WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
JANUARY 18–25, 2017
PRAYER / WORSHIP:
Daily Scripture & Prayer Guide
Day 1, One Has Died For All (2 Corinthians 5:14)
- Isaiah 53:4-12, He gave his life as an atoning sacrifice.
- Psalm 118:1,14-29, God did not abandon me to death.
- 1 John 2:1-2, Christ died for all.
- John 15:13-17, Giving his life for his friends.
When Paul was converted to Christ he came to a radical new understanding: one person has died for all. Jesus did not just die for his own people, nor merely for those who sympathized with his teachings. He died for all people, past, present and future. Faithful to the Gospel, many Christians down the centuries have laid down their lives for their friends. One such person was the Franciscan Maximilian Kolbe, OFM Conv., who was imprisoned in the concentration camp at Auschwitz and who in 1941 willingly gave up his life so that a fellow prisoner could live.
Because Jesus died for all, all have died with him (2 Corinthians 5:14). In dying with Christ our old way of life becomes a thing of the past and we enter into a new form of existence: abundant life — a life in which we can experience comfort, trust and forgiveness, even today — a life which continues to have meaning even after death. This new life is life in God.
Having come to this realization, Paul felt compelled by the love of Christ to preach the Good News of reconciliation with God. Christian churches share in this same commission of proclaiming the Gospel message. We need to ask ourselves how we can proclaim this gospel of reconciliation in view of our divisions.
God our Father, in Jesus you gave us the one who died for all. He lived our life and died our death. You accepted his sacrifice and raised him to new life with you. Grant that we, who have died with him, may be made one by the Holy Spirit and live in the abundance of your divine presence now and for ever. Amen.
Day 2, Live No Longer For Themselves (2 Corinthians 5:15)
- Micah 6:6-8, God has told you what is good.
- Psalm 25:1-5, God of my salvation, show me your ways.
- 1 John 4:19-21, We love because God first loved us.
- Matthew 16:24-26, Those who lose their life for my sake will find it.
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have been freed from the need to create our own meaning and from living only out of our own strength. Rather, we live in the life-giving power of Christ, who lived, died, and rose again for us. When we “lose” our life for his sake, we gain it.
The prophets were constantly faced with questions concerning the right way to live before God. The prophet Micah found a very clear answer to this question: “To do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” The author of Psalm 25 knew that we cannot do this by ourselves and cried out to God for guidance and strength.
In recent years, social isolation and increasing loneliness have become important issues in many contemporary societies. Christians are called to develop new forms of community life in which we share our means of livelihood with others and nurture support between generations. The Gospel call to live not for ourselves but for Christ is also a call to reach out to others and to break down the barriers of isolation.
God our Father, in Jesus Christ you have freed us for a life that goes beyond ourselves.
Guide us with your Spirit and help us to orient our lives as sisters and brothers in Christ,
who lived, suffered, died and rose again for us, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
Day 3, We Regard No One From A Human Point of View (2 Corinthians: 5:16)
- 1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, The Lord looks not at outward appearances but at the heart.
- Psalm 19:7-13, The commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes.
- Acts 9:1-19, Saul becomes Paul.
- Matthew 5:1-12, The Beatitudes.
Encountering Christ turns everything upside down. Paul had that experience on the road to Damascus. For the first time he could see Jesus for who he really was: the Savior of the world. His point of view was changed completely. He had to lay his human, worldly judgment aside.
Encountering Christ changes our perspective as well. Nevertheless, we often linger in the past and judge according to human standards. We make claims or do things “in the name of the Lord” that in reality may be self-serving. Throughout history, in Germany and in many other countries, both rulers and the churches themselves have misused their power and influence to pursue unjust political goals.
Transformed by their encounter with Christ, in 1741, the Christians of the Moravian Church (Herrnhuter) answered the call to regard no-one from a human point of view by choosing to submit to “Christ’s Rule.” In submitting ourselves to the rule of Christ today, we are called to see others as God sees them, without mistrust or prejudice.
Triune God, you are the origin and goal of all living things. Forgive us when we only see ourselves and are blinded by our own standards. Open our hearts and our eyes. Teach us to be loving, accepting and gracious, so that we may grow in the unity which is your gift. To You be honor and praise, now and for ever. Amen.
Day 4, Everything Old Has Passed Away (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- Genesis 19:15-26, Don’t look back.
- Psalm 77:5-15, God is always faithful.
- Philippians 3:7-14, Forgetting what lies behind.
- Luke 9:57-62, Keep your hand on the plough.
We often live out of the past. Looking back can be helpful, and is often necessary for the healing of memories. It can also paralyze us and prevent us from living in the present. Paul’s message here is liberating: “everything old has passed away.”
The Bible encourages us to keep the past in mind, to draw strength from our memories, and to remember what good God has done. However, it also asks us to leave the old, even what was good, in order to follow Christ and live a new life in him.
During this year, the work of Martin Luther and other reformers is being commemorated by many Christians. The Reformation changed much in the life of the Church. Many Christians showed heroic witness and many were renewed in their Christian lives. At the same time, as scripture shows, it is important not to be limited by what happened in the past, but rather to allow the Holy Spirit to open us to a new future in which division is overcome and God’s people are made whole.
Lord Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, today and for ever. Heal the wounds of our past, bless our pilgrimage towards unity today and guide us into your future, when you will be all in all, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.
Day 5, Everything Has Become New (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- Ezekiel 36:25-27, Receiving a new heart from God.
- Psalm 126, Being filled with joy.
- Colossians 3:9-17, Being renewed in Christ.
- John 3:1-8, Being born in the Spirit.
Paul encountered Christ, the risen Lord, and became a renewed person—just as everyone does who believes in Christ. This new creation is not visible to the naked eye. Instead it is a reality of faith. God lives in us by the power of the Holy Spirit and lets us share in the life of the Trinity.
