THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY 
and throughout the year 2005
Theme: 'Christ, the One Foundation of the Church
(1 Cor 3:1-23)'
Jointly prepared and published by
the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches
The text provided below by CISA is an abridged version only. Full details
-including the order of the ecumenical service, the Biblical text for
2005, additional prayers, the ecumenical situation in Slovakia- are
available at the
website of the Vatican or that of the
World Council of
It is a joy for us both to announce the birth of a new era of
collaboration between the Pontifical Council/Catholic Church and Faith and
Order/World Council of Churches and a further, small step in the direction
of Christian unity. This year, for the first time, the text for the Week
of Prayer for Christian Unity that you have in your hands has not only
been jointly prepared by the PCPCU and Faith and Order but is being
jointly published by them. Although this has been the case de facto for
some years we have also now adopted a common format.
We urge you to make good use of the text - not only during one particular
week in the year but as a basis both for your private and public prayers
for unity throughout the year.
Brian Farrell, Secretary,Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
Samuel Kobia, General Secretary,World Council of Churches
Christ, the one Foundation of the Church
(1 Cor 3:1-23)
The situation in which the theme was developed is marked by new
possibilities for church growth. The churches in Slovakia have experienced
more than a decade of renewal and growth after four decades of living in a
political situation which, while allowing the churches to exist, attempted
to impede their growth and limit their witness in society. In the process
of preparing the theme for this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity,
the preparatory group reflected on the following questions: 1. What is the
foundation on which the new "existence" of their churches is being built?
2. Is there a space to grow in unity as the respective confessional
communities grow? 3. What are the means for strengthening the service of
The New Testament preserves letters written to the churches as
encouragement for their spiritual growth since they lived in a world often
hostile to the values of the gospel. One of these is the first letter to
the Christians of Corinth from which the members of the preparatory group
drew their guidance. The following reflections provide a theological and
pastoral introduction to this year's theme and the eight days drawing
principally from the Slovak context and the recent experience of its
Christian communities. These questions may challenge all churches and
Christian communities in whatever context they find themselves - whether
of growth or decline.
Growing in faith is growing in unity
While reflecting on the Slovak experience of growth, it was realized that
this growth is truly a gift to all the churches in Slovakia. People, who
previous to 1989 avoided church fellowship, began turning to the churches
with the important questions in their lives. This meant that the churches
needed to learn how to respond by communicating the gospel in this new
context of growth. This situation was not unlike that of Paul who had
aided the church in Corinth in its phase of growth.
However, the process of growth is not without its setbacks and problems.
Paul observed that the Corinthians were still not ready for the solid food
that provides for growth in faith. It is normal to begin growing with
milk. However, if after a time, the body cannot absorb solid food, there
is something wrong, unhealthy in the body.
Paul used a very strong expression to describe the people in Corinth. He
calls them "people of the flesh" because he sees them lacking in spiritual
maturity. They are still living according to human inclinations indicated
by their petty jealousy and quarrelling among themselves (day 1). How can
Paul use these strong words to describe a people whose church is so rich
in diverse gifts and so full of life? He himself knows of this richness
and comments on it in 1 Cor 14.
The lack of spiritual maturity was not evident in the absence of lofty
thoughts or visible signs of power. The congregation was rich in gifts and
works. They were not poorer or weaker than any other congregation in this
regard. In spite of all of this Paul describes the church as one of the
flesh, as infants. Why? Because there was a lack of unity among them.
In turn, the churches in Slovakia have asked themselves how authentic
their growth has been these past 15 years of new freedom and new
possibilities? What is the value of their achievements if there are still
tensions among them as different confessions? The churches in Slovakia
have realized the need to pray for growth in faith marked by unity in
service and mutual understanding.
Humility in service unites
The reason for division in Corinth was not due to the rejection of any
basic tenets of the faith. The problem in Corinth was a matter of not
leaving behind the old unredeemed patterns of human behaviour. In spite of
the many spiritual gifts the Corinthians had been blessed with, there was
something lacking: they were not united in the same mind and the same
purpose. Paul rejects this way of being Christian. He does not fall into
the trap of jealousy of other leaders when some people adore him and
identify themselves as those who belong to him. He insists that neither he
nor Apollos are "lords" to whom people would belong. They are "servants
through whom others came to believe" (1 Cor 3:5). Even this ministry was
not exercised through their own power. In fulfilling this service, they
were completely dependent on the grace of the Lord. They performed the
service "as the Lord assigned to each".
