Our Rich Liturgical Heritage
Walking in Unity
Our Rich Liturgical Heritage:
Walking in Unity
The Rt Revd Dr Peter Brain
The collect for Saint Simon and Saint Jude set for 28 October is a timely reminder that unity is only possible when we are walking in the same direction.
O ALMIGHTY God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP)
Simon is easily identified as Simon the Zealot in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s lists of the 12 whom Jesus chose as apostles. Jude’s identity is found in Luke’s Judas son of James and John’s then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said…
We do not hear of Simon the Zealot apart from these lists and only of Jude with his question of Jesus in John 14:22. They nevertheless are worthy of our attention since the Collect affirms the Biblical teaching of Ephesians 2:20-21 and two of the four marks of the church in our creedal affirmation: We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church. But the prayer also expresses the desire and commitment of believers to pursue unity of spirit by their doctrine for the purpose of being made an holy temple.
The doctrine of the Apostles is found in the New Testament and has been written among other reasons for our learning (BCP Advent 2), and to enable us to be joined together in unity. The wonderful gift of the New Testament, so necessary given our propensity to do our own thing, especially under the pressure of a world that would conform us to its ways, has been given for our good so we can fulfil our unique calling in the world. That we may be made an holy temple expresses the proper desire of God’s people to walk in unity with him by displaying his holiness. Walking in unity without being committed to holiness of life makes us rebels towards God and unloving to the world. This request is in line with our Lord’s call to be salt and light as perfect disciples (Matthew 5:13-16, 48), the apostle Peter’s clarion call found in his first letter to be holy [2:1-12], along with the apostle John’s call to walk in the light [1 John 1:5-10].
1 John should be treasured by Anglicans since it is enshrined in Morning Prayer’s calls to worship and the fourth word of assurance for those who truly turn to Christ in the Holy Communion.
The burden of John, the apostle of love, is to remind us that we can only have fellowship with God and each-other if we continue to walk in in the light together. John’s emphasis on God’s love and light must be held together if we are to enjoy fellowship with God and each other.
Former primate Sir Marcus Loane captures this connection: ‘we must reckon with the God who is light before we can comfort ourselves in the God who is love’.
The notion that we can walk in unity along two different paths puts us out of step with our Lord and his apostles. This is true for matters of doctrine affirmed in the Creeds and our Articles, and Christian living taught in Scripture and affirmed in our public marriage and baptism services. It is a way of saying to God ‘we know better than you, and to the world we don’t care about you.’
This Collect reminds us that walking together as disciples is always to be in the way our Lord has set out for us.
It is very interesting to me that the only words we have of the apostle Jude were a question addressed to Jesus: ‘But Lord why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’ To which our Lord answers: ‘anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching (John 14:22-24). The stakes are high. God’s presence with us depends on our obedience to Christ and our showing Christ to the world depends on our keeping in step with him.