By Ken Asel

A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 3:19b-35

19b Then he went home; 20and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” — 30for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Meditation

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.”

Several years ago, prior to a diocesan convention, the ecumenical commission of my diocese invited representatives of the nearby seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church for conversation. This evangelical denomination, led by Bishop George Cummins of Kentucky in 1873, broke with the Episcopal Church over the growth of the Oxford Movement and the return of liturgical and theological practices Bishop Cummins believed violated certain Reformation principles. Cummins proposed a closer union of all evangelical Christian bodies rather than a return to pre-Reformation customs.

My recollection of our discussions that day is a pleasant one. At the meeting’s conclusion we parted amicably. There were, however, no further gatherings. I do remember our chair reported to the national ecumenical office with a “What should we do going forward?” question. The reply returned that there was no official interest from the Episcopal Church in pursuing the relationship. Perhaps our conversations ceased too early.

Ecumenism has made significant progress since the divisions, ill feelings, and disappointments of the Reformation. The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, co-author of Understanding the Windsor Report, remarked that “Communion is first and foremost about relationship and mission, not about structure and instruments.” Yet the question remains: how do we inhabit a generous Christianity that holds true to its own beliefs and practices, while respecting, even appreciating, the customs and theology of others? There is a Benedictine greeting that is ever germane as a counterweight to (even important) theological disputes: “Please pray for my conversion as I pray for yours.” While there is much to give thanks for, the task toward Christian unity remains far from complete.

(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie & he have been married 30 years and reside in the Texas Hill Country.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Ajayi Crowther (Nigeria)
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Waco, Texas