This attitude shows humility and greatness at the same time. Paul's
understanding of service is distinct from a worldly perspective, wherein
to be "only a servant" is the opposite pole of wanting to be served as
somebody important in the church. Jesus teaches us in Matthew 20:28: "The
Son of Man came not to be served but to serve". Therefore, all the gifts
received need to be put at the service of the plan of God since these
should point back to the author of these gifts and not the recipient.
Paul understands that the fruit of this service will be different since it
is built on cooperation. This is indeed the reality experienced in the
Slovakian context. Because of a new situation, namely the mobility of
people, ministers frequently do not see the fruits of the word that was
planted. Now, as in the pauline context, some plant while others tend to
the daily needs of growth, and still others harvest. In the past, people
remained in the same villages and towns so that their pastors tended to
their spiritual needs from planting the seed of the gospel to its maturity
in the fruits that were harvested. Today there may be many involved in
this process of growth. This process is not without problems. Even within
churches of the same confession this leads to tensions among fellow
servants as it did in Corinth. Moreover it is often forgotten that it is
not the ministers who enable faith to grow but it is "only God who gives
the growth" (day 2).
This situation causes us to pause and ask: to what extent are the tensions
among us really caused by differences in our teaching? How much pride is
there still among us? To what extent does a longing for power control our
actions instead of a desire and a readiness to serve?
Paul had to confront a similar situation among Christians in Corinth. His
solution was that humility in service unites. This, too, is what the
churches are learning in their life together. We realize that we are
co-workers, working together with God, each building on the one foundation
laid by God, namely Jesus Christ. In knowing this we are then able to
support each other and act according to the grace God has given to each of
us (day 3).
Building service on the one foundation
The responsibility that we have in our service is great. The foundation
has been laid, but the edifice that rises on it depends on the work of
each builder. How will each use the gift that God gives? Paul makes
reference later in his letter that there is a variety of gifts and
services given but that it is the same Lord who bestows them. This
diversity is given by the same Spirit for the common good and for unity of
the body (1Cor 12: 4ff). These gifts must then be used appropriately for
the work of edifying the church and of building bridges as a sign of hope
and the fruit of unity in Christ (day 4).
What is clear for Paul and for our context is that the work that has been
done in building will be tested so that the sort of work done by each will
be brought to light. In the past, the churches have at times been caught
up with themselves and in their agendas, and not with tending to the
proclamation of Christ crucified and risen as the foundation of Christian
life. Paul considered himself accountable before God for what he had
accomplished. In the same way, the churches need to be accountable not
only before God but to each other as co-workers in their service. The kind
of work done will reveal the quality of our discipleship. (day 5).
In attempting to encourage the Christians in Corinth, Paul needed to
affirm the nature of who they were. Because they have received the gift of
the Spirit they have become the temple of God and bear God's image. This
reality challenges these Christians to live united with the Spirit who in
turn unites them to Christ, the one foundation (day 6).
From our human experiences and the histories that we recount, we can begin
to see the folly of our ways which have caused divisions among those who
follow Christ. This foolishness is what Paul began with in his letter to
the Corinthians when he exhorts them to be in agreement and avoid
divisions since they should be of the same mind and purpose (1 Cor 1:10).
We have made from the one Church of Christ, many divisions, founded on
disagreements since we have not been of the same mind and purpose but have
worked against one another. This may be seen as the fruit of living in a
world where such traits as individualism and competition are considered to
be wisdom. By contrast, Paul proclaims the message of Christ who humbled
himself to accept our human weaknesses even unto death, thus revealing
"what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9) (day 7).
Paul makes a connection between different co-workers who are in the
service of the gospel. Then he sets this fellowship into a context of
universal and cosmic unity. He is assuring those, who in different times
and different ways are building on the one foundation, that they together
belong to Christ. They are of Christ. If we belong to Christ then we also
belong to God. Paul is aware of how God has acted in creation through
Christ to make all things new and to reconcile all things. As fellow
servants and ministers, we are united when we realize that our service
starts in Christ and is directed to God who has laid the one foundation of
our faith and from whom our unity comes (day 8).
The eight days of prayer are an invitation to reflect together as
different churches, to ask a blessing for each other and to see where we
can grow together in unity.
