In her hymn We Are One (#402 in Voices United) Doreen Lankshear-Smith says: “We are one, as we feast, as we feast peace becomes the sign. In the bread and the wine, there’s a sense of love divine”. These words are very meaningful to me this week as I contemplate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The feast of bread and wine is one of the things that ties the Christian world together. In almost any faith community there will be those days when the worship leader will break the loaf and pour the cup while saying “Do this in remembrance of me”. In a world where it is all too easy to talk about what makes us different, it is good to remember what links us together.
Many people lament the breaking of the Christian community into so many denominations. Some long for a return to a time when there was simply “the church” as a unified thing. But such a time never existed. Differences of opinion and interpretation have led to splits in the church since at least the time of St. Paul, if not earlier. But I see this diversity as a gift.
If the church had been truly united we may only have had one Gospel, Mark. Imagine a world with no Christmas story, no Good Samaritan, no Sermon on the Mount. From the ancient diversity we got 4 gospels, with different pictures of Jesus for us to see. And that diversity continues to bring us gifts.
Today there are more different views on various aspects of Christian theology than I can count. Some of those views are totally opposed to each other. But still it can be a gift. Because of our diversity, our variety, there is a church where different people can feel at home. I would never be a good Anglican, or Roman Catholic, or fundamentalist. But I don’t need to be, just as people who feel alienated by the theology of my denomination are not forced to stay and agree with it.
But, I hear some saying, with so many viewpoints and interpretations what makes us one church? How can all claim the same tradition? Because of Christ, because of things like the Holy Meal. I have met many people with whom I disagree on a wide range of topics. I have yet to meet anyone with whom I would refuse to share the communion meal. That taste of bread and wine reminds us that we are part of one body. It reminds us that we all proclaim a Saviour who did the unthinkable – he died and rose again.
This week Christians across this country are offering prayers for Christian Unity. We echo the prayer of Jesus “that all may be one”. By this we remember that what we have in common is, in the end, far more important than what separates us. There will never be one unified church, but with a little prayer and a little work we can still be united in declaring the amazing love and grace of God. Thanks be to God.