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For years the ELCA has endeavored to create and strengthen ecumenical relationships with other Christian, and also with non-Christian, religions.
Some of the results of these efforts have led to agreements in which Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and several other Protestant denominations affirm that the many things we have in common, especially the love of Jesus Christ, are far more important that the differences that separate us. Because of this, congregational relationships are stronger, and there are cases of a pastor of one denomination accepting a call to serve a congregation of another.
One important effort that is still on-going is between the ELCA and the Roman Catholic Church. As you may know, the Roman Catholic Church has considered itself “the one, true church” and everyone else apostates (or in some cases even heretics). When then-Presiding Bishop Mark Hansen met with the Pope, the foundations of an agreement of mutual respect were laid. Shortly afterward, unfortunately, the Vatican issued a statement that undid that work.
Now, however, there is a new Pope (and a new Presiding Bishop). I was very glad to read the letter from our Presiding Bishop that indicates that Pope Francis seems to be extending a hand of friendship as he invites Lutherans (and others, I presume) to join in a moment of prayer that would extend around the world.
The letter is below, and I hope that you will take a moment at noon on Tuesday, December 10, to join other Christians as we pray together.
I hope this is a step toward peace among all Christians, a step toward peace among all people of faith, a step toward peace in the world. I hope that this is the first of many times and ideas on which we can agree as Christians, as people of faith, setting aside our differences, and working together as God would have us do.
Colossians 3: 9-17
9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
This is the letter I received from Presiding Bishop Eaton
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sisters and brothers, Advent is a season of hopeful longing. Hope for the coming of the Christ child and longing for the abundant life Christ promised. But we know many in our communities and around the world are hungry. You know this because of the work you do in your communities through your food pantries, and in your community meals. And because of the work we do together through ELCA World Hunger.
This Advent, at the encouragement of our brother Pope Francis, we have been invited to join with all people of faith to pray for the end of hunger. I urge you to pause wherever you find yourself at noon on Tuesday, Dec. 10, and take part in a worldwide wave of prayer. Together, let’s pray that citizens and world leaders will work to find just and equitable solutions to end hunger so no person goes to bed hungry.
Through announcements and gatherings in your congregation, I ask you to invite members of your community to pause in unity with others for this special moment of prayer. You may wish to share this video message from me on YouTube at http://bit.ly/1bj7O5o.
Thank you for taking this moment to pray at noon on Dec. 10, and for the many ways that you take action through your congregation and together in ELCA World Hunger to end hunger in your community and around the world. In this season of hope and anticipation, what a fitting way for us to participate in God’s incarnate love.
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
P.S. For your possible use, below are the words that many of our brothers and sisters from the Roman Catholic Church will be praying at noon on Dec. 10.
O God, you entrusted to us the fruits of all creation so that we might care for the earth and be nourished with its bounty.You sent us your Son to share our very flesh and blood and to teach us your Law of Love. Through His death and resurrection, we have been formed into one human family.Jesus showed great concern for those who had no food – even transforming five loaves and two fish into a banquet that served five thousand and many more.
We come before you, O God, conscious of our faults and failures, but full of hope, to share food with all members in this global family.
Through your wisdom, inspire leaders of government and of business, as well as all the world’s citizens, to find just, and charitable solutions to end hunger by assuring that all people enjoy the right to food.
Thus we pray, O God, that when we present ourselves for Divine Judgment, we can proclaim ourselves as “One Human Family” with “Food for All”.