The search for unity: throughout the year
The traditional date for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is 18-25
January. Those dates were proposed in 1908 by Paul Wattson to cover the
days between the feast of St Peter and the feast of St Paul, and therefore
have a symbolic meaning. In the southern hemisphere where January is a
vacation time churches often find other days to celebrate the week of
prayer, for example around Pentecost (which was suggested by the Faith and
Order movement in 1926), which is also a symbolic date for the unity of
Mindful of this flexibility concerning the date, we encourage you to
understand the material presented here as an invitation to find
opportunities throughout the whole year to express the degree of communion
which the churches have already received, and to pray together for that
full unity which is Christ's will.
Adapting the text
This material is offered with the understanding that, whenever possible,
it will be adapted for use at the local level. In doing this, account must
be taken of local liturgical and devotional practice, and of the whole
social and cultural context. Such adaptation should normally take place
ecumenically. In some places ecumenical structures are already set up for
adapting the material. In other places, we hope that the need to adapt it
will be a stimulus to creating such structures.
Using the Week of Prayer material
- For churches and Christian communities which observe the week of prayer
together through a single common service, an order for an ecumenical
worship service is provided.
- Churches and Christian communities may also incorporate material from
the week of prayer into their own services. Prayers from the ecumenical
worship service, the "eight days", and the selection of additional prayers
can be used as appropriate in their own setting.
- Communities which observe the week of prayer in their worship for each
day during the week may draw material for these services from the "eight
- Those wishing to do Bible studies on the week of prayer theme can use as
a basis the biblical texts and reflections given in the "eight days". Each
day the discussions can lead to a closing period of intercessory prayer.
- Those who wish to pray privately may find the material helpful for
focusing their prayer intentions. They can be mindful that they are in
communion with others praying all around the world for the greater visible
unity of Christ's church.
Preparation of the Material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
The initial draft of this material was prepared by an ecumenical group
composed of members of The Theological Committee of the Ecumenical Council
of Churches in Slovakia.
We wish to thank the theological committee for providing material and
inspiration for our work.
The material reached its present form at a meeting of an international
preparatory group named by the Commission on Faith and Order of The World
Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian
Unity of the Catholic Church. The international group met at the Jesuit
Retreat House in Piestany, Slovakia and was received by its director,
Father Emil Vani. We also wish to thank the centre and all its staff for
their welcome and their prayerful support of our work.
Our gratitude is expressed to the Ecumenical Council of Churches in
Slovakia and its general secretary, the Rev. Ondrej Prostrednik for their
work in organizing the local preparatory process and hosting the
international preparatory meeting.
The theme of the worship is: Christ, the one foundation of the church.
The worship begins with the congregation giving thanks to Christ for his
work of salvation.
The complete text of 1 Cor 3 is at the heart of the worship, though one of
our two options for the liturgy of the word proposes that only verses
10-13 are to be read within that liturgy. The other readings can develop
the theme of sturdiness and the quality of the building of the church upon
Christ, the cornerstone and foundation of our unity.
The penitential prayer and prayer of forgiveness comes after the
proclamation of the word of God. This allows it to be an essential element
in the worship. Some congregations will prefer to leave it in its
traditional place towards the beginning. It is intended that each
community participating in the service examine its collective conscience
before Christ (v. 4) the foundation of the one church. Expressions of
penitence, symbols and testimonies will assist this process.
Do we proclaim the gospel together, recognizing and sharing the gifts
which the Lord gives our churches (v. 5)? Do we accept the complementary
role of our churches in certain local situations? Do we recognize the
primacy of Christ, whose servants we are? Do we really labour together at
God's work? (v.9)
The symbol proposed here is that of two wooden planks or beams, assembled
midway through the service into a simple cross. It evokes not only the
gates of hell destroyed by Christ by his resurrection but also the solid
materials habitually used in the construction of a house. Once placed on
the ground as a cross, other symbols - of penitence, or expressing our
faith and our unequivocal belonging to Christ for the building up of the
one church - could be set on top of it, such as candles/nightlights,
germinating heads of corn, flowers, or children's drawings.