By this act of new creation, the “Fall” is overcome and we are brought into a saving relationship with God. Truly amazing things can be said about us as Paul said, “in Christ we are a new creation; in his resurrection death is overcome; no person or thing can snatch us out of the hand of God; we are one in Christ and he lives in us; in Christ we are a kingdom and priests before God” (Revelations 5:10) as we give thanks to him for overcoming death and we proclaim the promise of the new creation.
This new life becomes visible when we allow it to take shape and live it out in “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” It must also become apparent in our ecumenical relationships. A common conviction in many churches is that the more we are in Christ, the closer we are to each other. Especially during this 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, we are reminded of both the achievements and tragedies of our history. The love of Christ compels us to live as renewed beings in actively seeking unity and reconciliation.
Triune God, you reveal yourself to us as Father and Creator, as Son and Savior, and as Spirit and Giver of Life, and yet you are one. You break our human boundaries and renew us. Give us a new heart to overcome all that endangers our unity in you. We pray in the name of Christ Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Day 6, “God Reconciled Us To Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:18)
- Genesis 17:1-8, God makes a covenant with Abraham.
- Psalm 98, The world has seen the victory of God.
- Romans 5:6-11, God reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ.
- Luke 2:8-14, Proclamation of the Good News.
Reconciliation has two sides: it is fascinating and terrifying at the same time. It draws us in so that we desire it: within ourselves, with one another, and between our different confessional traditions. We see the price and it scares us. For reconciliation means renouncing our desire for power and recognition. In Christ, God graciously reconciles us to himself even though we have turned away from him. God´s action goes beyond even this: God reconciles not only humanity, but the whole of creation to himself.
In the Old Testament God was faithful and merciful to the people of Israel, with whom he established a covenant. This covenant remains: “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). Jesus, who inaugurated the new covenant in his blood, was a son of Israel. Too often in history our churches have failed to honor this. After the Holocaust, it is the distinctive task of the German churches to combat anti-semitism. Similarly all churches are called to bring forth reconciliation in their communities and resist all forms of human discrimination, for we are all part of God’s covenant.
Merciful God, out of love you made a covenant with your people. Empower us to resist all forms of discrimination. Let the gift of your loving covenant fill us with joy and inspire us to greater unity. Through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit now and forever. Amen.
Day 7, The Ministry Of Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
- Genesis 50:15-21, Joseph is reconciled with his brothers.
- Psalm 72, God’s Kingdom brings righteousness and peace.
- 1 John 3:16b-21, God’s love compels us to love one another.
- John 17:20-26, Jesus prays for the unity of his church.
Reconciliation between God and humanity is the key reality of our Christian faith. Paul was convinced that the love of Christ compels us to bring God’s reconciliation to bear in all aspects of our life. Today this leads us to examine our consciences in relation to our divisions. As the story of Joseph demonstrates, God always gives the grace needed for the healing of broken relationships.
The great reformers such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin, as well as many who remained Catholics, such as Ignatius of Loyola, Francis de Sales and Charles Borromeo, sought to bring about renewal in the Western Church. However, what should have been a story of God’s grace was also marred by human sinfulness and became a story of the rending of the unity of God’s people. Compounded by sin and warfare, mutual hostility and suspicion deepened over the centuries.
The ministry of reconciliation includes the work of overcoming divisions within Christianity. Today, many Christian churches work together in mutual trust and respect. One positive example of ecumenical reconciliation is the dialogue between the Lutheran World Federation and the Mennonite World Conference. After the dialogue results were published in the document “Healing Memories: Reconciling in Christ,” the two organizations held together a penitential service in 2010 followed by further reconciliation services in Germany and in many countries.
God of all goodness, we give you thanks for reconciling us and the whole world to yourself in Christ. Empower us, our congregations and our churches in ministries of reconciliation. Heal our hearts and help us to spread your peace. “Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.” We pray in the name of Christ Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Day 8, “Reconciled To God” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
- Micah 4:1-5, In the last days justice will reign.
- Psalm 87, Glorious things are spoken of God.
- Revelation 21:1-5a, God will make a new heaven and a new earth.
- John 20:11-18, Meeting the risen Christ leads to personal mission.
What if? What if the prophecies in the Bible actually came true? If the wars between people stopped and if life-giving things could be made out of lethal war weapons? If God’s justice and peace reigned, a peace which were more than simply “not war”? If all of humanity came together for a celebration in which not even one person were marginalized? What if there really were no more mourning, no more tears, and no more death? It would be the culmination of the reconciliation that God brought about in Jesus Christ. It would be heaven!
Psalms, canticles, and hymns sing of the day when the whole perfected creation finally arrives at its goal, the day when God will be “all in all.” They tell about the Christian hope for the fulfilment of God´s reign, when suffering will be transformed into joy. On that day, the Church will be revealed in her beauty and grace as the one body of Christ. Wherever we gather in the Spirit to sing together about the fulfilment of God’s promises, the heavens break open and we begin here and now to dance to the melody of eternity.
As we can already experience this presence of heaven, let us celebrate together. We may be inspired to share images, poems and songs from our particular traditions. These materials can open up spaces for us to experience our common faith in and hope for God’s Kingdom.
Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we thank you for this week of prayer, for being together as Christians and for the different ways we have experienced your presence. Let us always praise your holy name together so that we may continue to grow in unity and reconciliation. Amen.
Lamb of God, the heavens adore you, the saints and angels sing before you with harp and cymbals' clearest tone. Of one pearl each shining portal, where, joining with the choir immortal, we gather round your radiant throne. No eye has seen that light, no ear the echoed might of your glory; yet there shall we in victory sing shouts of joy eternally!