Image to left is Jesus teaching his disciples, James Tissot, c. 1890
“When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables.” (Brian Mclaren, We Make the Road by Walking, Ch 22)
Reading the Scriptures, living the Christian life and learning from Jesus is a daily journey. Sometimes its harder and sometimes its easier. Sometimes I fall into the trap of assuming I can easily understand the Bible. Last week during morning prayer, Chris and I were talking about one of the readings which was a little harder to understand. It was fun to pray, talk and wrestle with the Psalm together. I never would have got there on my own.
It reminded me why we need to walk this road together. Together means together as a Church but also together with Jesus leading us. Just as the disciples asked him to explain so when we gather around the word we need to pray, study and discuss so that we can meet with God. I really believe that we need to pray to understand the Bible. We need to invite the Holy Spirit to teach us.
Jesus promised that where two or three are gathered he will be there amongst us (Matt 18:20). This week on Sunday we will begin a week of prayer for Christian unity at 18:30 here at St Francis. We hope to be hosting members from all the other churches in Banbury.
The church has been so tragically divided but the path towards unity is in prayer. Imagine the conversations which haven’t happened because of our denominational division. Imagine what we could have learned if we were able to come to Jesus together with our misunderstandings, our questions, doubts and fears. Not alone but together with our brothers and sisters from other churches.
It may be egos, politics, misunderstandings, theology or even sin which has drawn us apart. It may be simply inherited disunity. Whatever divides us, prayer is the way towards restoration in love and also to truth. For me this is not just optimism or wishful thinking, it is faithful hope. Unity is a work of the Spirit, a work in progress and a work in our lives and the life of the world church.
Last summer I attended the Association of Interchurch Families Conference. I came face to face with my own prejudices, pride and pain but I also heard some amazing testimonies of real suffering but also of transformation and unity from delegates who have prayed for unity all their lives and lived unity in their marriages. The road to unity may not always be easy but huge progress has been made. So let us continue to pray!
Father, may we be one, in Christ, by the power of your Spirit.
Revd. John Goodman
The featured image at the top is from a beautiful collection you might like to explore at https://www.flickr.com/photos/4thglryofgod/8405389557/ where there are more images and prayers. Thanks so much to Sharon Soberon for sharing these images!