2 Corinthians 5:14-20 (NIV)
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
Peace be with you!
Reconciliation is a process. It is a painstaking process. It begets sacrifice if not the sacrifice of life. It calls us to deny ourselves. It should move us to attack the problems and not the person. Such a painful process though would result to unity and peace.
Let us pray…
Reconciling God, we turn to you at this moment of celebration to beseech the presence of your empowering and uniting Spirit as we continue to celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, a joint effort of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines Program Unit on Christian unity and Ecumenical Relations and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Ecumenical Affairs.
We praise you for the privilege of coming together as faith communities aware of the call for reconciliation as evident by the work we do to build bridges of unity, peace and justice amongst us, in communities and in the world. This we pray in the name of Jesus our Lord. Amen.
A number of biblico-theological reflections, essays, poems and other articles has already been written on the theme reconciliation. Our message tonight therefore is an attempt to weave together a variety of reflections for us to be reminded of our ministry as agents of transformation in this time and context.
REMINDING OURSELVES OF THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION
Our biblical text for the celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a fitting reminder of who we are and of our task in these challenging moments. True enough the love of Christ compels us. It compels us to manifest Christ’ love in the way we relate with one another in with the rest of God’s created order.
UCCP’s General Assembly Bible exposition, particularly on the ecclesial year sub-theme, “Spirituality for a New Humanity” has beautifully describes what it means for Christians to be bridges of reconciliation. It points to Church’s being trustee of the ministry of reconciliation and our being Christ’s ambassadors for reconciliation as what our text emphasizes.
And I quote, “We become concerned in helping people become reconciled to each other and to God. We help create a space where there is always room for dialogue and conversation, where differences are respected, where gender distinctions and preferences are accepted, where bridges of understanding across cultures and religions are built while walls of prejudice and hatred are overcome, just like what Jesus did.
The reflection aptly puts it, “The new humanity in Christ are people radically transformed and who will work to contribute to the emergence of a new world. Where conflicts arise, they come as the peacemakers and peacebuilders. Where prejudice, exclusion and hatred abound, they come as bridge builders and reconcilers. Where injustice and victimization take place, they come as the voice and advocates of the victims calling for justice and restitution. Where mother earth is being destroyed, they come as defenders of the integrity, balance and harmony of the whole creation. This is what a new humanity touched and empowered by the spirit of Christ can do as God’s agents of transformation and reconciliation.”
THE LOVE OF CHRIST COMPELS US TO LIVE IN UNITY AND PEACE
The message from the joint message of presidents of CCEE (Council of European Bishops’ Conferences) and CEC (Conference of the European Churches) sheds light:
The love of Christ compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14)! Great truth is contained in this short verse from Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that inspired this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The history of Christianity in Europe is marked by sorrowful periods of division, mutual condemnation, and even violence. As a number of churches prepare to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation, we are reminded anew of our difficult past. Recalling these events and confronting our history is a precious opportunity to renew our commitment to the healing of wounds and overcoming divisions. We turn to Christ, who reconciles all people and all creation to God, to guide us in this work. In humble gratitude for this gift, we work for reconciliation through both word and deed.
Today, we must also celebrate how we have grown in learning to work together and cultivating meaningful theological dialogue. The Council of European Bishops’ Conference and the Conference of European Churches have enjoyed 45 years of collaboration through its Joint Committee, and on other issues of common concern. Also the shared suffering and joy of the world brings us together. Our solidarity with Roman people, our commitment to ecological justice, and prayers for unity within the Body of Christ is strengthened through this relationship.
The multiple crises facing Europe and its neighbours bind us still more closely together. War and conflict, political uncertainty, migration and ecological challenges, material and spiritual poverty touch all lives in Europe and beyond. Along with these crises comes hope. Together we can bear witness to the reconciling love of Christ through the safeguarding of Creation, solidarity with the poor, and protecting the dignity of all God’s people.