During the intercessions, inspired by 1 Cor 3: 1-23, the congregation
entrusts to Christ, the one mediator, the work of Christians and the
diakonia of the churches throughout the world, beyond the domain of
BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS AND PRAYERS FOR THE EIGHT DAYS
Called to Spiritual Maturity (1 Cor 3: 1-4)
- Hos 2:21-23 I will say to Lo-ammi (not my people) "you are my people"
- Ps 24 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
- Col 1:25-28 The mystery hidden throughout the ages
- Jn 15:1-8 I am the vine, you are the branches
In Saint Paul's letter to the Christian community of Corinth, a community
for whom he had played an important role in laying the foundations of
faith, Paul is eager to call the Corinthians to spiritual maturity. While
celebrating the gifts God had bestowed on this community, he confronts
them with the echoes of division which have been reported to him, as
expressed in the conflicting slogans: I am for Paul; I am for Apollos; I
am for Cephas. Paul responds with the evocative question: Has Christ been
There is a Hebrew tradition, found in the Old Testament, of God giving a
people a name, reflective of their spiritual state, in order to call them
to fidelity or conversion. In an analogous manner, Paul names the
Corinthians as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ, lamenting that
for the moment he cannot address them as spiritual people. He identifies
their preoccupation with allegiances as immature and not in keeping with
the mind of Christ. His words are abrupt, not because their behaviour is
unusually small-minded, but because of its stark contrast with the
magnitude and divine origin of their Christian calling: for they are God's
temple, wherein God's Spirit dwells; they belong to Christ, and will be
given all things in him. This identity in Christ carries with it a
mission: with Paul, they are to make known the mystery that has been
hidden throughout the ages, and to be stewards of this mystery,
proclaiming the great redemptive action of God in Christ and witnessing to
it in their transformed lives.
It is worth noting that the divisions in Corinth had to do with conflicts
in their reception of the preaching of the apostles: I am for Cephas; I am
for Paul. Here we see a foreshadowing of the divisions which historically
would scar our unity in Christ, built on the faith of the apostles. It is
in a deepening acknowledgement of the faith of the early church that
Christians today seek to find their unity. We live with Paul's question
still: Has Christ been divided? Spiritual maturity has to do, in part,
with retrieving and incarnating the unity given us in Christ. To what
extent does our disunity derive from our being less than mature in the
faith, less than expansive in our Christian vision? In what ways does our
disunity keep us from carrying out the healing and reconciling mission of
Christ in a broken and needy world?
Gracious God, you continue to call us to spiritual maturity. You desire to
name us as your own. Open our hearts and minds to the greatness of our
calling, and help us to walk in unity - in communion with Paul and Apollos
and Cephas - as we proclaim and place ourselves at the service of your
redeeming work in the world. Amen.
God is in Charge of Growth (1 Cor 3: 5-9)
- Gen 1: 26 - 2 : 9 The Lord God planted a garden in Eden.
- Ps 104: 24-31 You renew the surface of the earth
- Rom 8: 14-25 Creation awaits with impatience the revelation of the Son of
- Lk 8: 4-15 It is those who hear the word &and bear fruit
Speaking to the people of Corinth, Paul uses an image familiar to them, of
planting and growth. It is a rural image taken to illustrate the works of
God, who is directly at work in their midst, calling forth servants who
will collaborate in his work.
Like the Corinthians, we are called to be instruments, faithful servants
who will be judged for the way in which we accomplish this work. It is an
important task, both to be in this service and to bear the responsibility
of the work to be accomplished to the glory of God. We must offer our
talents to him whom we serve; and place our competence on the only
foundation which is Christ, in order to build an edifice in the service of
God has made this world good. We see this in the first chapter of Genesis.
Humankind has gone beyond the role given us therein; we have destroyed
this perfect world. That is why we are called to a ministry of healing in
the world (Rom 8). This multi-faceted ministry unites us. It consists of
diverse facets, transcending confessional and cultural barriers. The world
is wounded, in the same way as the traveller lying on the road from
Jerusalem to Jericho. We must not be afraid to touch what is broken in our
world. God desires to heal through our intervention. Creation awaits with
impatience the healing which will come from God.
Within the unity which is sought, Christians can exchange their own
experiences to show that beyond being of Paul or of Apollos, they are
Christ's. Only Christ can help them grow in the love of the Father, in the
service of the Spirit of holiness and of unity who desires to save the
world and its marginalized people.
We thank you for the confidence and blessing which you offer to those who
work for the coming of your reign in this world.
