Walking with the Saints
How good and pleasant it is, when people live in unity! - Psalm 133:1
Many years ago, my good friend Malcolm Boyd wrote to me about being a leader of the future in ministry and the church, He encouraged me with these words: “Be wise, be faithful, be courageous, be flexible, and let Jesus be the center of your life.” I still keep these words in front of me. They are a sort of a plumb line that Rev. Bob talked about a few months ago. They direct me to my spiritual center – the core of my being.
This week Holy Women, Holy Men honors the life of Charles Henry Brent. When I look the biographical sketch of his life, I see characteristics that tell us much about the man. We read that he was committed to the crusade against opium trafficking, developed relations with the Philippine Independent Church (PIC) and was a WWI military chaplain. Most importantly, we also learn that the central focus of his life and ministry was the commitment to Christian Unity.
Almost one-hundred years after his death in 1929, the Christian church remains in many ways divided. As does our world. The spectrum of thought of what it means to be a Christian in our world today spans from one extreme to another. There are Orthodox Christians, Protestant Christians, Mainline Christians, Conservative Christians, Progressive Christians, Evangelical Christians – all of which have distinct expressions of faith and ways in which we see ourselves in the world as Christians. Sometimes our interpretations of what it means to be a Christian divide us instead of inspiring unity and community, which was what Jesus was about. He is the one who stands at the center of our common life as his followers. He is the original program. His life and teachings found in the four Gospels serves as our plumb line.
Just two months ago – January 18-25, 2019 – the Episcopal Church joined millions of other Christians around the world in observance of The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This week of prayer for unity in the church began in 1908, during Charles Henry Brent’s lifetime, and continues today. the spirit of Christian unity that was his central focus in life is still calling us and encouraging us to come together as the community Jesus wants for us all. Every week should be a week of prayer for Christian community.
We have so much to learn from one another, but we must first somehow get beyond the obstacles that separate us in order to realize those mutual holy gifts. The bonds of love and affection that inspire real community that Jesus envisions for us are so much stronger than the finite things that divide us. We would do well to break away from our calcified views and open ourselves to the love that Jesus wants us all to experience … together, as one.
I hope that the life of Charles Henry Brent can inspire us to think more deeply about our own commitment to Christian unity, both here in our own beloved parish as well as beyond Roses Road.
Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us with your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name.
· Charles Henry Brent ·