‘… that you should be united…’ Archbishop’s sermons during Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
During the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023, Archbishop Michael Jackson has been attending a number of ecumenical services. He has preached at a service in the Jesuit House in Milltown and during his residency in St Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday.
Speaking at the Jesuit House on Friday (January 20) and in St Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday morning (January 22), the Archbishop explored the Epistle for Sunday [1 Corinthians 1] and said that it introduced readers to the “infant in–fighting of church politics of Corinth”.
“St Paul is very clear that he lives in the paradox of foolishness and power. This is more than a rhetorical trope. Let us hear him later in the passage: ‘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.’ (1 Corinthians 1.17, 18) Both foolishness and power, in the world in which we live, bring their own vulnerability and their own overreach. The institution that he criticizes for being divided and partisan, that is those who gather in Corinth was in no way the finished product nor was it the primary focus or the key driver of his work. His work was, and our work should be, the gospel and the cross of Christ. To my mind, this helps to set in its proper context the waves of disappointment that there inevitably are about institutional expressions of Christian unity. And we wheel these out again and again at this time of year annually. I take us back to this: … that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose. St Paul never once speaks of the church per se at this point. But he does speak of Christ Jesus and of our mind and of our purpose. So should we,” he said in the Jesuit House.
On Sunday morning in St Patrick’s Cathedral, he continued the exploration and looked at what hopes there were for the church today: “The church is not a supermarket of personal preferences where we can pick and choose, grumble and applaud, what others provide. The church is ourselves and what we make of ourselves and the church for other people. Personal salvation is essential, but the work of the church is not about one–upmanship (I belong to Paul, I belong to Apollos, I belong to Cephas, I belong to Christ) but about other people, some of whom are there, some of whom are not there, nor will they ever be. The church is about the mission of Jesus Christ; and mission is about invitation every bit as much as it is about conversion”.
Preaching in the Cathedral in the afternoon, Archbishop Jackson turned to Ecclesiastes [3.1–11]. He said that suggesting that everything had its time and season was not fatalism but a recognition of rhythm and flow. “But suggesting that everything has its time and its season can take us further than this. It can be a focus of everyday meditation, reflection, acceptance and peace. It can bring with it the acceptance of what we cannot change and it can teach us to make and to respect the distinction between what we can do and not do, what we can change and not change. The conclusion of the Old Testament Lesson also playfully sets in context our most strenuous and obsessive efforts to be like Hermione Grainger in Harry Potter: insufferable know–it–alls. The writer has indeed seen it all before: ‘God has given mankind a sense of past and future, but no comprehension of God’s work from beginning to end.’ In other words, it’s always all to play for. We are encouraged to get going, to get involved, to keep going and to keep involved. After all, this is what life is,” he said.