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Service is the way to Christian unity
HONG KONG (SE): “It is a time to reflect more deeply on what it means to win and to lose,” Reverend John Menear said in welcoming the 50 or so people present at St. Andrew’s Church in Tsim Sha Tsui to mark the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on January 18.
The rector of the Anglican Church noted that we often think of winning in terms of triumph, but the life and death of Jesus Christ gives us a different perspective, a different way of being a winner, a way of service and humility.
He quoted Jesus as saying that whoever wants to be first must be last, explaining that being first means placing our lives at the service of others.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is organised internationally by the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches.
The theme chosen for this year’s week of prayer is, We will all be changed by the victory of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51-58).
Reverend Menear noted that Jesus prayed for change in his disciples, particularly in the area of unity. “He prayed that the disciples might be one, so that the world may believe,” the Anglican priest said.
“We pray to Christ for the unity of the Church on earth, so that the world may believe,” he continued, adding that even in the act of praying for a unity that we do not yet enjoy, we will be changed, transformed and conformed into the likeness of Christ as we strive for unity. “We ask Christ to give us this attitude,” he commented.
The guest homilist for the evening, Reverend Stephen Miller, from the Mission to Seafarers, addressed the theme of this year’s week of prayer, which was prepared by representatives from the Catholic, Orthodox, Old Catholic and Protestant Churches in Poland.
He focussed on the transformative power of faith in Christ, basing his reflection on St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he speaks of the temporariness of human life and the corruptible nature of the human body.
“Our bodies in their present state are not suitable for heaven,” he noted, “but they will be transformed and transformed in a moment.”
Reverend Miller said that Christ’s death and resurrection is a triumph over death and sin. He told a simple story of a young boy who was terrified of a bee buzzing around him. His father caught the bee in his hand, squeezed it gently then released it.
The young boy was again afraid, but his father showed him the palm of his hand where the bee had stung him. “He can’t hurt you now,” the father said. “See, I have taken the sting out of the bee for you.”
Reverend Miller said that in the same sort of way, Christ has taken the sting out of death for us. It can no longer harm us.
However, this victory is only possible through a spiritual transformation or conversion and this comes through social, commitment in a spirit of humility, service and fidelity to the gospel.
The point is to achieve a victory which integrates all Christians around the service of God and neighbour.
Just as our bodies are transformed through the pain of death, Christian unity requires the pain of dispensing with the competition between different groups and the readiness to give up some things that may be precious to us in order to allow God to transform our Churches, so that they may be one and the world may believe.
“The unity for which we strive is not a comfortable notion of friendliness and cooperation… We need to be open to ourselves and to each other, to offer gifts and to receive from one another, so that we might truly enter into the new life, which is the only true victory,” the organisers of the week of prayer say in a statement.
The prayer service in Hong Kong for the opening of the week of prayer was presented by the Hong Kong Christian Council, the Kowloon Union Church, the Catholic Diocesan Ecumenical Commission, Mission to Seafarers and the Apostleship of the Sea and the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia.
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