Daily Scripture & Prayer Guide
2005 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Day 1, Called to Spiritual Maturity (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).

Scripture
Hosea 2:21-23, I will say to Lo-ammi (not my people), "you are my people."
Psalm 24, Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
Colossians 1:25-28, The mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages.
John 15:1-8, I am the vine, you are the branches.

Meditation
In Saint Paulís first letter to the church at Corinth, a community for whom he had played an important role in founding, Paul was eager to call the Corinthians to spiritual maturity. While celebrating the gifts God had bestowed on this community, he confronts them with the divisions that have been reported to him, as expressed in the conflicting slogans: I am for Paul; I am for Apollos; I am for Cephas. Paul responds with the evocative question: Has Christ been divided? There is a Jewish tradition, found in the Old Testament, of God giving a people a name, reflective of their spiritual state, in order to call them to fidelity or conversion. Likewise Paul names the Corinthians as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ, lamenting that he can not address them as spiritual people. He indicts their allegiances as immature and not in keeping with the mind of Christ. His words are abrupt because this behavior is in stark contrast with the magnitude and divine origin of their Christian calling: for they are Godís temple, wherein Godís Spirit dwells; they belong to Christ, and will be given all things in him. This carries with it a mission: with Paul they are to make known the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages, and to be stewards of this mystery, proclaiming the great redemptive action of God in Christ and witnessing to it in their transformed lives. The divisions in Corinth had to do with conflicts in their reception of the preaching of the apostles. Here we see a foreshadowing of the divisions which historically would scar our unity in Christ, built on the faith of the apostles. We live with Paulís question still: Has Christ been divided? Spiritual maturity has to do, in part, with retrieving and incarnating the unity given us in Christ. To what extent does our disunity keep us from carrying out the healing and reconciling mission of Christ in a broken and needy world?

Prayer
Gracious God, you continue to call us to spiritual maturity. You desire to name us as your own. Open our hearts and minds to the greatness of your calling and help us to walk in unity Ė in communion with Paul and Apollos and Cephas Ė as we proclaim and place ourselves at the service of your redeeming work in the world. Amen.

 

Day 2, God Gives the Growth (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).

Scripture
Genesis 1:26-2:9, The LORD planted a garden in Eden.
Psalm 104:24-31, You renew the face of the ground.
Romans 8:14-25, Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.
Luke 8:4-15, These are the ones who, when they hear the word... bear fruit with patient endurance.

Meditation
Speaking to the people of Corinth, Paul uses an image familiar to them, of planting and growth. It is an image taken to illustrate the works of God, who is directly at work in their midst, calling forth servants who will collaborate in his work. Like the Corinthians, we are called to be instruments, faithful servants who will be judged for the way in which we accomplish this work. It is an important task to be in this service and to bear the responsibility of the work to be accomplished to the glory of God. We must offer our talents to him whom we serve; and place our competence on the unique foundation which is Christ, in order to build an edifice in the service of love. God has made this world good. We see this in the first chapter of Genesis. Humankind has gone beyond the role given us in that story; we have destroyed the perfect world of Eden. That is why we are called to a ministry of healing in the world (Romans 8). This multi-faceted ministry unites us. It consists of many facets, transcending confessional and cultural barriers. The world is wounded, in the same way as the traveler lying on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. We must not be afraid to touch what is broken in our world. God chooses to heal through our intervention. Creation waits with eager longing for the healing that will come from God. Within the unity that is sought, Christians can exchange their own experiences to show that beyond being of Paul or of Apollos, they belong to Christ. Only Christ can help them grow in the love of the Father, in the service of the Spirit of holiness and unity, healing the world and its divided humanity.

Prayer
O God, we thank you for the confidence and blessing which you offer to those who work for the coming of your reign in this world. Help us to find new ways to carry out your work in the service of those around us. May we serve, rather than seek to be served, and may your healing power be at work among us. United as one family of your only Son, may we be faithful stewards of your creation so that you may be known to all men and women, great and small, by all things and all people, as the true living savior and creator of all. Amen.

 

Day 3, Christ Is the Unique Foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).

Scripture
Isaiah 28:14-16, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation.
Psalm 118:16-24, The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
Ephesians 2:19-22, Jesus himself as the cornerstone.
Matthew 7:24-27, (The house) did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.

Meditation
God in Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, has laid down one foundation for all the baptized. Christians can therefore affirm their faith in Christ, the unique foundation on which the church of God is built. Since nobody can lay down any other foundation, Christians confess together that the foundation on which their faith is built is what God in Christ has done. This conviction is a source of thankfulness and humility. In their efforts to be rooted in the unique foundation, many Christians have been and continue to be challenged by other voices that contradict and tend to reject Christ. Christians in such situations are called to be like leaven in society, trusting that they will be supported by the grace of God. Therefore in the face of testing, Christians must never waver. Since Jesus was rejected, his followers too must be prepared to endure the same trials. On the foundation of Christ and his teaching, we are able to meet the challenges of present day society. Christians are convinced that to build on Jesus Christ as the sure and one foundation implies the idea of working together from a common starting point towards a common goal, namely the unity of all the followers of Christ. The meaning of Jesus Christ for us predefines in a unique and profound way the character of every joint activity or whatever we do separately. The power of Christís love fills us with great hope that whatever we create in his name has a capacity to last and survive even in the midst of difficulties, because Christ is the beginning and the end.

