Holy week – don’t be fighting just be loving
So I learnt this week that due to the corona virus The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was closed. This has happened before of course, in 1349! Due to another pandemic called the Black Death.
A few years ago I was privileged to visit this Church which isn’t probably where Jesus was crucified and where he rose again. Nevertheless it is a treasured site and is occupied by six Christian denominations. The primary custodians are the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic Church, with lesser duties shared by Coptic, Ethiopian and Syriac Orthodox churches.
Can you imagine what might happen if 6 Christian denominations occupied a holy site? Well, before you think of the answer let’s read a prayer of Jesus hours before he went somewhere close to this site. Keep reading because I need to tell you about the ladder.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23
What a lovely prayer for Christian unity!
Back to the holy site and our imagining the Christian unity that Jesus prayed for.
In November 2008 a fistfight broke out which you can see on Youtube! It shows a fight between the blue, the black and the red team. It’s like the worst Churches Together meeting you have ever attended. Areas of the Church are rigorously defended by each group. The Copts and the Ethiopians are in continually fights over a small section of the roof. So there is one Coptic monk at any given time sitting on a chair to demonstrate their claim. In the summer of 2002 with the sun beating down, a monk moved the chair 20cm into the shade and a fight broke out in which 11 people were taken to hospital.
Can you imagine these groups agreeing to take care of the fabric of the building? No of course not and as a result it is in disrepair. This division has gone on for centuries. As a result not one of the groups hold the keys to the Church. In the 7th century till now the keys have been held by a Sunni Muslim Family. (I thought the keys were given to the followers of Jesus?!)
So who does Jesus pray for?
Having prayed for his disciples, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” That is you and me. For what?
“… that all of them may be one … brought to complete unity”.
We need to fight and contend more for unity and not to win and gain. What does that look like? Someone has to get on the cross. The Church which is meant to be the holiest site in Jerusalem worship the cross but no one has ever got onto it, though they would love to pin their worshipping neighbours on it. Why?
“… just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us … Then the world will know that you sent me…”
We love because we replicate the relationship of the Father and the Son.
We love because we desire the presence of God in our lives.
We love because it is the greatest evangelistic tool.
Without love there is none of the above!
Let me tell you about the ladder. It is actually called the Immovable ladder. No one knows how this ladder propped against a window got there but presumably to make some kind of repairs. No one knows who it belongs to. So it stands there since at least the early 1700s. It has only been moved twice where the parties all agreed it would be moved temporarily so that repairs could be made.
I wonder how many Immovable ladders there are in Church. Sometimes they are called sacred cows and elephants in the room. What cannot be touched or spoken about? What are we afraid to say? What about the reverse? Are we teachable? Can we be corrected so that we become better people? Or if someone dares mention an area of our life that we are sensitive about do we react? Immovable ladders do not bring people to Jesus, unity does.
As we journey with Jesus during Holy Week don’t be fighting just be loving.