations support one another to withstand the opposition that may follow from doing justice?
God, you are the source of our wisdom. We pray for wisdom and courage to do justice, to respond to what is wrong in the world by acting to make it right;
We pray for wisdom and courage to grow in the unity of your Son, Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit, reigns forever and ever. Amen.
USPG Prayer Diary:
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began yesterday (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 pray for a healing of divisions. May we know the humility and wisdom of Christ in our search for reconciliation.
30 seconds of bell ringing at Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford … the venue for Choral Evensong this evening (Patrick Comerford)