SASKATOON — Eight days of reflection and prayer concluded Jan. 29 in Saskatoon with a closing celebration for the 2017 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity held at St. Anne’s Catholic Church.
St. Anne’s pastor Rev. Matthew Ramsay welcomed participants to the celebration led by Rev. Paul Matheson of First Baptist Church, Rev. Amanda Currie of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, and this year’s De Margerie lecturer, Rev. Dirk Lange of Luther College, St. Paul, Minn. Music ministry was provided by the Catholic parish’s 11 a.m. choir.
In prayer and song, those gathered reflected on the theme of “Reconciliation — the Love of Christ Compels Us” from 2 Corinthians 5: 14-20.
“St. Paul reminds us that God has reconciled us through Jesus Christ and that the love of Christ compels us to be ministers of reconciliation,” said Matheson. “Let us worship and praise together in the unity of the Holy Spirit.”
Those assembled began by offering prayers of confession, repenting generations of division, hatred, prejudice, intolerance and broken communion among Christians, followed by Scripture readings, the sharing of a sign of peace and praying of the Apostle’s Creed together. After intercessory prayers for reconciliation, unity and transformation, the celebration concluded with the Lord’s Prayer and a blessing.
“Never resign yourself to the scandal of the separation of Christians, all who so readily confess love for their neighbour, and yet remain divided,” urged Lange in his sermon, quoting the Rule of Taizé, written by its founder Brother Roger Schütz. “Be consumed with burning zeal for the unity of the Body of Christ.”
The division of Christians is “like a deep wound, an open wound, in Christ’s side,” said Lange.
Lange noted that it is love of neighbour that the ecumenical Taizé rule emphasizes. “For Brother Roger, reconciliation meant praying and solidarity. These two always held together,” he said. ”Reconciliation can only be worked out with deep regard for the other: taking a step toward the neighbour, and allowing the neighbour to approach us.”
Too often we engage our neighbour from an entrenched position, trying to “self justify,” he said, denying the roots of Christian faith, which holds that we are justified by God.
At the joint commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation that took place in October in Sweden, the leaders of the World Lutheran Federation came together with the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church to give thanks for the many gifts that were discovered in the Reformation and repented and lamented the divisions that occurred, said Lange. After listening to the Gospel together, the celebration moved into a commitment to engage in common witness and service together, he described.
“As we enter into an ongoing Reformation, as we enter into the next 500 years, we commit to each other, and to a common proclamation, and to a common service in the world and to the neighbour,” Lange said. He stressed that reconciliation must move from the head to the heart, and prompt action, as together Christians respond to the needs and the yearnings of contemporary society.
To be engaged in reconciliation is to be caught up in God’s new creation, he said. “The old has passed, the old labels, old reference points, identity markers, our self-constructed myths have fallen away, and through our dialogue and our work together, through our searching and our witnessing together, God, the Holy Spirit, is continually creating something new for us.”
Darren Dahl, executive director of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, thanked all those involved in the events of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which included morning services at different churches across the city each weekday morning, a “Singing into Unity” event and the De Margerie Series on Christian Unity and Reconciliation, which this year featured Lange as guest lecturer. In addition to a presentation at St. Thomas More College, the series also included two morning workshops on the theme “Reformation Today: From Conflict to Communion, Together in Hope.”