February /March 2017 - Vol. 90
christians praying together
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Weep and Mourn for the Body of My Son Is Broken..

The Lord's Call to Repent and Return to the Father's Plan of Unity for the Body of Christ
“Come before me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit for the body of my Son is broken. Come before me with tears and mourning for the body of my Son is broken. The light is dim, my people are scattered – the body of my Son is broken. I gave all I had in the Body and Blood of my Son. It spilled on the earth. The body of my Son is broken. Turn from the sins of your fathers and walk in the ways of my Son. Return to the plan of your father. Return to the purpose of your God. The body of my Son is broken.”
– prophecy given by Ralph Martin at the Charismatic Renewal Conference in Kansas City 1977

A Prayer for Christian Unity

composed and used by Sword of the Spirit communities

The Sword of the Spirit, an ecumenical association of Christian communities worldwide, urges its member communities to pray and fast weekly for Christian unity.

This prayer for Christian unity focuses on the restoration of Christian truth, holiness of life, unity, and witness. In this prayer we identify with the sin and infidelity of God's people, even as Daniel (
Daniel 9:5-11,20) and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:4-7) identified themselves with the transgressions of Israel.

God relates to his people as a body. We stand before him in prayer not only as individuals, but also as representatives of his church. We may not have sinned personally in the ways mentioned in this prayer, but we have suffered personally from the effects of these sins, and we will all benefit greatly as God wipes them away.
Let us pray now on behalf of the whole people of God.

Lord God our Father, we come to you in supplication on behalf of all the Christian people. We lament the weakness and division among those who call on the name of Christ. We acknowledge that we have failed to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). We grieve that our disunity has hindered the proclamation of the gospel to all the nations (Matthew 28:18; John 17:23).

We recognize that these evils have come upon us, not only through the malice of our Enemy, but because of our sin, the sin of your people.
Lord have mercy upon us, and pardon our sin

 Response: Amen. Lord, have mercy

Lord, unite your people in brotherly love and in your truth that we might together give witness to Christ in the world.

Response:Amen. Lord, have mercy

Lord, frustrate your enemies and expose their plots; call to repentance all your sons and daughters; strengthen the weak and enlighten those who are confused.

Response:Amen. Lord, have mercy

Lord, encourage and strengthen by the presence of your Spirit all who are suffering for their faithfulness to you.

Restore your people for the sake of your great name.

May your people be without spot or blemish, ready for your Son’s return!

Response: Amen. Come Lord Jesus

Pope Francis on Reconciliation and Prayer for Christian Unity
This excerpt is a address given by Pope Francis on January 25, 2017 to conclude the fiftieth annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity on the theme “Reconciliation – the love of Christ compels us” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14-20).
Encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus radically transformed the life of Saint Paul. Henceforth, for him, the meaning of life would no longer consist in trusting in his own ability to observe the Law strictly, but rather in cleaving with his whole being to the gracious and unmerited love of God: to Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. Paul experienced the inbreaking of a new life, life in the Spirit. By the power of the risen Lord, he came to know forgiveness, confidence and consolation. Nor could Paul keep this newness to himself. He was compelled by grace to proclaim the good news of the love and reconciliation that God offers fully in Christ to all humanity.

For the Apostle of the Gentiles, reconciliation with God, whose ambassador he became (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20), is a gift from Christ. This is evident in the text of the Second Letter to the Corinthians which inspired the theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: “Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us” (cf. 2 Cor 5:14-20). “The love of Christ”: this is not our love for Christ, but rather Christ’s love for us. Nor is the reconciliation to which we are compelled simply our own initiative. Before all else it is the reconciliation that God offers us in Christ. Prior to any human effort on the part of believers who strive to overcome their divisions, it is God’s free gift. As a result of this gift, each person, forgiven and loved, is called in turn to proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation in word and deed, to live and bear witness to a reconciled life.

Today, in the light of this, we can ask: How do we proclaim this Gospel of reconciliation after centuries of division? Paul himself helps us to find the way. He makes clear that reconciliation in Christ requires sacrifice. Jesus gave his life by dying for all. Similarly, ambassadors of reconciliation are called, in his name, to lay down their lives, to live no more for themselves but for Christ who died and was raised for them (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15). As Jesus teaches, it is only when we lose our lives for love of him that we truly save them (cf. Luke 9:24). This was the revolution experienced by Paul, but it is, and always has been, the Christian revolution. We live no longer for ourselves, for our own interests and “image”, but in the image of Christ, for him and following him, with his love and in his love.