Prayer
Lord our God, through the work of the Holy Spirit you have established in Christ the unique foundation on which your church is built. We thank you for what you have done for us in Christ. We thank you for continually upholding your church in the midst of all attempts to destroy it. Help us by your grace that we may build on the foundation you have laid down in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 

Day 4, You Are to Build on the Unique Foundation (1 Corinthians 3:12-13).

Scripture
Nehemiah 2:17-18, Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.
Psalm 127, Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11, Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.
Matthew 20:1-16, A landowner... went out... to hire laborers for his vineyard.

Meditation
Christ is Godís gift to the world. In him the salvation and reconciliation of all humankind is revealed. He is the foundation and the source of the new life that God has given us. We do not need to add anything to complete this gift of God. This does not mean we should remain passive and detached. Paul writes of building on the foundation. He affirms that we have a vocation and must respond to that vocation. We are called to be workers in Godís work of renewal and laborers in his household. God has given us all different gifts (1 Corinthians 12). We should make use of them for one purpose: to glorify Christ and the power of his peace. Through our work we are to be witnesses to Godís love and to our unity in Christ. We know that in the history of the churches, not everything done in the name of Christ was really "Christ-like." Sometimes Christ and his reconciliation have been overshadowed by arrogance, divisions and the struggle for power. "Church building" is not a matter of building confessional barriers against each other or of building our own "monuments". In todayís world, churches must demonstrate how to build bridges and how to cooperate as a sign of hope and a fruit of unity in Christ. The foundation in Christ makes us sisters and brothers. It is the basis for being the one, true Church of Christ, filled with love for the poor and the outcast, of trust in God and hope in the fulfillment of his kingdom. Godís reconciliation commits us together as well as individual churches to be living stones of unity in Christ, so that the foundation in Christ will become more and more evident.

Prayer
God, we thank you for your unique gift of life and peace in Christ. You have given our churches many different gifts. Help us see this diversity as an enrichment to building your house in this world. Let us witness to what strengthens our unity and encourage all that helps us to bring your love to the people with whom we are living. Amen.

 

Day 5, God Judges Our Efforts to Build (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).

Scripture
Genesis 4:2b-10a, Am I my brotherís keeper?
Psalm 51:1-4, 9-13, Against you, you alone, have I sinned.
Philippians 2:1-5, Regard others as better than yourselves.
Matthew 25:14-30, A man... summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them.

Meditation
In all ages God has called human beings to work with him in what he is doing in the world. Though the unique foundation, Jesus Christ, is laid there is always more building to be done. Explaining this to the Christians in Corinth, Paul insists on Godís quality control: how well we build is to be tested. Our works do not bring about salvation, but we are responsible for our works before God. Paul saw this in terms of the purifying fires of the final judgement which he thought would come soon. For us it is still a matter of urgency Ė regarding each opportunity as if it could be the last Ė and realizing that we all bring judgement on ourselves by how well we use the gifts God has given us for building up the kingdom. We are all accountable both to God and to each other. Churches too are accountable to each other in the quest for unity. Like the servants in the parable, entrusted with their masterís property and required to make good use of it, we have all been given treasure: the life of a fragile planet, sisters and brothers world-wide to care for, the precious word of the gospel to share. They are given to all Godís people together and provide an opportunity for us to share with one another, to learn from our successes and failures. And how well we work and build together is even now being put to the test.

Prayer
God, through your coming to us in Jesus and through using fallible people, you have shown yourself to be a vulnerable God; we thank you that you still trust us to offer service and work for the building of your kingdom. Keep us alert to your will and purpose and open our eyes that we may see the true needs of people around us. Enable us in humility to learn from one another, that we may be united in our mutual accountability and devoted in service for your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Day 6, You Are Godís Temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

Scripture
Genesis 1:26-27, God created humankind in his image.
Psalm 8, What are human beings that you are mindful of them?
1 Peter 2:9-10, Godís own people.
Matthew 16:24-27, If any want to become my followers.

Meditation
The question of identity is by no means a new one. Human beings have always asked themselves and sought to live out who they really are and what they are meant to be. Living in a world that is characterized by constant changes and a growing sense of pluralism, the search for identity has become an even more crucial issue. We struggle with that question not only as individuals but also as communities and as churches. We try to find our own identity in what distinguishes us from others and makes us unique. The apostle Paul Ė although addressing the Christians of Corinth 2,000 years ago Ė reminds us even now that the question of identity has to be approached from another perspective: we are not "special" because we are different from others, but because we have all received the gift of the Holy Spirit Ė a gift that is present in every human being since we are all created in the image of God. We are Godís temple Ė sacred and full of dignity; nobody has the right to destroy this temple. Godís good Spirit is at home within us. God desires fellowship with us, which includes and requires that we have fellowship with each other. Since this call to fellowship extends beyond the borders of our Christian communities, the scandal of our divisions as Christian churches is heightened, making it imperative to overcome them. Differences are also part of our Christian identity since we live in different situations and cultures, we live as women and men, we are shaped by personal experiences and by the history of the communities in which we live. Wherever we live, whatever the challenges we face or the talents we are given, we are united nonetheless by the Holy Spirit who enables us to live as God means us to live, and has been made manifest in Jesus Christ: a fellowship of love.

