One Week Devotions
Church's Mission for Unity in Diversity
During World War II, Hitler commanded all religious groups to unite so that he could control them. In any authoritarian system unity may become a dangerous means for absolute control control. The Tower of Babel is the best example of such a unity. Pentecost on the other hand serves as a model for unity which recognizes individual freedom as well as mutual agreement. In a pluralistic world the church can offer its vision of unity based on trinity --coinherence or mutual dependence, a unity that recognizes distinction and differentiation.
All may be one
Text: John 10: 15-18
"There are other sheep ... that are not in this sheepfold" (16)
Only by acknowledging the differences true unity can be achieved. True unity is not eradicating differences but overcoming differences by way of mutual acceptance. Unity can be achieved at different levels and various dimensions. Trying to bring everyone under one purpose may not be unity but uniformiity. Jesus said, In may father's house there are many mansions. True unity does not insists on sharing a megastory, but accepting the provision of many mansions, many stories. Jesus who prayed that all may be one is inviting us to inherit the many and varied heavenly mansions and stories where all beings with their varied live-experience may not feel discriminated or forced to one unitary vision.
Different expressions of faith are valid as they help their adherents to experience the sacredness of life, and be more respectful to other paths which differ from theirs. The church, therefore, has a double function to perform in the contemporary world with regard to its vision of unity: to overcome division within and to unite a world divided culturally, religiously, linguistically, ethnically, ideologically and geographically. The mission of the Church includes a search for acknowledging differences of people and cultures.
Lord, remind us that we are redeemed to enjoy life in you along with all of your creation.
Further reflection/action: How can the idea of uniqueness of the Church be reconciled with the truth claims all religions?
The City of the Lord
Revelation 21: 22-27 “ And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God … I saw no temple in the city….” (2, 24).
Canon Marilyn McCord Adams, in a lecture articulated the view that the best model for the Church is not the organic body, but the secular state. The book of Revelation conceives the future as a heavenly city which comes down from heaven. The gates of the city are always open. The city is in the service of all people who are in need. In the city there are provisions to feed all people and heal every nation. The kings of the nations will bring their glory into the city.
In the heavenly city there is no temple other than Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb who takes way the sin of the world. The Lamb takes away the root cause of all pain and suffering, injustice, cruelty and lovelessness in the world. The mission of the church is to welcome the contribution of the nations as they bring their glory to the Kingdom of God (Rev. 21:24).
Jesus, help us to be open to the nations of the world as we all together form the body of Christ.
Further reflection/action: Church is the acknowledged symbol of unity as the body of Christ which is eager to gather the whole creation together in the Kingdom of God, not eliminating the nations and their cultures but by enabling them to grow to their fullness.
Text: 1 Corinthians 12: 12-20
“…there are many members, yet one body” (20).
There is an old saying: “There can be union without unity: tie two cats together by their tails and throw them over a clothesline.” One hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other. So one hundred worshipers meeting together are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be. The unity of all is the will of God. Division openly contradicts the will of Christ. Divisions in the Church creates a stumbling block to the world, and inflicts damage on the most holy cause of proclaiming the Good News to every creature. Unity implies a living fellowship, a living communion, a symbol of fullness of reconciliation.
As the body of Christ, the Church continues the incarnation. But body is not an insular entity. It exists only in relation to factors that exists outside itself that defines its body. Therefore the body of Christ means the Church in the world, not the church in itself. St Paul applied the organic model not only to a cosmic context, but also to the co-operation of different talents in the day-to-day practical life of the Church. Organic unity cannot be taken as undifferentiated unity..
Further reflection/action: Baptism makes members all nations the Body of Christ, a body where there is visible communion.
Prayer : Lord, make our experience of union dynamic, active and all embracing, redeeming and sanctifying all of your creation.
Text John 17: 10-16 “All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them” (10).
Conciliar view of the Church is the Trinitarian view of the Church. In Trinity one exist is in the other, glorified in the other. Concilar model of the Church emphasizes consensus rather than dominance of one person or view over the other. In the church there is a place for Peter, Paul or Apollos; Corinthians, Galatians Ephesians and Thessalonians. But one person does not hold the truth, One ecclesiastical group does not rule over the other. One does note eclipse the other, but glorifies the other.
