Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pope Francis and his call for unity

Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church is sounding like a reformer in the purist sense of the word.
 He recently reached out to a group of Charismatic Christians by sending a video message to a large conference in Ken Copeland’s Texas mega church urging reconciliation.   He used the illustration of Joseph being united with his brothers and the tears of joy that result when a family is reunited.  He apparently was motivated to reach out for a number of reasons - -  Christian unity being one of the primary motivators but also his affection and relationship with Tony Palmer.

Fr. Tony Palmer is an Anglican Bishop and is the CEEC (Celtic Anglican Tradition) international Ecumenical Officer.   Rev. Palmer has a heart for Christian unity and is an official member of a Roman Catholic Ecumenical Delegation for Christian Unity and Reconciliation. 

Pope Francis video address to this group only lasted seven minutes but was refreshing for a number of reasons (The entire transcript is posted below).   First this address was full of the humility that we have become accustomed from this man.  Secondly, he addressed the reason for the separation between Catholic and non-Catholic Christians as being sin.   His address mentioned that we were ‘brothers” in Christ and while rich in tradition and culture we have unity as we worship the same Lord.

Jesus prayed that we would be one church so that the world would believe that He was sent by God, His father (John 17).  The church however is led by less-than-perfect men who because of their sin nature often find ways to divide rather than unite, argue rather than discuss and blame rather than forgive.  

I mentioned that Pope Francis is a reformer because in any reform process, we go back to the basics.  Christian theologians all agree on the essential truths of the faith (i.e. that is by grace we are saved).  As believers in Jesus Christ, we embrace the essentials of the Christian Faith and a few doctrinal truths that are clearly evident in the Bible as well as the historic Creeds of the church (i.e Nicene Creed, Apostles Creed).  

Christian unity is the basis of our credibility and it is in embracing Christ and these essentials that speak to his deity, his virgin birth, his death on the cross that are the basis of what it means to be a Christian.  If you add to these essentials you may become a part of a small group, a denomination, but you become no more Christian.

Pope Francis comments from 2/19/2014

“Two rules: Love God above all, and love the other (neighbor), because he is your brother and sister. With these two rules we can go ahead. I am here with my brother, my bishop brother, Tony Palmer. We’ve been friends for years. 
He told me about your conference, about your meeting. And it’s my pleasure to greet you. A greeting both joyful and nostalgic (yearning). Joyful because it gives me joy that you have come together to worship Jesus Christ the only Lord. And to pray to the Father and to receive the Holy Spirit. This brings me joy because we can see that God is working all over the world. Nostalgic (yearning) because but…it happens, as within our suburbs. In the suburbs there are families that love each other and families that don’t love each other. Families that come together and families who separate themselves. 
We are kind of…permit me to say, separated. 
Separated because, it’s sin that has separated us, all our sins. The misunderstandings throughout history. It has been a long road of sins that we all shared in. Who is to blame? We all share the blame. We have all sinned. There is only one blameless, the Lord. I am nostalgic (yearning), that this separation comes to an end and gives us communion. I am nostalgic (yearning), of that embrace that the Holy Scripture speaks of when Joseph’s brothers began to starve from hunger, they went to Egypt, to buy, so that they could eat.
They went to buy. They had money. But they couldn’t eat the money. But there they found something more than food, they found their brother. All of us have currency. The currency of our culture. The currency of our history. We have lot of cultural riches, and religious riches. And we have diverse traditions. But we have to encounter one another as brothers. We must cry together like Joseph did. 
These tears will unite us. The tears of love.
I am speaking to you as a brother. I speak to you in a simple way. With joy and nostalgia (yearning). Let us allow our nostalgia (yearning) to grow, because this will propel us to find each other, to embrace one another. And together to worship Jesus Christ as the only Lord of History. 
I thank you profoundly for listening to me. I thank you profoundly for allowing me to speak the language of the heart. And I also ask you a favor. Please pray for me, because I need your prayers. And I will pray for you, I will do it, but I need your prayers. And let us pray to the Lord that He unites us all. Come on, we are brothers. Let’s give each other a spiritual hug and let God complete the work that he has begun. And this is a miracle; the miracle of unity has begun. 
A famous Italian author named Manzoni, once wrote in his novel, of a simple man among the people, who once said this, “I’ve never seen God begin a miracle without Him finishing it well.” He will complete this miracle of unity. I ask you to bless me, and I bless you. From brother to brother, I embrace you. Thank you.”

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