[Two lectionary posts this week: one for the Seventh Sunday of Easter and one for Ascension Sunday (reposted from May 2009)]
“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.” (John 17:20-21a).
It seems there’s not much talk of ecumenism these days—not in books, not on blogs, not even in and among churches. Maybe that’s because forty years of dogged efforts at dialogue and mutual understanding have borne some real fruit: Calvinists are far less suspicious of Catholics than they used to be and vice versa; Methodists and Lutherans are now in full communion with one another.
Of course, the ecclesial traditions most vested in the ecumenical movement are now among those experiencing significant decline, and the growing churches—Pentecostal, non-denominational, “emergent” of this or that variety—don’t seem to place the same high premium on bridge-building and cross-over conversations. So maybe it’s too soon to say “mission accomplished” when it comes to Church unity.
Of course it is. Jesus’ prayer in this week’s Gospel reading is a stinging reminder of his Body’s continued disunity. But what can and should be said about this obstinate, obvious reality? How does one preach this familiar text in ways that signal urgency but not despair, that convey the gravity of the situation while also offering a word of hope? I have no idea. Read more