April 17, 2015 - Pastors Luncheon Reflections
It’s another milestone!
No less than twenty leaders, young and older, Catholic and Evangelical, shared a luncheon fellowship yesterday (April 17, 2015) at the Phoenix Diocesan Center with Bishop Olmstead and Auxiliary Bishop Nevares. Each leader had a chance to tell his or her life and ministry story—and to hear Bishop Olmstead share his.
Following the event, one of our Evangelical brothers texted me, “It was really moving to be ‘inside’ that much history, presence, and power and yet sense true humility, kindness and a genuine love for Jesus.”
Yes, it was a blessed time. We are in an historic time, as prominent leaders from both Evangelical and Roman Catholic communities are discovering, in spite of what some consider profound differences, that we are brother and sisters in Christ.
We are living Ephesians 2:14-18 (ESV): For [Jesus] himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility … that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Of course, Paul is writing about Jews and Gentiles, but the message is clear. Wherever there’s a “dividing wall of hostility,” the work of Christ on the cross destroys the hostility that creates the barrier—and makes the two one. None of us has access to the Father because we have all our doctrines exactly right…we have access to the Father “in the Spirit.” Indeed, we share the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
March 20th, 2015 - John 17 Service Reflections
When it comes to the call to Christian unity we live in tension. Through our redemption in Christ we were given the gift of being brought into the unity of the Trinity, which provides the model and source of our unity with our brothers and sisters. Although unity is a gift, we are to be active participants. We are called to, make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Eph 4:3).
Our Gathering on March 20th was a beautiful expression of this. We came together in our diversity male and female, young and old, clergy and lay, up-front servant, and behind-the-scene servant, light skin and dark skin. We worshipped in English and in Spanish. We gave thanks and celebrated the unity we are now experiencing together as well as the expectancy that God is moving us deeper and farther in the days ahead.
God also brought us to face the painful reality that, “Our divisions are a monstrous act of disobedience.” And that His heart is broken around our divisions and He invites us enter into this grieving with Him. To feel this pain deeply, to sit with it and allow it draw us in humility, to own our sinful attitudes and actions that deepen existing divisions and even create new ones. God met with us and gave us great grace to confess and turn from our sins and we experienced His forgiveness, cleansing, refreshment and renewed energy to, “Make the unity of the Body of Christ our passionate concern.”
John 17 in Ogdensburg, New York
Just a short report on Matteo and I's trip to Massena New York Feb 19-22.
Massena is on the St Lawrence River directly across from Canada. Pastor Don Curry of New Testament Church has been the coordinator for the local ministerial association for a number of years and has reached out and included the priests of the two Catholic Parishes in town. He has a great heart for unity. He arranged for Matteo and I to come and have lunch with Bishop Terry LaValley in Ogdensburg on Friday the 20th. Three additional priests joined us for our meal and fellowship time; Father's Doug, Kevin and Gary Gireaux.
Friday evening we had a joint meeting of Catholic and Protestants in New Testament Church and Matteo shared the vision for unity as presented by Pope Frances. Father Gary Gireaux joined us for the meeting and helped to lead us in prayer around the altar at the end.
Saturday we had a brunch for the ministers of the area where people were allowed to ask questions of Matteo. I believe there were many obstacles removed in this intimate time of fellowship.
Matteo ministered on Sunday as well. I was his interpreter, not particularly of his Italian but of the intent of his english sentences! In each of the meetings Matteo sang a song 'ABBA Padre' in Italian. The presence of the Lord was so touching at that moment as the song is a prayer for unity.
There was much ground work laid for further initiatives of unity in the whole Ogdensburg/Massena area. Bishop LaValley was very interested in Matteo starting a 'Community of Jesus' in his community. More meetings are being planned!
To God be the glory!
For many, “ecumenical” means one world church, compromise, apostasy. In fact, for most people it’s just a more sophisticated term for unity. An online dictionary defines it simply as “promoting or fostering Christian unity throughout the world.” The term comes from the Latin oecumenicus, which means “belonging to the whole inhabited world.”
More broadly, “ecumenical” refers to something that includes or contains a mixture of diverse elements or styles, so you could have an ecumenical meal of German, Italian, and Chinese dishes.
And “ecumenism” is movement about unity.
With all that said, I think I prefer just using the word “unity.” It’s what Jesus famously prayed for in John 17, that we would be one as the Son and the Father are one, that is, that Christian believers would experience the transcendent and perfect unity shared in the communal being of our Triune God.
To describe John 17 unity, I lean heavily on the adjective “transcendent,” like the peace of God that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7). In other words, unity is something we can experience and live, but it may not be possible entirely to define it. In fact, as soon as we define precisely the unity of the Spirit, what it is and what it isn’t, we also create a kind of unity screening system that we can used to decide who can and who can’t in unity with us. Unity with parameters is an oxymoron.
Unfortunately, those of us who live in a Western culture don’t think a lot about transcendence. Mostly, we want things neatly defined so we can know who’s right and who’s wrong, but according to 1 Corinthians, love triumphs over every difference. In I Corinthians 13:2 the Apostle Paul writes, “If I … can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge … but do not have love,” I’m just making a lot of noise.
A recent article on ecumenism from the on-line “Vatican Insider” reports that Cardinal Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict, stood firmly on transcendent unity.
“For a true ecumenism to exist it is important to recognize the supremacy of divine [transcendent] action and there are two consequences to this attitude. The first is that ecumenism requires patience. The real success of ecumenism” does not consist in constantly reaching new agreements, in new “contracts” on different aspects of the separation. It “consists in perseverance, walking together, in the humility which respects the others, even where we have not yet achieved a compatibility in church doctrine or practice; it consists in the willingness to learn from each other and to accept each other’s corrections, in joy and thanksgiving for each one’s spiritual treasures, in a permanent essentialization of one’s own faith, doctrine and practice, which must be continually purified and nourished by Scripture, while we keep our eyes fixed on the Lord.”
Unity is about fixing our eyes on Jesus, submission to one another out of reverence for Christ. It’s what I like to call Jesus plus nothing. Many things are very important, but only our shared relationship with Jesus is essential.
If your heart and brain can take it, there’s much more to consider in the full article: http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/the-vatican/detail/articolo/ratinger-ecumenismo-ecumenism-39326/.