Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day One

Today marks the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity as it is observed in the Northern Hemisphere, between the feast days of St. Peter and St. Paul. (In the Southern Hemisphere, because this period falls during summer holidays, the week is often observed at another time, often around Pentecost.) This observance has a history of more than 100 years, and emerged from the ecumenical movement through the World Council of Churches. This year, the theme is

We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ

The WCC prepares worship and reflection materials for this week, which are freely available as PDF files in several languages from the WCC website, freely adaptable and reproducible, and are suitable for ecumenical prayer and reflection throughout the year. I’ll be posting some excerpts and reflections on this material all week: each day has its own thematic focus and suggested readings.

Here are the readings and commentary for today:

Day One: Changed by the Servant Christ

The Son of Man came to serve (cf. Mk 10:45)

On this day we encounter Jesus, on the road to victory through service. We see him as the”one who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life, a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Consequently, the Church of Jesus Christ is a serving community. The use of our diverse gifts in common service to humanity makes visible our unity in Christ.

– Zech 9:9-10 A king righteous and victorious – and humble
– Ps 131 My heart is not proud
– Rom 12:3-8 We have different gifts with which to serve
– Mk 10:42-45 The Son of Man came to serve

Zechariah’s prophecy concerning a victorious and humble King was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He, the King of Peace, comes to his own, to Jerusalem – the City of Peace. He does not
conquer it by deceit or violence, but by gentleness and humility.

Psalm 131 briefly but eloquently describes the state of spiritual peace which is the fruit of
humility. The picture of a mother and child is a sign of God’s tender love and of trust in God, to which the entire community of believers is called.

Paul the apostle challenges us to make a sober and humble assessment of ourselves and to
discover our own abilities. While we have a diversity of gifts we are one body in Christ. In
our divisions each of our traditions has been endowed by the Lord with gifts that we are
called to place at the service of others. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mk 10.45). By His service, Christ redeemed our refusal to serve God. He became an example for repairing all relations between people: Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant – those are the new standards of greatness and priority.

In the Letter to the Romans, Paul reminds us that the diverse gifts given to us are for service:prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership and compassion. In our diversity we are always one body in Christ, and members of one another. The use of our diverse gifts in common service to humanity makes visible our unity in Christ. The joint action of Christians for the benefit of humanity, to combat poverty and ignorance, defend the oppressed, to be concerned about peace and to preserve life, develop science, culture and art are an expression of the practical ecumenism which the Church and the world badly need. The imitation of Christ the Servant provides eloquent testimony to the Gospel, moving not only minds, but also hearts. Such common service is a sign of the coming Kingdom of God – the kingdom of the Servant Christ.

Prayer

Almighty and eternal God, by travelling the royal road of service your Son leads us from the arrogance of our disobedience to humility of heart. Unite us to one another by your Holy Spirit, so that through service to our sisters and brothers, Your true countenance may be revealed; You, who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

Questions for reflection

1. What opportunities for service are most threatened by pride and arrogance?

2. What should be done to ensure that all Christian ministries are better experienced as
service?

3. In our community, what can Christians of different traditions do better together than in
isolation to reveal the Servant Christ?

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