Help us to find new ways of carrying out your work in the service of those
May we serve, rather than seek to be served, and may your healing power be
at work among us.
United as one family of your only Son, may we be faithful stewards of your
creation so that you may be known by all men and women, great and small,
by all things and all people, as the true living saviour and creator of
Christ is the Foundation (1 Cor 3: 10-11)
- Is 28: 14-16 I am laying a foundation stone, a precious cornerstone, a
- Ps 118: 16-24 The stone rejected has become the cornerstone
- Eph 2: 19-22 Christ Jesus as the cornerstone
- Mt 7: 24-27 A house built on the rock will not fall
God in Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, has laid down a common
foundation for all the baptized. Christians can therefore affirm their
faith in Christ, the one foundation on which the church of God is built.
Since nobody can lay down any other foundation, Christians can confess
together that the foundation on which their faith is built, is what God in
Christ has done. This conviction is a source of thankfulness and humility.
In their efforts to be rooted in the one foundation, many Christians have
been and continue to be challenged by other voices that contradict and
tend to reject Christ. Christians in such situations are called to be like
leaven in society, trusting that they will be supported by the grace of
God. Therefore in the face of testing, Christians must never waver. Since
Jesus was rejected, his followers too must be prepared to endure the same
On the foundation of Christ and his teaching, we are able to meet the
challenges of present day society. As Christians, we are not afraid to
make use of what others consider useless, as a starting point for witness
in the world.
Christians are convinced that to build on Jesus Christ as the sure and
common foundation implies the idea of working together from a common
starting point towards a common goal, namely the unity of all the
followers of Christ.
The meaning of Jesus Christ for us predefines in a unique and profound way
the character of every joint activity or whatever we do separately. The
power of Christ's love fills us with great hope that whatever we create in
his name has a capacity to last, and survive even in the midst of
difficulties, because Christ is the beginning and the end.
Lord our God, through the work of the Holy Spirit you have established in
Christ the one foundation on which your church is built. We thank you for
what you have done for us in Christ. We thank you too for continually
upholding your church in the midst of all attempts to destroy it. Help us
by your grace that we may build on the foundation you have laid down in
Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
You are to Build on the Foundation (1 Cor 3: 12-13)
- Neh 2: 17-18 Come let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem
- Ps 127 Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain
- 1 Cor 12: 4-11 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit
- Mt 20: 1-16 A landowner went out to hire labourers to work in his vineyard
Christ is God's gift to the world. In him the salvation and liberation of
the whole of humankind is revealed. He is the basis and the source of the
new life which God has given us. There is no need for us to add anything
to complete this gift of God.
But this does not mean that we should remain passive and detached. Paul
writes of the commitment to build on the foundation. He affirms our
vocation and response. We are called to be workers in God's work of
renewal and labourers in his household.
God has given us different gifts (1 Cor 12). We have to make use of them
for the one purpose: to glorify Christ and the power of his peace. Through
our work we are to be witnesses to God's love and to our unity in Christ.
In the history of the churches we can see that not everything which is
done in the name of Christ was really "Christ-like". Sometimes Christ and
his reconciliation have been overshadowed by arrogance, divisions and the
struggle for power. "Church building" is not a matter of building
confessional barriers against each other or of building our own
In today's world, churches have to demonstrate how to build bridges and
how to cooperate as a sign of hope and a fruit of unity in Christ. Old
wounds can be healed and new challenges in a changing society can be met
together, each respecting the other's traditions and gifts.
This foundation in Christ makes us sisters and brothers. It is the basis
for being the one, true church of Christ, filled with love for the poor,
the marginalized, trusting God and in the hope of his coming kingdom.
God's reconciliation commits us together and as individual churches to be
living stones of unity in Christ, so that the foudation in Christ will
become more and more evident.
God, we thank you for your unique gift of life and peace in Christ. You
have given our churches many different gifts. Help us to see this
diversity as an enrichment to building your house in this world. Let us
witness to what strengthens our unity and encourage all that helps us to
bring your love to the people with whom we are living. Amen.
God Judges Our Efforts to Build (1 Cor 3: 13-15)
- Gen 4: 2b-10a Am I my brother's keeper?
- Ps 51: 1-4, 9-13 Against you, you alone, have I sinned
- Phil 2: 1-5 Regard others as better than yourselves
- Mt 25: 14-30 A man entrusted his property to his slaves
It is a continuing wonder that in all ages God wants and needs people to
work with him in what he is doing in the world. Though the one foundation,
Jesus Christ, is laid there is always a task of building to be done.
