Sermons & Reflections News

Christian Unity

Jan 20, 2023

The week from 18-25 January is designated as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. It began in 1908 and a great deal has happened since. Early on people thought in terms of organic union creating just one denomination. My own tradition, the United Reformed Church, was formed in 1972 from one such union of denominations. In many places there are Local Ecumenical Partnerships, where different traditions create church together. Much closer sharing is possible than it used to be. A century ago, I would not have been allowed to receive communion in an Anglican church, let alone be allowed to lead worship and preach!

These days we think in terms of ‘Receptive Ecumenism’, whereby we all listen and learn from each other. None of us has the monopoly of the truth.

In Sunday’s gospel reading we hear of the call of people to be disciples. St Paul reminds us in the 1 Corinthians passage that we should be, ‘united in the same mind and the same purpose’. As disciples today, our fundamental call and common purpose is to be followers of Christ. In living that call we will be greatly enriched if we are open to listen to others’ views, and to learn from their stories. Minds, and even the world, can be changed. Remember how St Paul’s life was changed and the effect that had on others? It is no accident that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ends on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul on 25 January!


Readings for Sunday 22nd January - The Third Sunday of Epiphany

Isaiah 9:1–4

Psalm 27:1, 4–12

1 Corinthians 1:10–18

Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul’, or ‘I belong to Apollos’, or ‘I belong to Cephas’, or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Matthew 4:12–23

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,

   on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—

the people who sat in darkness

   have seen a great light,

and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death

   light has dawned.’

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

Readings for the week ahead

Monday 23rd January: Hebrews 9: 15, 24 – end, Psalm 98: 1 – 7, Mark 3: 22 – 30

Tuesday 24th January: Hebrews 10: 1 – 10, Psalm 40: 1 – 4, 7 – 10, Mark 3: 31 – end

Wednesday 25th January, The Conversion of St Paul: Jeremiah 1: 4 – 10 or Acts 9: 1 – 22, Psalm 67, Acts 9: 1 – 22 or Galatians 1: 11 – 16a, Matthew 19: 27 – end

Thursday 26th January: Hebrews 10: 19 – 25, Psalm 24: 1 – 6, Mark 4: 21 – 25

Friday 27th January: Hebrews 10: 32 – end, Psalm 37: 3 – 6, 40 – end, Mark 4: 26 – 34

Saturday 28th January: Hebrews 11: 1 – 2, 8 – 19, Luke 1: 69 – 73, Mark 4: 35 – end