Through dialogue we will deepen our understanding of one another. Through common witness and action we will build bridges. Through prayer we will learn to recognise the Holy Spirit at work. The way forward cannot always be clear or easy, but we always recall in our heart the truth that “the love of Christ compels us.”
The aforementioned statement should direct our attention to the Church’ nature and work: to live in unity and peace. As Christ’ body for the life of the world, we ought to be united to realize Jesus’ prayer that we may be one. Division, therefore, is a scandal and should have no room in the Christian community.
It is in the spirit of unity that Christian churches today forge a stronger bond of unity to do away with discussing if not heatedly debating on doctrines and instead agree on concrete ministry to help address the sorry plight of the victims of senseless wards and injustice.
Ms. Trelly Marigza shared in her reflection titled “An Upside-down Kingdom with the Peacemakers” which says in part:
Amidst all sorts of misconceptions about peacemaking, we need to understand that peacemaking is not the following:
• Absence of conflict. Peace in the Bible is never to be confused with pacifism.
• Avoidance of strife. Never are we instructed to run from conflict. Putting our head in the sand, hoping that the conflict will end, only delays the inevitable.
• Appeasement of parties. The “peace at any price” mentality is far from biblical command. You can never make everyone happy all the time.
• Accommodation of issues.
• The person who glosses over the problems, acting as if everything is alright when it is not, is not a peacemaker.
Marigza describes further, peackemaking means:
A peacemaker is someone who is actively seeking to reconcile people to God and to one another….
The word make in the term “peacemakers” comes from the Greek verb that means “to do” or “to make”. It is a word bursting with energy, mandating action and initiative. Someone has to drag the combatants to the table and give them a reason to put down their arms. Peace must be made. Peace never happens by chance. A peacemaker is never passive. They always take the initiative. They are up and doing.
So a peacemaker describes one who actively pursues peace. They are pursuing all the beauty and blessedness of God upon another. William Barclay says, “They are people who produce right relationships in every sphere of life.”
CONCLUSION AND RESOUNDING CALL
Let me conclude by telling a story and finally challenge all of us to the beauty of being true to our calling as trustee of the ministry of reconciliation.
A story is told about two brothers…
…They lived on adjoining farms, but they had a deep quarrel. They had often shared their resources, but that practice stopped; and there was nothing left but bitterness. One morning a brother we will call John answered a knock at his door. It was a carpenter. The carpenter asked if there was any work to do.
John said that there was something he could do. He took the carpenter to where the two properties met and showed him how the other brother had taken a bulldozer and created a creek where the meadow used to be. John said, “I know he did this to make me angry. I want you to help me get even by building a big fence so I won’t have to see him or his property ever again.”
So the carpenter worked hard all day. When he reported back to John, John noticed there was no fence. The carpenter had used his skill and built a bridge over the creek instead of a fence. John’s brother saw the bridge and was quite moved that his brother would do such a thing. The two brothers met in the middle and embraced. They saw the carpenter packing his tools and asked him to stay a while and do more work. The carpenter replied, “I’m sorry, but I have other bridges to build.” Does he have one to build in your life? (http://www.biblestudytools.com/pastorresources/illustrations/reconciliation-11597717.html)
Jesus Christ is the carpenter. And today, we are Christ’ followers entrusted to continue on with the work of building bridges for reconciliation.
It is for clearly understanding our being trustee of the ministry of reconciliation that as members of the NCCP, we support the on-going peace talks between the GPH and NDFP and facilitate the people to clearly understand that reconciliation happens when the root cause of conflict and war and poverty and oppression in country are addressed for the sake of the victims of injustice. Such is the resounding call needing positive response.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 echoes anew, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
Let us emphasize here that to be reconciled to God is to embrace the ministry of reconciliation which implies self-denial and living no longer for oneself so that others may live.
We are blessed by the Lord of life and history! Amen.
Rev. Francisco S. Aviso, Jr.
UCCP Kaulanran Village