In explaining this to Christians in Corinth, Paul also insists on God's
quality control: how well we build is to be tested. Our works do not bring
about salvation, but we remain responsible for our works before God.
Paul saw this in terms of the purifying fires of the final judgement which
he thought would come soon. For us it is still a matter of urgency -
regarding each opportunity as if it could be the last - and realizing that
we all bring judgement on ourselves by how well we use the gifts God has
given us for building up the kingdom. And for Christians in Slovakia,
there is a special urgency because they sense new opportunities for
Christian service in the community which are not to be missed.
We are all accountable both to God and to each other. Indeed churches too
are accountable to each other in the quest for unity. Like the servants in
the parable, entrusted with their master's property and required to make
good use of it, we have all been given treasure: the life of a fragile
planet, sisters and brothers world-wide to care for, the precious word of
the gospel to share. They are given to all God's people together and
provide an opportunity for us to share with one another, to learn from our
successes and failures. And how well we work and build together is even
now being put to the test.
God, through your coming to us in Jesus and through using fallible people,
you have shown yourself to be a vulnerable God; we thank you that you
still trust us to offer service and work for the building of your kingdom.
Keep us alert to your will and purpose and open our eyes that we may see
the true needs of people around us. Enable us in humility to learn from
one another, that we may be united in our mutual accountability and
devoted in service for your kingdom; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
You are God's Temple (1 Cor 3: 16-17)
- Gen 1: 26-27 God created humankind in his image
- Ps 8 What are human beings
- 1 Pet 2: 9-10 God's own people
- Mt 16: 24-27 If any want to become my followers
The question of identity is by no means a new one. Human beings have
always asked themselves and sought to live out who they really are and
what they are meant to be. Today, living in a world which is characterised
by constant changes and a fundamental pluralism, the search for identity
has become an even more crucial issue. We struggle with that question not
only as individuals but also as communities and as churches. We try to
find our own identity in what distinguishes us from others and makes us
The apostle Paul - although addressing the Christians of Corinth 2000
years ago - reminds us even now that the question of identity has to be
approached from another perspective: we are not "special" because we are
different from others, but because we have all received the gift of the
Holy Spirit - a gift which is present in every human being since we are
all created in the image of God.
We are God's temple - sacred and full of dignity; nobody has the right to
destroy this temple. We are those with whom God wants to feel at home - a
place where his good Spirit dwells. God wants to have fellowship with us,
which includes and requires that we have fellowship with each other. Since
this call to fellowship extends beyond the borders of our Christian
communities, the scandal of our divisions as Christian churches is
heightened, making it imperative to overcome them.
Differences are also part of our Christian identity since we live in
different situations and cultures, we live as women and men, we are shaped
by particular personal experiences and by the history of the communities
in which we live. But wherever we live, whatever the challenges we face or
the talents we are given, we are united by the Holy Spirit who enables us
to live as God means us to live, and as has been made manifest in Jesus
Christ: holy, and in love-giving and love-receiving relationships.
Eternal God, you created heaven and earth, you created human beings in
your image, giving each of us identity and dignity. We thank you for your
gift of life - life which binds us to you and to your creation. Help us -
as Christians and as churches - to receive your gift in all its fullness
so that we may be able to overcome whatever limits or reduces your gift of
life. Fill us with your good Spirit so that we may grow into the image of
Christ and become his image in the world. Amen.
Folly and Wisdom, Life in Christ (1 Cor 3 : 18-20)
- Job 32: 7 - 33 It is the breath of the Almighty that makes for
- Ps 14: 1-7 The Lord looks down to see if there are any who seek after God
- 1 Cor 1: 17-30 God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise
- Mt 10: 17-25a It is the Spirit of your Father who will speak through you
Democracy and liberty bring us many advantages but also temptations. That
is as true for individuals as it is for churches. In countries which have
been Christian since ancient times, churches are often tempted by a
misplaced use of power. In consequence, their witness has offered human
perspectives rather than the word of God. Nowadays, we can still be
tempted to rely on relations of power and the advantages which come from
being in the majority, or, alternatively, to abandon debate in our
societies, too often futile. However, as churches we have been commanded
to witness to a common foundation for the life of the world, that is Jesus
Christ and his word, and nothing can change that.