Prayer
Eternal God, you created heaven and earth, you created human beings in your divine image, giving each of us identity and dignity. We thank you for your gift of life Ė life that binds us to you and to your creation. Help us Ė as Christians and as churches Ė to receive your gift in all its fullness so that we may be able to overcome whatever limits or reduces your gift of life. Fill us with your good Spirit so that we may grow into the image of Christ and become his image in the world. Amen.

 

Day 7, Folly and Wisdom, Life in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:18-20).

Scripture
Job 32:7-33, It is... the breath of the Almighty, that makes for understanding.
Psalm 14:1-7, The LORD looks down... to see if there are any... who seek after God.
1 Corinthians 1:17-30, God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.
Matthew 10: 17-25a, It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Meditation
Democracy and liberty bring us many advantages but also temptations. That is true for individuals as it is for churches. In countries that have been Christian since ancient times, churches are often tempted by a misplaced use of power. In consequence, their witness has sometimes offered human perspectives rather than the word of God. Nowadays, we can still be tempted to rely on relations of power and the advantages that come from being in the majority, or, alternatively, to abandon debate in our societies, too often futile. As churches we have been commanded nonetheless to witness to a common unique foundation for the life of the world, that is Jesus Christ and his word, and nothing can change that. The prophets underlined that what they proclaimed was not their own words, thoughts or opinions, but a word received from God. Job understands that he must seek wisdom elsewhere, in the inspiration of God, rather than from his own resources. The apostle Paul says that he has decided to know nothing other than Jesus Christ. For the sake of the message of Christ crucified, Paul is ready to appear a fool in the eyes of the wise. He writes to the Corinthians that Godís wisdom was to offer salvation "through the folly of what we preach": Christ crucified. The word of the cross has also been entrusted to us, Christians of today. Between our churches, which the madness of humankind has separated, the pursuit of unity might seem like a crazy project. Yet at the heart of a divided world, torn apart by war and violence, the search for peace and reconciliation remains the only wisdom. In the light of the cross, the foundation of our common witness takes shape. With Christ, God reaches out towards humanity and sends us towards those who seek him in order to proclaim: the way to life passes through the crucified and risen Christ.

Prayer
O God, full of wisdom and truth, you made known to us the folly of your love when humanity crucified your only Son, Jesus, and when you raised him from the dead as the Christ, we began to grasp your great wisdom. We pray you, keep us in the steps of your Son on the narrow road to Life. May we proclaim the good news of salvation by the cross of Jesus Christ which witnessed to life for all. May your Church today stay faithful to him who is its unique foundation and may it lead all nations to the wisdom of your Spirit. Amen.

 

Day 8, You Belong to Christ (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).

Scripture
Isaiah 44:1-8, I am the first and I am the last.
Psalm 89:1-4, Your steadfast love is established forever.
Revelation 4:1-11, Worshipping the one who lives forever and ever.
Mark 9:33-35, Whoever wants to be first must be last.

Meditation

We belong to Christ. This fact is the foundation of our unity: In baptism Christ has claimed us for his own and made us all one in him. The unity we share in Christ is greater than all the differences, past and present, that divides the churches today. If we belong to Christ we belong to one another and are accountable to one another. That is why Christ calls us to build up his body, the church, together as co-workers and fellow servants. That is why Christians are called to live and work together as fellow servants in witnessing to their faith and in serving those in need. And that is why divisions, dissension, quarreling, factions based on personalities Ė all these are denials not only of our brothers and sisters in Christ, but of Christ himself. As Godís temple, the church is a place of worship, and common worship is the most powerful expression of our common belonging to Christ. Every act of common worship is a victory over our division and a celebration of the unity that we have in Christ. We are united with all those in all places and times who have belonged to Christ and who in the Spirit have worshiped God. We do not always act in accordance with this unity given us in Christ. When we can not worship together, especially at the Lordís table, our disunity is plain for all to see. There is more building to be done Ė and that by all the churches! Since we belong to Christ, we belong to God. Paul affirms in all boldness: "all things are yours." We live and move together with all our co-workers and fellow servants within Godís plan for all creation. God acts within history for salvation, for healing of the broken, for reconciliation of those at war, for the renewal of the whole of creation. God also acts in judgement: we know that what we build together is being tested and the results made known. We know we will be judged by the God whose nature is life and love. For all Godís gifts of creation and redemption we give praise and thanks to God who has made us one through his Spirit in Christ. May our building together of Christís church and our search for unity be offered in praise of God.

Prayer
Loving God, we thank you for making us one in Christ. Give us imagination and courage to build your church together in unity and love. Make our lives and the lives of our churches a witness to your love for us and for the whole creation. Grant us unity in our time, O Lord. Amen.

 

Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute
PO Box 300, Garrison, New York 10524-0300