In the conciliar view, the Church, is neither a mystical body nor an historical institution. Rather, it is an incarnational reality, an embodiment of the triune God, set in order by the Holy Spirit. The Church is constitutive of Christian faith precisely because of, relational nature. Human life in the image of God is life in relationship: relationship with the world, other people, and God. Human spiritual fulfillment is not a moral attainment or accomplishment; it is a way of being in relationship. The Church is the place where such relational fulfillment is (or should be) most realized.
Prayer: Lord, let our councils guided by your wisdom
Conciliar theory begins by seeing the Church itself as council, just as the Greek word “ekklesia” literally means synod or council. “The Church’s synodal structure is a constitutive principle, which is of divine origin, essential and irreplaceable .
Communion of Churches
Text: Ephesians 2: 13-22 ”For he is our peace;…[he] has broken down the dividing wall…that he might create in himself one new humanity…” (14-5).
Humans are naturally fellowshiping beings, with other beings and with God . The doctrine of the imago Dei means that God created human beings in divine image in order to have fellowship with them. The image of God also means that only in relationship with God and others that we become truly human. The network of existence need to become the common ground between people, defined by way of religions, ethnicity, race, language or gender. In the postliberal, perspective of cultural pluralism Christian community exists alongside other communities. Each community has its own rules of discourse and linguistic conventions. True communion means binding people with love , even beyond their faith and cultural background. Churches preach the love of Christ. Yet they exclude one another from communion; they mutually excommunicate. In order to be Church churches need to be in communion with other churches. In order to be Church, churches need to be in communion with the world which God loves (John 3:16).
In India caste and historical traditions are the dividing walls between churches and communities. The churches primary mission is to continue Christ’s work of breaking down the walls of hostility to bring peace between communities.
Prayer: Lord, teach us to be in communion, to communicate your love with everyone created in your image.
Further reflection/action: How can we overcome the practice of mutual excommunication by the churches.
Minority Church and Mission to Unity
Text Luke 12:32-38 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (32).
Minority consciousness of the Indian church has prevented it from entering into a wider unity, of all peoples. To identify the Church or any group as minority is a political act. Any Church which considers itself as minority is a political church and no more the body of Christ. The self consciousness of being minority suggests that one ought to take group action to remedy one's situation, calling attention to a self-defined deprivation. By doing this we have created Jesus Christ in our image of the Church implicating our own limitations, our political, economic and sociological weakness and helplessness upon him. The true church, which is the body of Christ, is necessarily a minority Church, like salt or leaven. Being a minority is to be taken as the strength of the church to function as the voice of God challenging the human made barriers in the construction of a genuine human community of all peoples and castes, religions and gender. Our identity as minority is to be acknowledged as a divine will, as an effective instrument for creating unity in a context hostilities. Where two or three are gathered in name of Jesus the Church is there It is God who works out God’s purpose in us.
Lord, give us the strength to be a minority for your sake.
Unity sought for political ends is not Christian.
Post pluralism and wider ecumenism
Text: Colossians 3:11-17 “… clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (14).
The Second Vatican Council defined the Church as a sacrament of ultimate union with God and of the unity of humankind. Uppsala assembly of the World Council of Churches also saw Church as the sign of the coming unity of humankind. Contemporary ecumenism is open to the unity of the whole inhabited world with its living and nonliving beings, ideologies, technologies and faith systems. Christians in India must go beyond pluralism, ideology that accept that there is ultimately the same to that of post pluralism, a concept that accepts differences as part of the wholeness, acknowledging differentiation as the nature of God's creation, divinity itself differentiated as plurality in terms of Trinity. The unity the Church preaches is the unity of the cross, not something organic, but a constructed, acknowledging the various experiences of peoples and cultures.
Pluralism accepts plurality but envisages a fundamental oneness behind all plurality. Post pluralism on the other hand recognizes the differences as real. This is in accordance with the contemporary world view which is multiversical rather than of uni-verse. We need not reduce reality into oneness. The Christian theology views reality as Trinitarian rather than monistic. The string theory of the universe also supports a postpluralistic concept of reality.
Prayer: Lord, bring us together as your people in our differences
Further reflection/action.: How can we Christians really be plural in a society which wants to overcome plurality?