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Reflection on Unity   PDF  Print  E-mail 

A number of activities were organised in the Sultanate of Oman to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the Bible Society Movement. In Sep of 2004 all pastors and lay leaders of churches in Oman were invited for an exclusive leaders’ meeting to discuss and highlight the work of the local Bible Society and how to move forward as the church. The keynote address was given by Rev Rolf Pearson, the MECC Gulf Liason Officer. The Middle East Council of Churches’ mission is to support the Christian presence in the Middle East and give voice to the oppressed, the poor and the downtrodden. Rev Pearson travels widely in the Gulf and Middle East helping churches in the Arabian Peninsula connect with other members of the MECC in the region. Rolf has been seconded to the MECC by the Church of Sweden. He and his wife Kirsten, have lived in the Gulf for 8 years. This is their second year in Muscat, Oman. They have four children. Rolf believes that the churches need to be inclusive rather than exclusive if we are to make an impact.

The following is the text of Rev Rolf Pearson’s address: When I see us together here this evening to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Bible Society Movement, I am reminded of the words in Psalm 135: “How good it is when brothers live together in unity.” And I am sure that God our father thinks so when he sees his children coming together to listen and interpret his word, to sing his praises and fellowship with one another. God rejoices when he sees his children have open fellowship with one another.

Being what I am, the one who always want to bring all Gods children together, not just for fun only but also for challenges, I am now going to reflect on a few Bible texts and what they say to me about unity.

Here we are sisters and brothers, from different churches, but belonging to the same family of God and celebrating together the word of God. Some of us are not so different from one another some of us are very different. But we do  not have different lords. We all have the same Lord. Andwe all have the same Bible. And it is from this Bible, from the word of God we celebrate today, that we find one of the most important facts of God: God is one and in him there is no disunity. There is no division in God. There are no splits in God. He is one.

Some of us may be Protestants, one of the thousand varieties of Protestants, but my Lord is not a Protestant, some of us may be Catholics but the Lord is not a Catholic, some of us may be Orthodox but the Lord is not an Orthodox. Well, yes, the Lord is a true Orthodox but also a true Catholic and a true Protestant but he is also the Lord of all Christians. Because the Lord is very ecumenical. In him there are no dividing walls.

In his last prayer for the disciples, in the gospel of St. John, he says: I pray that they all may be one, that the world may believe that you have sent me. We all know this passage in the Bible. And we all have the same Bible. The very reason for us coming here today. But how do we understand the message? “I pray that they all may be one, that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

If we are not one, what does the world believe? Does it believe that Jesus is the Son of God?

God places the initiative and the possibilities in our hands. He trusts his Son in our hands. He depends on our efforts, in our efforts to bring unity among Christian sisters and brothers. Without unity, there is no church. Without unity there is no functioning body of Christ but just parts separated from each other. Without unity we only have a church that does not know how to reach out with the word of God to a broken world with acts of reconciliation, healing and justice to the poor and the suffering.

If we cannot reach out with the Word of God together, then what use is there in celebrating the Word of God as we do today?

When the world sees that it is not evident that Christians find it good and pleasant to come together in unity and that some even find it unnecessary, unpleasant and even wrong, then the world will not believe in a God of love fellowship and reconciliation.

In another very strong word of God we hear St. Paul say in his letter to the Ephesians: “Make every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force.” He does not say: make some effort. He does not say that meeting other Christians and churches and listen to them and learn to respect them is something that can wait or even be forgotten.

He does not say that getting to know other Christians and even to help them in their needs is something we should maybe consider if we have the time and the resources. He does not say that we should stay away from other believers and develop our own specialties and preferences. He does not say that we have the right to judge and even condemn one another.

St. Paul says: make every effort to create unity, through the means of peace. Every effort. That is the number one priority. It is the criteria which all church programs should take into consideration in one way or another. To create unity is to work for peace. To turn to one another, not to turn away from one another, to respect not suspect, to reconcile and sacrifice that which is not of God but of men.

Today when we celebrate the Bible Society’s groundbreaking work of spreading the Word of God for 200 years we have seen how the Bible stresses the importance of unity. We have seen how God in the psalms wants us to have a good and pleasant fellowship; and as St. John says: so that the world may believe in Christ and as St. Paul says to make every effort to create peace.

But there is one more motif from the Bible I would like to bring to your attention: John writes about Jesus last words at the cross. In John 19:25-27 we see that there were just a few people left at the cross with Jesus. The disciples, the great missionaries and apostles, they who were the builders of our different church traditions, they who are our forefathers and from whom we have inherited our different types of faiths and doctrines, these important founders, they all run away from the cross. And they not only denied their faith in the Lord but also denied him the love and company he needed when he was forsaken by everyone.

But, still standing close to the cross, is Mary, the mother of a dying son, the mother of God. And there is Mary Magdalena, the outcast, despised by everyone but accepted by Jesus, forgiven and reborn to new life and the first witness to the resurrection. And John, the young disciple, who probably did not understand very much what was going on.

And Jesus turns to these small insignificant people in the eyes of the world, and commands them to take care of each other. Be a family: Mary there is your son, Son: there is your mother. Take care of one another.

While Jesus last prayer for the disciples was to be one, his last command for us all is to take care of each other. So come closer friends. Let us see each other. Let us listen to what God has to say to us and what we have to say to one another, who we are, where we come from, what are our dreams and hopes, where we are going. And let us make every effort to help one another in our needs and let us join hands in fellowship and serve the Lord so that the world may believe.

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