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Unity and Division in the Church Part 2 - Division

As much as the Reformation is the rediscovery of salvation by faith through grace, it is also the story of how Christianity became increasingly fragmented. By the time the Reformation came about, the Church had effectively been split into four wings: the Byzantine Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, the Nestorians (north-eastern Asian churches) and the Jacobites (Monophysite south-eastern Asian churches). The Nestorians and the Jacobites were in the process of being wiped out by pagan and Muslim powers in the east, so that to this day we have pretty much only the Armenian Orthodox and Thomasites in India representing the Nestorians and the Copts and Assyrian Orthodox representing the Jacobites. The Roman Catholic church birthed the Protestant church by ejecting those whom she disagreed with and who would not submit to her rule without questioning it.

As the Protestant reformation movement progressed, the main leaders assembled in Marburg, Hessen, in October of 1529. Called together by Prince-Elector Philip of Hesse, these men were asked to draft a joint statement to unify the diverse theology of the Protestants, so creating a united front against Emperor Charles V and the Roman Catholic church. What got off to a good start came to a screeching halt when Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli of Zurich could not agree on the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. The sticking point of the argument was that Zwingli saw the Lord’s Supper as merely symbolic, whereas Luther believed Christ was actually present in the bread and the cup. The argument got so heated, that Luther (being Luther) is said to have carved the word EST (Latin for “is”) into the table with his pen knife. The two great men could not get over this point and so the attempt at unifying the Protestant movement failed. This failure led to more and more divisions within the Protestant movement, eroding a central authority and bringing us to this day where one cannot use a term to define Christian movements without a qualifier.

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Pondering the Master

Shortly before a spiritually very rough time, I was asked to preach on Peter walking on the water (Mt. 14:22-36; Mk. 6:45-56; Jn. 6:14-21). As the disciples were obeying Jesus, they were blown off course by the storm. Fine, that happens. But what really stuck with me was that Jesus, seeing their distress, miraculously came to them and comforted them with his voice and his presence. About this same time, I was introduced to Leeland’s album Invisible (Bethel Music, 2016). The title track of the album talks exactly about this, stating in the chorus:

I see you standing in the wind and waves
I’m never alone
You’re not invisible

Over this last month this song especially (and the album as a whole) kept bringing me back to this: in this storm, Jesus is there, even though I may not be able to see him. He is there. He is there. Repeating this over again while struggling with feelings of anger, inadequacy and disappointment, while hurting deeply is one thing that made me ready to receive the reproof necessary to come back to a more balanced space. Jesus climbed into my boat at the right time, because he came to me. And despite the howling wind and crashing waves, I heard him call, “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Mt. 14:27 – HCSB). And that was enough.

Image Credit: Never Forsaken by Abraham Hunter

From Wolfhawke’s Reading List

John Ashton and David Down

Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2007.

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