The prophets underlined that what they proclaimed was not their own words,
thoughts or opinions, but a word received from God. Job understands that
he must seek wisdom elsewhere, in the inspiration of God, rather than from
within his own resources.
The apostle Paul delved into this wisdom to proclaim to all the crucified
Lord Jesus Christ. He says that he has decided to know nothing other than
Jesus Christ. For the sake of the message of Christ crucified, he was
ready to appear a fool in the eyes of the wise of his time. He writes to
the Christians of Corinth that God's wisdom was to offer salvation
"through the folly of what we preach": Christ crucified. It was a scandal
and madness for the people of the time. But Paul says that the madness of
God is wiser than human wisdom and that the fragility of God is more solid
than human force. The Christ depicted in the gospels does not act like a
hero but as somebody whose power is not of this world. He reaches out to
the marginalized, he touches the dying, he forgives sins, even where the
just and pious saw no possibility of forgiveness. This is the God who came
down to walk the dusty ways of humankind! The word of the cross has also
been entrusted to us, Christians of today. Between our churches, which the
madness of humankind has separated, the pursuit of unity might seem a
crazy project. Yet at the heart of a divided world, torn apart by war and
violence, the search for peace and reconciliation remains the only wisdom.
In the light of the cross, the foundation of our common witness takes
shape here. With Christ, God reaches out towards humanity and sends us
towards those who seek him in order to proclaim: the way to life passes
through the crucified and risen Christ.
O God, full of wisdom and truth, you made known to us the folly of your
love when humanity crucified your only son, Jesus, and when you raised him
from the dead as the Christ, we began to grasp your great wisdom. We pray
you, keep us in the steps of your Son on the narrow road to Life. May we
proclaim the good news of salvation by the cross of Jesus Christ which
witnessed to life for all. May your church today stay faithful to him who
is its foundation and may it lead all nations to the wisdom of your
You are Christ's (1 Cor 3: 21-23)
- Is 44: 1-8 I am the first and I am the last
- Ps 89: 1-4 Your steadfast love is established forever
- Rev 4: 1-11 Worshipping the one who lives forever and ever
- Mk 9: 33-35 Whoever wants to be first must be last
We belong to Christ. We are his and no other's. This fact is the
foundation for our unity: In baptism, Christ has claimed us for his own,
and made us all one in him. The unity we share in Christ is greater than
all the differences, past and present, which divide the churches today.
Because we belong to Christ, we belong to one another and are accountable
to one another. That is why Christ calls us to build up his body, the
church, together as co-workers and fellow-servants. That is why Christians
and churches are called to live and work together, as fellow-servants in
witnessing to their faith and in serving those in need. And that is why
divisions, dissension, quarrelling, factions based on personalities (even
if they are Paul or Apollos or Cephas) - all these are denials not only of
our brothers and sisters in Christ, but of Christ himself.
As God's temple, the church is a place of worship, and common worship is
the most powerful expression of our common belonging to Christ. Every act
of common worship is a victory over our division and a celebration of the
unity which we do have in Christ. We are united with all those, in all
places and times, who have belonged to Christ and who in the Spirit have
worshipped God. We do not always act, of course, in accordance with the
unity given us in Christ. When we cannot worship together, especially at
the Lord's table, our disunity is plain for all to see. Here there is more
"building" to be done - and that by all churches!
Because we belong to Christ, we belong to God. Paul affirms in all
boldness: "all things are yours". We live and move, together with all our
co-workers and fellow-servants, within God's plan for all of creation. God
acts within history, for salvation, for healing of the broken, for
reconciliation of those at war, for the renewal of the whole creation. God
acts, too, in judgement: we know that what we build together is being
tested and the results made known. We anticipate a final accounting being
made of our work. We do not know the exact time or form of this judgement;
but we know that we will be judged by the God whose nature is life and
For all God's gifts of creation and redemption, we give praise and thanks
to God who has made us one through his Spirit in Christ. May our building
together of Christ's church, may our search for unity, be offered in
praise of God.
Loving God, we thank you for making us one in Christ. Give us imagination
and courage to build your church together in unity and in love. Make our
lives, and the lives of our churches, a witness to your love for us and
for the whole creation. Grant us unity in our time, O Lord. Amen!