Grace and Peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord, Jesus Christ.
I have to admit that it is a little strange to return to a place where you sensed God calling you into ministry. In a way it is a little intimidating because these are the people that experienced you in the infancy of your faith and walked with you through this strange calling. There is also a bit of reassurance that happens within this as well. They are supportive and grace-filled. Even when you attempt to sing the liturgy and they realize a week later that one of the stain-glass windows is cracked! (I am sure it was just coincidence)
In the gospel of Luke this morning Jesus returns to Nazareth shortly after he was baptized. Jesus, entering the synagogue and standing up to preach, reads from Isaiah and in doing so fulfills the promise in scriptures. This is a life-changing event for Jesus. He boldly proclaims his calling and teaches from the scripture. Everyone is intently listening as all of the eyes in the room are turned towards him and every ear hanging on to each word that came out of his mouth. Is what he was preaching what they expected to hear? We are left hanging until next week!
Jesus sets the example for us of stepping out into the crowd and speaking boldly. He proclaims the scripture that has been placed in his hands. He comes bearing love and reconciliation for a world that is in friction with God’s intentions. Even the leaders within the Jewish church cannot agree on their beliefs and teachings.
Each faith tradition has its own sects which confess to varied beliefs and doctrines. In a way this is a great thing that we are able to do as humans. However, we tend to let these differences get in our way of working towards a better and greater community. Separately we can make little differences in the community around us. It is when we come together that we can multiply the impact upon our community and reach a greater number of people.
Throughout scripture Jesus calls us together to work with one another and to love one another. Jesus is the teacher of our faith and we must listen intently. We too can be teachers as we learn from him and share that with those around our community. This week we celebrate The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. We are called together to be with one another in prayer and love. The theme for this years Prayer for Christian Unity comes from 1 Peter:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10
The World Council of Churches has been celebrating The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity since 1968. Recorded prayers for our brothers and sisters in other churches can go back as far as Scotland in 1740 when prayers were included for all churches. It is a call for churches around the world to reach out with prayers and a sense of ecumenism to other churches in our community, country, and world. Trinity already has a history of coming together with our brothers and sisters at First UCC and First UMC various times throughout the year for services. What a wonderful thing it is for us to come together in unity to celebrate God and give thanks for one another. This week is a reminder to keep those relationships in our prayers as well as those that may be strained.
The churches of Latvia were instrumental in putting the resources together for this years Week of Prayer. Latvia’s churches have come together as it struggled as a new state in the aftermath of World War I until the second World War came and they fell under the rule of Nazism and Communism. It was during these times that it could be dangerous to make it known that you were a Christian. As the countries Christians came together in this time or turmoil they developed deep bonds with one another. After the country regained its independence in 1991, there has been a great renewal within the Christian churches in Latvia. The font that you see in this posting is from the Lutheran Cathedral in Riga, the nations capital. There is a good relationship among the nations largest denominations, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and other smaller Christian churches.
While it may not be perfect, there is a great sense of unity that occurs within the churches of Latvia. While unity seems to be the story in Latvia, at times it appears that in the United States there is more dis-unity. From the number of different denominations that we have to the independent work that is done by each of them.
Whenever disagreements sprout up within the church it appears to be another reason to split off and create a different church or denomination. It is my believe that it is much better to stay and enter into conversation with one another and be in relationship. During my second year of seminary I had the experience of having a congregation that I was working with decide to leave the ELCA. It was not a healthy time in the life of the church and left many split with differing viewpoints.
As a church we can accomplish much more as we work together in unity as a royal priesthood as 1 Peter states. We are not only called to live with God in our lives and actions, but also to live with our brothers and sisters. As we are called as God’s people, we must rejoice in the light that has brightened our darkness. There is no better way than to rejoice together and lift one another up in prayer. One such instance that happened these past couple of days were Finnish Lutherans were welcomed at the table and received Holy Communion at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
As we pray and work together we multiply the love of Christ throughout our communities and neighborhoods. We are called to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord, not individually, but communally. May we continue to pray for Christian Unity throughout our community, country, and world. By coming together may our prayers reverberate and may the saving Grace of Christ be experienced by all.