The Daily Offices

The Daily Offices from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, (Canada 1962), including daily Bible readings and occasional sermons from the Cathedral of the Annunication of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ottawa

Monday, January 23, 2006


Jesus says, I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and from the west and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

Our Lord’s words echo the promise God made to Abraham, And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. Gen12:3. That promise, of course referred to the Saviour and his being born of Abraham’s line. It was a promise which opened up salvation for all humankind.

How appropriate, then, is the verse from Matthew for the week in which we pray for Christian unity, a week which we began with a votive Mass for unity last Wednesday.

Let me say right now that I recognize that this is a big, complex, thorny topic and it is not possible in the time I have available to deal with it in depth. In fact, in my experience, the very mention of Christian unity usually raises hackles and brings barriers crashing down, as those in the discussion beat a rapid retreat into one entrenched position or another. The subject itself has become the cause of further and expanding disunity.

And Jesus Christ is saddened, while the devil dances with whatever approximates in his world to delight.

So far, I have found only one way to stop, even if only temporarily, discussions on unity from becoming rancid examples of disunity. That is to point out that we would be much better off if we focused on our common ground and left aside our differences.

We will then realise that our common ground is centred on Jesus Christ and Him crucified. No ground could be more solid for the Christian and no ground is more important. In fact, one of the reasons the Christian body has drifted in so many different directions, becoming essentially dismembered in the process is because its leaders and pastors have failed to preach Christ crucified with dedication, determination and faith.

We cannot preach Jesus Christ without the Cross; we cannot preach the Cross without Jesus Christ and we cannot preach Redemption without both Jesus Christ and the Cross.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed with special intensity to His Father. As St. Luke tells us, And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:44.

One of the things He prayed for, St. John tells us, was unity. He prayed first for His Apostles and then for all who heard the word through them. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word: that they all may be one. John 17:20

These words of our Lord are compelling enough, but what He prayed next turns unity from His powerful desire into an absolute obligation. As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us. That the world may believe that thou hast sent me. John 17:21.

There is the core of the matter. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour wants us to be united with God, which is, when all is said and done, what Redemption is all about. God have mercy on any who profess Christianity but who willfully oppose the unity our Lord and God demands.

St. Paul, who preached the unity message often, wrote to the Ephesians, There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in you all. Eph.4:4-6.

The word, ‘one’ appears seven times in those three short verses and if unity mattered so much to St. Paul, it had better matter to us.

The Apostle’s words tell us that it is incontrovertibly true that when we are united in God, we must by definition be united in each other. What else can, through all and in you all, possibly mean. That is reason enough to fire us up to want, with all our beings, to be united to every other Christian who lives and breathes and worships around us.

Jesus gives us all the reason we need to burn with such desire, That they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. Those are very dangerous words. They put the opponents of unity in the position of working against the earthly mission of Jesus Christ. How many souls have been lost because they see Christians disputing with one another, even despising each other’s beliefs.

The naked hatred that I encounter for the Roman Catholic Church among so many Protestants does not serve Jesus Christ, it serves satan. The same applies to the imperious dismissal of Protestants by many Roman Catholics. When we adopt such intransigence and proclaim such positions we stand condemned by our own actions as opponents of the will of God.

Inside every human being, put there by God Himself is a desire to be united with God, whether that is recognised or not. And there is nothing so fragile or vulnerable as the soul which is searching for unity with God. How can such souls possibly be attracted by the spectacle of one Christian spitting venom at another. The world does that, and the soul searching for God is seeking another world.

Before I first went to the Sudan, Bishop Robert told me that under no circumstances was I to attempt to convert the people I found there to our Anglican Catholic branch of Christianity. At the time I did not fully understand what he meant, but I most certainly do now. The Body of Christ is not enlarged, nor served, by a Christian who says to another, Hey, come and join us. We do it better.

Before Vatican II, Pope John wrote an encyclical, Pacem in Terris, in which he, with great wisdom, opened the way back to unity. In one place he wrote:

Every human being has the right to honour God according to the dictates of an upright conscience and therefore the right to worship God privately and publicly.

Later he continued:

We must never confuse error and the person who errs, not even when there is question of error or inadequate knowledge of truth in the moral or religious field. The person who errs is always and above all a human being, and he retains in every case his dignity as a human person.

That is the spirit which emanates from the Cross and leads today back to the Cross and to Jesus Christ crucified. We must always be on our guard against error, but we can not, ever, ignore the dignity of another human being. Because in every human being is that spark of the Divine, the human soul, the point at which we are all, in reality, united with God.

Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, sets the example. He despises no one. St. Matthew, from whose record we read today, was a tax collector, despised by every Jew in the city. But not by Jesus, who called him to be an Apostle.

The woman at Jacob’s well was a Samaritan, despised by every Jew. But not by Jesus Christ, who asked her to draw him water and then drew her kinsfolk into the sphere of his saving grace.

Saul was a persecuter and a murderer of Christians, feared by every member of the fledgling Church. But Jesus turned him into a dedicated Apostle and sent him to convert the Gentiles, teaching and preaching the need for unity, the beauty of unity and the holiness of unity in the body of Christ. And the Church which Saul had persecuted prospered mightily under the Spirit led guidance of St. Paul.

It is arguable that we, who are all Gentiles, are here today because of what the Spirit led St. Paul to preach so effectively. And we are here today to seek what our Lord exhorted us to accomplish, unity with God.

Darwell Stone began his 1914 book, The Holy Communion, with the words, Union with God is the highest ideal of human thought and the highest aim of human life.

Union with God is sealed each time we join our small sacrifice, properly prepared and offered, with the perpetual, perfect, sacrifice of Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic Feast which He instituted. It is the means, both tangible and mysterious, whereby our unity with God and with each other is renewed. It is both the outward and inward expression of the faith which Jesus so warmly approved in the centurion who sought his help.

If we truly approach this gift of the saving, uniting body and blood of Jesus Christ with that faith, we can leave this Holy Communion today armed and able to join the work for which Jesus prayed to His Father, As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us. That the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

Peter Jardine+
Epiphany 3, 2006