John 15: 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
The metaphor of the vine and the branches says to us that we have to stay connected (“abide”) to the Lord if we are to bear fruit. Why would we not stay connected? The reality is that Satan is constantly trying to distract us, pulling us away from that connectedness to Christ that will allow us to bear fruit. If God has made the Sword of the Spirit to be ecumenical, and in that, called to bear fruit, then Satan is going to do everything he can to make that hard.
As I have travelled around the world and visited many of our communities, I have heard people say, how hard trying to be ecumenical can be. Of course many of our communities are constituted as one denomination communities, and in that context being ecumenical means something different from what it means for other communities. But since Christ puts such a high focus on the unity of Christians, we should not relax our resolve to do our part, persevering in building relationships with those who are in Christ, but different from us, and, where we can, welcoming them into our midst.
When I was a student I joined a summer household linked to the Antioch community in London. There were, I think, ten of us, and we were Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox. One evening, we were just playing around, singing some of the songs we had been learning. We started to sing a song which uses the words of Psalm 133. It goes “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head of Aaron, it is like…” and the Psalmist then gives a series of images that tell of the beauty of being united. We sang the song through once – it is very short – and then repeated it, and as we did something happened that I have never seen happen again: we went into spontaneous four-part harmony! It was totally beautiful, and totally of the Holy Spirit, for none of us could have sung like that naturally. That day the Lord convinced me of his desire that we might be united across our churches, and of how good it is in his eyes.
PRAYER: Lord, be gracious to us in the Sword of the Spirit as we seek to live out this special gift you have given us to be ecumenical. Allow us to persevere in it when we find it hard, and when we do not know how to move forward. Lord we pray that all of us would know the part that we should play in the building of your kingdom through unity.
Today’s testimony is by Andrew Lee (Catholic) from Singapore.