A little more than a week ago I attended the National Workshop on Christian Unity. We spoke about our work together as denominations. We learned about the theological accords and debates that are still ongoing. And Michael Kinnemon, the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, in his keynote address challenged us to recall that any real unity will come through Godâ€™s work and not by our own efforts. We cannot make idols of our agreements our Councils or even our shared charitable work. Unity is in God. It was in incredible indictment and the statement rang true to most in attendance.
The passage from Acts this morning challenges me to find ways to embody this kind of ecumenism in my personal faith life and in our shared faith life. What of our personal faith traditions have become idols? What of our traditions is of God?
Sometimes people read this passage as a proof for the "spiritual but not religious" approach to faithfulness. Itâ€™s more accurate, however, to say that this passage is about being "faithful but not idolatrous." Paul is trying to undo idolatry, not religion.
The Ecumenical Movement at its best shares this task with Paul. It can be, when lived fully, a forum for uncovering idolatry, shared and denominational. It can challenge us to be honest with ourselves and with one another. When uncovering idolatry is our shared task then unity is born. Godâ€™s presence is revealed.
In the news this weekend we heard that Mayor Daley is backing a proposal to arm police officers with assault rifles. This is supposed to make our streets safer, to keep our police officers from being outgunned. Such sentiment is an indictment against us in the light of scripture. We are simply crafting another idol, no different from a gold statue.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
We are judged when we fail to Love. We are all Godâ€™s children. To live otherwise is to be under the Judgment of God.
I believe that God is the answer to our deepest longings. Our communities fall apart when we begin to substitute other things for God. This is what it means to create an idol. This is all we accomplish as we meet violence with violence. Violence cannot save us. It does not unify. Only God can do that.
I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.