Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
Unity is a word we have heard many times in recent days. At his Inauguration as President of the USA President Biden used much of his speech to call on his people to come together as one after the turbulence and divisiveness of the recent past; to put aside their differences and unite. Interestingly his Inauguration fell during this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and you know how difficult other Christians can be to get along with!
The USA is a huge country extending from mountains to marshland, forests to desert, from agriculture to industry with a correspondingly diverse population comprising many different races, religions, colours and affiliations. He has an immense task on his hands. Yet St Paul faced similar problems with the churches he had set up on his missionary journeys across what we now know as Asia Minor. The communities were insular in a way that is difficult to imagine today where global communications and 24 hour news are readily available. In those days all communication was by word of mouth or by letter carried by hand, on land or by sea. Corinth, to take just one example, had been a prosperous city but had declined until the Roman Empire expanded in the East. They re-opened the derelict port and the city grew rapidly which, of course meant immigration from East and West; freed slaves, rural workers, anyone with an eye to commerce. These people would obviously have brought their traditions and cultures with them. (Perhaps rather like the original settlers of the US?) It would have been difficult for the seed of the Word of God to take root, as Paul was well aware, but it did within a small group of people. However their different origins and customs meant they soon broke into factions with some declaring “I’m for Apollos” or “I’m for Paul” or I’m for Cephas”. Paul’s answer to this was to say “Well, I’m for Christ”.
And this is the crux of the matter!
As Christians, whatever our tradition, whether Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian or Anglican, we are the Body of Christ on earth. And since as St Teresa of Avila pointed out: "Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours”, our mission, set out in the prayer Our Lord taught us is therefore to work to bring God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. This will be a Kingdom of love, peace and unity where hatred, violence and oppression have no place. By our lives, our words, our thoughts and our actions we must show the world that Jesus, the Christ, is Lord of All and that the great God Mammon is not. Now, it is not going to be an easy task. Indeed, alone we can do nothing but Jesus promised that: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20 NRSV. So alone we can do nothing but united as a community of believers, the Body of Christ, the Church of God, and with faith in Our Lord and Creator we can. That task may not be completed in our time on earth. But the time will come. So let's get started.
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years