`All in this together`
I must confess I am not a fan of this phrase – esp. as it relates to Covid-19. There may be a sense in which as human beings we are all affected by the threat of this pandemic, but the phrase appears to suggest that there is something equalising about the virus. This is disingenuous at best and outright insensitive, at worst.
Movie stars and celebrities finding it hard to cope locked down in enormous mansions complete with swimming pool – or demonstrating how `with us ` they are, posting images of themselves without make up – appear to have no idea how entitled, privileged and out-of-touch they come across.
Accessing health care, appropriate information and understanding protective measures do not appear to be shared universally equally across the globe. There are serious life and death discrepancies between rich and poor, between the haves and the have-nots.
We are not all in this together.
Today begins the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. And in the middle of the week, National Reconciliation Week begins - Wednesday 24th May till Wednesday 3rd June.
The prayer for unity in John 17 is prayed long before there was a Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant divide among Christians. It was prayed long before there was a Church. It is a prayer as Jesus prepares to leave His followers and return to the Father, and as He faces arrest and crucifixion.
In this prayer – the High Priestly Prayer – Jesus prays for His own in relation to Himself and His Father. The relationships He speaks of in prayer are intertwined, close, intimate. Jesus considers His relationship with His Father and prays for His own – that `they may be one as we are one`. John 17: 11.
This is an extraordinary prayer – one which acknowledges and understands the pressures of the world and coming persecution - and the tendencies of the human heart to suspicion and fear of the other, of difference, of those who are not like us and who do not think the same as we do. Jesus knows what we are like and so he prays for us.
His prayer echoes Paul`s writings to early believers in Corinth. Paul writes to them, appeals to them, in Christ, to agree and not be divided. He writes against a factionalism developing among the young Christian community there - 1 Corinthians 1: 10-15 – and argues for unity because whatever the disagreements and points of contention, always, the overriding consideration, the one true point of reference, is Christ. Everything else is secondary, penultimate.
In this day and age, the ecumenical conversation has all but been subsumed by the move towards interfaith dialogue. This dialogue, among and between world faiths, is of undoubted importance but there are dangers if such a conversation is seen as any kind of replacement for or deflection from the essential work of Christian denominations continuing to find a way to honour and respect each other in reverence for Christ.
For the sake of heralding, building and ushering in the Kingdom of God, for the sake of this world and all creation, for the sake of Jesus Christ, as Christians, there is a way, Jesus Christ, in which we are all in this together. Such unity is a sign to the world. So we are, the Christian Church is, a sign to the world of a different way.
To forget this is, to forget Whose we are and Whom we serve.
The charism (one of the charisms) of the Basis of Union of the Uniting Church in Australia is this commitment to unity in Christ. It is a gift to wonder at, to explore, to live out and live into. This is hope for the world, for the Church, for Australia and all Australians.
`By this shall everyone know that you are My disciples
if you have love one for another` John 13: 35