For the Church, for every Christian confession, this is an invitation not to be caught up with programs, plans and advantages, not to look to the prospects and fashions of the moment, but rather to find the way by constantly looking to the Lord’s cross. For there we discover our program of life. It is an invitation to leave behind every form of isolation, to overcome all those temptations to self-absorption that prevent us from perceiving how the Holy Spirit is at work outside our familiar surroundings. Authentic reconciliation between Christians will only be achieved when we can acknowledge each other’s gifts and learn from one another, with humility and docility, without waiting for the others to learn first.

If we experience this dying to ourselves for Jesus’ sake, our old way of life will be a thing of the past and, like Saint Paul, we will pass over to a new form of life and fellowship. With Paul, we will be able to say: “the old has passed away” (2 Cor 5:17). To look back is helpful, and indeed necessary, to purify our memory, but to be fixated on the past, lingering over the memory of wrongs done and endured, and judging in merely human terms, can paralyze us and prevent us from living in the present. The word of God encourages us to draw strength from memory and to recall the good things the Lord has given us. But it also asks us to leave the past behind in order to follow Jesus today and to live a new life in him. Let us allow him, who makes all things new (cf. Rev 21:5), to unveil before our eyes a new future, open to the hope that does not disappoint, a future in which divisions can be overcome and believers, renewed in love, will be fully and visibly one.

This year, in our journey on the road to unity, we recall in a special way the fifth centenary of the Protestant Reformation. The fact that Catholics and Lutherans can nowadays join in commemorating an event that divided Christians, and can do so with hope, placing the emphasis on Jesus and his work of atonement, is a remarkable achievement, thanks to God and prayer, and the result of fifty years of growing mutual knowledge and ecumenical dialogue...

Dear brothers and sisters, our prayer for Christian unity is a sharing in Jesus’ own prayer to the Father, on the eve of his passion, “that they may all be one” (John 17:21). May we never tire of asking God for this gift. With patient and trusting hope that the Father will grant all Christians the gift of full visible communion, let us press forward in our journey of reconciliation and dialogue, encouraged by the heroic witness of our many brothers and sisters, past and present, who were one in suffering for the name of Jesus. May we take advantage of every occasion that Providence offers us to pray together, to proclaim together, and together to love and serve, especially those who are the most poor and neglected in our midst.

Anglican Archbishops on Reconciliation and Reaching Out to Strengthen Relationships with Other Churches
A Joint Statement Marking the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
by the Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury and York,
Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop Dr John Sentamu
January 17, 2017 
"This year, churches around the world will be marking the great significance of the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation in Europe, dated from Martin Luther's 95 Theses protesting against the practice of indulgences, on 31 October 1517 at Wittenberg. The Church of England will be participating in various ways, including sharing in events with Protestant church partners from Continental Europe.

The Reformation was a process of both renewal and division amongst Christians in Europe. In this Reformation Anniversary year, many Christians will want to give thanks for the great blessings they have received to which the Reformation directly contributed. Amongst much else these would include clear proclamation of the gospel of grace, the availability of the Bible to all in their own language and the recognition of the calling of lay people to serve God in the world and in the church.

Many will also remember the lasting damage done five centuries ago to the unity of the Church, in defiance of the clear command of Jesus Christ to unity in love. Those turbulent years saw Christian people pitted against each other, such that many suffered persecution and even death at the hands of others claiming to know the same Lord. A legacy of mistrust and competition would then accompany the astonishing global spread of Christianity in the centuries that followed. All this leaves us much to ponder. 

Renewing our faith in Christ and in him alone
Remembering the Reformation should bring us back to what the Reformers wanted to put at the centre of every person's life, which is a simple trust in Jesus Christ. This year is a time to renew our faith in Christ and in Him alone. With this confidence we shall then be ready to ask hard questions about those things in our lives and the life of our churches that get in the way of sharing and celebrating faith in Him.

Repenting and reaching out to strengthen relationships with other churches
Remembering the Reformation should also lead us to repent of our part in perpetuating divisions. Such repentance needs to be linked to action aimed at reaching out to other churches and strengthening relationships with them. This anniversary year will provide many opportunities to do just that, beginning with this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Uniting in the truth of the Gospel of Christ
We therefore call on all Christians to seek to be renewed and united in the truth of the gospel of Christ through our participation in the Reformation Anniversary, to repent of divisions, and, held together in Him, to be a blessing to the world in obedience to Jesus Christ."

[photo above, (c) by thegarden at bigstock.com]
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