Blog Space of Rev. Adrian J. Pratt B.D, pastor at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, Ellicott City, MD

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Church United?

Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we began a journey last week titled “The Conundrums of Corinth” (and their legacy in the church). The first sermon “Even Good churches have bad days” can be found here. We are looking at passages that are from the First Book of Corinthians. We take a look this week at 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 and the topic of church unity. Although it is an occasion that most churches in my current location do not seem to observe the 18th-25th January 2017 mark the International Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Personally I've always thought it was a total scandal that there even exists such things as denominations. What a glaring testimony to our intolerance and inability to be the people God called us to be! Jesus prayed that we may be One as He and His Father were one. End of story right there. In as much as we turn away from that ideal, we build our own little empires rather than build God's kingdom.

Of course that sounds idealistic and unrealistic. Yet... and here's the kicker... do we honestly believe that in eternity there is going to be a segregated heaven? Do we think there will be a Catholic enclave, a Presbyterian paddock and a big old building for Southern Baptists? Do we honestly believe that our different doctrinal understandings and emphasis, our structures and ways of worship, our books of order and decisions of church councils over who is 'in' and who is 'out'... are going to matter one iota?

If Jesus prayed that we may be united, and our destiny at the end of all things is to be united... shouldn't we be working towards such ends here on earth? Don't we even pray every Sunday that 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?"

Yes. We know this. But then it becomes difficult. We have so much invested in our history and our buildings and our heritage. We know people fought and died to establish some of our traditions. And... to be honest... we like the way WE do things. If we wanted to sing those songs, or worship in that way... then we'd go to that church.

Meantime the world looks on and says "See how these Christians love one another. What a joke!" Our witness is compromised. The prayer of Jesus that we may be 'One' goes largely unheard. Our eternal destiny as one people of God is something we are quite happy to put off till then and ignore in the present.

So some here are some questions related to the reading from Scripture. They give a clue to what I'll be preaching about this coming Sunday. (And if you are in the area you are welcome to join us at 10:00 am.)
  • Is Christ divided?
  • Why is Paul thankful that he didn't baptize anybody?
  • What will we do to promote unity among our fellow Christians?
I am so grateful to those who have not become so jaded by the disjointed church that they have lost the vision for us being together again. Some of my greatest experiences of worship have been at events where people forgot about their differences and focused on the unity they have in and through Jesus Christ. As a teenager, a memorable milestone in my own spiritual journey, was attending the Greenbelt festival in the U.K. way back in 1979. (Yes...I'm that old!)

Thanks to the wonder of the internet, here is one of the performances from way back then. Bryn Haworth, singing 'We're all One'. CLICK HERE. I love the optimism of his last verse "I know that God has saved me, saved me for the day, when I'll hear the people singing, and everyone will say, We're all one..."

And you just got to love that seventies fashion sense, the cars, the tents, the hair, the flared trousers...
Here's the lyrics in their totality. I pray that there may be other occasions in our discipleship journey when we get to move beyond our little boxes and into the reality of our unity in Jesus Christ.

"WE’RE ALL ONE" by Bryn Haworth

Listen to me children, Can't you hear the call
Can't you see the writing, That's written on the wall
It took so long to write it, Then they passed it through the age
Telling all creation, Everybody can be saved.
We’re all one...

Well I was riding on the railway, I took a look around
All the different people, Couldn't find no common ground
Well we've got one Maker, And we're under one roof
And if you've got love, Then you need no other proof
We’re all one...

Crazy people fighting, Fight in other lands
How you kill for Jesus, I just don't understand
I said tell me Lord tell me, What are you gonna do
He said when you point the finger, Then the finger points at you
You’re all one...

I like to play the music, It gets me on my feet
I need to play it loud, because I want to hear the beat
And I know that God has saved me, Saved me for the day
When I'll hear the people singing, And everyone will say
We're all one...

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