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We can create something beautiful from the shards of division if we can learn to work together and disagree lovingly.
You will need:
- A large sheet of black construction paper
- Tissue paper in various colours
- Cling film
- PVA glue
To prepare, cut a large cross-shaped hole in the middle of the black paper. Put a layer of cling film on a table and place the cross-shaped hole over it. If your tissue paper is in large sheets, cut it into rectangles, A4 or A5 sized. You can use a larger rectangle as an example at the front.
Have your tissue rectangle tall ways up and fold the top-right corner over to the left edge as if you were making a square. The top edge aligns with the side and forms a 45° angle. You have made a large triangle on top of a small rectangle.
Fold the triangle in half by taking the top-left corner and bringing it to the right edge of the paper. You should now have a small triangle on top of a rectangle.
Fold the whole shape in half and make a cut parallel with the longest side. Four small pieces will fall away. Save these for later. Open out the larger piece and you will find it makes a cross shape.
In the church we will disagree, but we need to learn to disagree well, or we are pulling apart the church for which Christ died. Rip the cross.
However, if we can learn to live and work together, respecting our differences, standing up for what we believe and yet still loving those with whom we disagree, we can be a powerful demonstration of the Kingdom.
Paint a layer of watered-down PVA glue into the cross-shaped hole and place the torn crosses in it. Make sure they overlap and spill over the edges onto the black paper. Use more glue to stick the shapes together and use the left-over scraps to fill any gaps.
When it is dry, peel off the cling film and hang it in a window as a testimony that together, we can make something beautiful.
Corinth was Paul’s baby. He had founded the church there not many years before (early 50s), and now (mid 50s) they had reached the squabbling teenage years.
How sad, that after such a short time, they had seemingly forgotten the one command that Jesus gave – love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (Jn 13:35) The church at Corinth was not doing a very good job of that. They were squabbling and arguing so much that people were talking about it in other cities! Paul was staying in Ephesus when he heard the reports and it shook him badly; you can hear it in his voice. He is exasperated and insistent – was Paul crucified for you? – and he stumbles over his words as he laments having baptised any of them if that has added to the divisions.
Their disunity over such a small matter as who is the best preacher – Apollos, Paul or Peter (and we note the smug one-up-man-ship of the group who claim Christ as their mascot) – is a far bigger issue than any doctrinal niceties that one group may have got slightly more right than another.
We are no better today. When I travelled in America and was looking for a church to visit, I was greatly saddened to see the phone book listing under ‘church’ was dozens upon dozens of different denominations, all with slightly different names, and some with only one entry. It happens in my country too. I was once part of a tiny church that met together each Saturday to lay some concrete or build some wall, then met again on the Sunday to worship in whatever part of the building had set. When I asked about it, I discovered that they had disagreed with their pastor and moved away as a splinter group, forming a new church. At least it was not a whole new denomination, but still a very sad thing.
Now, I am not saying that we should not disagree. I do not know what caused the split in that church, and some things are worth fighting for, but I suspect they number fewer than we think. Jesus’ command was not to get our doctrine right. He never said, ‘by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you stamp out everything you regard as heresy’. Disagreeing is part of life, and if we take our faith seriously, we will have opinions on matters and that is right and good. The important thing is to be able to disagree well, without falling out.
For a start, I must have, it is not an optional extra, I must have the humility to recognise that I am not the fount of all truth. I may believe very passionately that the ordination of women / circumcision / confession to priests / homosexuality / infant baptism / Papal infallibility, etc is wrong – or right – and I may have scripture to back that up; but so do those of differing opinions and even if I am right, that is not a mandate to drive a wedge between sisters and brothers. None of these are important enough to risk disobeying the one command of Jesus. Some things are eternally important. Some things are not.
Perhaps it would help to think of being on the Titanic. You’ve just come out from a lovely meal, champagne glass in hand, and somebody bumps into you. Would you try to stop the champagne spilling? Yes, of course. You don’t want to spoil your nice clothes.
Then you walk out on to the deck and the wind flings open your jacket, scattering your money, or it whips off your diamond tiara and sends it rolling towards the railing. Would you drop your champagne and run after it? Of course you would. The champagne is not important really.
Then you see the iceberg looming. You grab a nearby life jacket and clutch it to your chest. The ship lurches and you drop your money, your tiara, and away they blow. Would you drop the life jacket to retrieve them? Not in a million years. Somethings are worth it, but they are very few.
Let us consider which parts of our faith are worth going to the stake for, and clutch them tightly, as if our lives depended on them, but let us hold other matters more lightly and have the humility to put Jesus’ command before our desire to be right.
we confess that we have held more tightly to our need to be right
and for that have risked the unity that you commanded.
Forgive us, in your mercy,
and teach us to distinguish what is important
from what makes us feel important.
through Christ our Lord
1 Corinthians 1:10-18 Common English Bible (CEB)
Now I encourage you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Agree with each other and don’t be divided into rival groups. Instead, be restored with the same mind and the same purpose. My brothers and sisters, Chloe’s people gave me some information about you, that you’re fighting with each other. What I mean is this: that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” “I belong to Apollos,” “I belong to Cephas,” “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you, or were you baptized in Paul’s name? Thank God that I didn’t baptize any of you, except Crispus and Gaius, so that nobody can say that you were baptized in my name! Oh, I baptized the house of Stephanas too. Otherwise, I don’t know if I baptized anyone else. Christ didn’t send me to baptize but to preach the good news. And Christ didn’t send me to preach the good news with clever words so that Christ’s cross won’t be emptied of its meaning.
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed. But it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved.
Common English Bible (CEB)
Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible
The sculpture Reconciliation by Vasconcellos showing two former enemies embracing each other. It was erected in 1995 in the north aisle of the ruins of St Michael’s Cathedral, Coventry. (Destroyed during fire bombs during the Coventry Blitz on 14 November 1940).
The text on the pedestal is in English and in Japanese. The English text reads:
- In 1995, 50 years after the end of the Second World War this sculpture by Josefina de Vasconcellos has been given by Richard Branson as a token of reconciliation.
- An identical sculpture has been placed on behalf of the people of Coventry in Peace Garden, Hiroshima, Japan.
- Both statues remind us that in the face of destructive forces, human dignity and love will triumph over disaster and bring nations together in respect and peace.