Sermon – 24th January 2021

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Sunday in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Sunday 24th January 2021

As public worship has again been suspended because of the pandemic the service was recorded and made available online. That can be found here.

Sunday in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
John 17. 20-24

Revd Preb Maureen Hobbs

Maureen Hoobs

This week we have seen the inauguration of a new President in the United States. For many of us it is with a profound sense of gratitude and relief that we are spared further daily outpourings from Mr Trump!

But what was equally significant – in fact perhaps more so in the greater scheme of things, was to see a woman sworn in as Vice-President, and one that was of Black and Asian heritage as well. It felt a really significant moment in American and even world history.

We are always more comfortable with ‘people like us’. We naturally connect with people who share some of our values, culture and background. These bonds of trust and connection are called social capital. Four years of the Trump administration has seen the ‘social capital’ of the United States pretty near bankrupted; and President Biden and Vice President Harris will have a monumental task ahead of them trying to rebuild it in a country that is now deeply and dangerously divided. Such cohesion is the mark of a healthy community, but many communities – and sadly not only those in the United States, but also closer to home, are now very divided. We have seen great damage done here by the Brexit arguments and even between those who try to deny the reality or seriousness of the Pandemic – even in the face of the exhausted and traumatised health workers in our ICU departments in hospitals the length and breadth of these islands.

The most valuable tool of social cohesion is called’ bridge-bulding social capital’, when we find ways to get to know and trust people who are different from us in some way. Churches are ideally placed to offer this gift. The Bible teaches us to “welcome the stranger”, to break down the barriers between ‘rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, slave and free’, because in Christ we are all one. At the heart of our faith is a calling to value our diversity and so to find the deeper unity we share as children of God.

At its best, the ecumenical movement such as the Covenanting Churches of Wolverhampton West, or Churches together in Britain and Ireland, helps us to reflect on our shared values and our common goals as Christian Churches with much in common, even if we also have varied and different traditions. This year we can only share in each other’s worship on-line rather than in person. But on the other hand it has never been so easy to ‘visit’ another church; another denomination. And to do so without worrying that we may not ‘fit in’; may not know what to do and when; may (if only in our imaginations) be rejected?

Maybe we should all try to do that from time to time? So now as we listen to some singers (not our own choir this time, but that of St Martin in the Fields singing the Kyrie from the Mass of St Cedd Nardonne) let us all contemplate the following questions:

How real is our unity?

How do we deal with our differences?

How do we demonstrate our unity – or how will we demonstrate our unity, post pandemic, to a divided world?

And how do we relate to people of other faiths?