Ecumenical service at Katowice, 9 December 2018
Texts to be read: Gen 1-2:2, Gen 3:9-19, Isaiah 11:1-10, Luke 1:26-38, Luke 2:14, John 1:1-14.
God wants the world. God wants us to steward it.
Our ecumenical service today is framed, filled and formed by Biblical texts. The texts represent significant parts of what Christian faith is about. All our traditions share and honor these texts, and indeed all of the Bible. For all of us, however, some texts are more important than others, as the Gospels, as some of St. Paul’s epistles, but the full Bible is shared, by all of us. So is the understanding that the world, the universe, was and continuously is being created and upheld by God, all according to the will of God, which is clearly stated both by Genesis 1, about creation taking place during a week, ending with the creation of the two humans and God’s resting on the seventh day, and the other story about creation in Genesis 2, the one without time frame, starting with Adam being created and then, later on, Eve as a partner. God wants the world. God wants us to steward it.
For many, ecumenical means being friendly to and with other believers. That sure is a good thing, but it is only a minimal part of what ecumenism is about. We can recall that ecumenical has roots in oikós, the Greek word for house, home. Ecumenical is related to economical and to ecological. It is all about the house, the household – and the common home. No wonder why ecumenism has been so involved in peace efforts and efforts of reconciliation all through the last hundred years, during WW I and onwards thereafter.
Oikuméneis the whole inhabited world. We, Christians, are among the inhabitants. We are, as all humans, smitten and formed by what the story about the fall, Genesis 3, which we also have heard today, tells us. We, who are created in God’s image, over and over again do keep turning away from our real home, which is God self. “Adam, where are you?” God called and calls.
We were expected to be stewards, ready to steward not only what is good for ourselves in the short run, but what is good for all what we share, the commune bonum,for the whole ecological weave, for our shared home, for oikouméne. Egoism and shortsightedness mark human history – and humanity of today. The wonderful means of money – has become the terrifying rule of money. The servant has become the master, the means the goal. When COP 24 meets, everyone knows that consumerism only works within limits – but those limits are not there, and if they are there, they are not kept.
Creation has always been there for us. To fight or to till. But without nature, without soil, without light, without water no single seed would grow, not even fungi would be there. We are totally dependent upon nature, it is the one and only branch we have to live on, and we keep sawing on it. The Fall surely lives on into today’s world.
Both the Second Vatican Council 1962-65 and the World Council of Churches Assembly three years later had dreams and longed for the visions given to us through the prophets and through Revelations. Those visions were not brought in, in order to have us to escape from this world, but to outline what we in this limited world had to strive for and try to accomplish as much as possible of, awaiting Christ’s second coming. We heard the vision Isaiah had about the coming of the one we as Christians want to identify as Messiah, Jesus from Nazareth. Isaiah saw that “the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them”.
In these days, when secularism is trying to press churches back to only what is seen as “religious” per se, which is probably to be understood as some private pleasure, it is important that we uphold the links between private and shared, human and ecological, church and society, history, visions and this time and age. That is real ecumenism!
The link between the kingdom of God and this time, and the human responsibility that follows from this, is clearly stated through Isaiah, but also through the texts from Luke that we have heard. The annunciation links heaven and earth and so does the birth of Jesus Christ. As we all can confess, in our different Christian traditions:
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
The great opening of the Gospel according to St. John, In the beginning there was the Word,echoes the opening of Genesis. Today, we have heard them both. Creation and salvation go together through Jesus Christ.That we are called to steward. That is real ecumenism.
All religions, indeed also Christian traditions, are too human to function theocratic. Our faith is at its best when it is a counter-force. Just like Jesus. When Christian traditions join hands with worldly powers, also Christian traditions become corrupt. We have to accept this reality. A pilgrimage of justice and peace must come in from below, and try to speak the truth – and live it.
The political unrest and the flow of refugees, to a large degree caused by climate change, is only at its beginning. Unfortunately there are far more dramatic days to come. That is not alarmism. It is realism. For many the apocalypse is drawing near. Now, and then, we must share the eschatological hope!
We are all limited. We are daughters and sons of creation, of the fall, of salvation, we are all both sinners and justified. We are called to this immense task of trying to heal the world, trying to give the world something more important to strive for than more private capital, more selfish individualism. I am convinced that a life with Jesus as brother and Savior, is a true alternative. Then we must be a constant dialectic partner to the world of today. And tomorrow.