JERUSALEM, 25 January 2012 – Worshippers from nearly every Christian tradition crowded into the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem last evening to mark day four of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Together, those gathered celebrated a Service of the Word in Arabic, German, and English with Bishop Dr. Munib Younan, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), preaching.
In his sermon, Younan reflected on the centrality of the cross of Christ not as doctrine or decoration, but as the very way of life, unity, history, experience, and call in the church—not only in the past, but in the present life and witness of the church in society.
“The church today is again called to be bridge-builders and ambassadors of reconciliation.” Younan said. “We are called to play a role in building a modern civil society, but also to inject into society the common values of all religions that promote coexistence, peace, and justice, and accepting the other. We are called to a prophetic role, speaking the truth to power. Only when the church is involved in society, and especially among the suffering, then it will have a future.”
Younan spoke to recent articles published questioning the survival of Arab Christianity in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and developments in the Middle East that point toward a growth in extremism and threaten to curtail human rights, in particular women’s rights.
Yet, Younan said, “even in these circumstances, we will continue to be steadfast and not emigrate. For we are a people who carry a message—a message of love, a message of moderation, a message of undying hope—a message entrusted to us that is so essential in these days as the situation in the entire Middle East continues to develop. We are called to remain because the Lord called us to be brokers of justice and instruments of peace in the Holy Land.”
Younan called on the local Christian community to “Remain steadfast. Do not give up hope. Remember your calling. Be a source for moderation in the midst of a sea of extremism.”
Younan also called upon expatriate and global Christian communities to “take up your crosses in an accompaniment relationship with the local churches. Walk with us as the Emmaus disciples and Jesus walked together on that first Easter afternoon, listening to one another, learning about the current situation in Jerusalem… Come abide with us. Come share our bread. Come and see.”
Younan closed his sermon with a call to “live and witness in this spirit of the resurrection that started from Jerusalem. Let us revive our conviction that the things that unite us as Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical are much more those that divide us. Let us put aside our differences and listen to the voice calling to us to be his witnesses in Jerusalem and in the whole world.”
The service was a joint service of the Arabic-speaking, German-speaking and English-speaking congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. As well, all pastors of the Lutheran and Reformed traditions were invited to take part in the leadership of the service.
In all, there were representatives participating in worship from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the Church of Norway, the Church of Scotland, the Church of Sweden, and the United Church of Christ.
This was the fourth of nine services this week in Jerusalem to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The theme for this year, developed by churches in Poland, is: “We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:51-58). The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is a joint ministry of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches Commission on Faith and Order.
Services continue throughout Jerusalem this week, ending on Sunday, 29 January. Visit our online gallery to view new pictures from the services each day this week.
Click here to view photos from the service at the Armenian Cathedral of St. James.
Click here to view more photos from the service at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.