2016 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The traditional period in the northern hemisphere for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is 18-25 January. Those dates were proposed in 1908 by Paul Wattson to cover the days between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul, and therefore have a symbolic significance. In the southern hemisphere where January is a vacation time churches often find other days to celebrate the week of prayer, for example around Pentecost (suggested by the Faith and Order movement in 1926), which is also a symbolic date for the unity of the Church.

In Houston our 3rd Annual Ecumenical Prayer Service during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will be held on Friday, January 22, 2016, starting at 7pm. The 2016 host is Pleasant Hill Baptist Church at 1510 Pannell St., Houston, TX 77020. All are welcome!

The oldest baptismal font in Latvia dates from the time of the great evangeliser of Latvia, St Meinhard. It was originally located in his Cathedral in Ikšķile. Today it stands at the very centre of the Lutheran Cathedral in the country’s capital, Rīga. The placement of the font so near to the Cathedral’s ornate pulpit speaks eloquently of the relationship between baptism and proclamation, and the calling shared by all the baptised to proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord. This calling forms the theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity for 2016. Inspired by two verses from the First Letter of St Peter, members of different churches in Latvia prepared the resources for the week:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)

Archaeological evidence suggests that Christianity was first brought to Eastern Latvia in the 10th century by Byzantine missionaries. However, most accounts date Latvia’s Christian origins to the 12th and 13th centuries, and the evangelising mission of St Meinhard, and later of other German missionaries. The capital, Rīga, was one of the first cities to adopt Luther’s ideas in the 16th century, and in the 18th century, Moravian missionaries (Herrnhut Brethren) revived and deepened Christian faith throughout the country. Their descendants were to play a central role in laying the foundations for national independence in 1918.

However, the totalitarian darkness of the 20th century estranged many people from the truth about God the Father, his self-revelation in Jesus Christ and the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. Thankfully, the post-Soviet period has been one of renewal for the churches. Many Christians come together for prayer in small groups and at ecumenical services. Conscious that the light and grace of Christ have not penetrated and transformed all the people of Latvia, they want to work and pray together so that the historical, ethnic and ideological wounds which still disfigure Latvian society may be healed.

I hope you will come and attend this most marvelous service on Friday, January 22, 2016, when the Rev. Joshua Lawrence will represent the Houston Association of the United Church of Christ.


Blessed Connections – Sermon Podcast

Looking for a pot’o’gold at the end of the rainbow:

A Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent 2015 based on Genesis 9:8-17 and 1 Peter 3:18-22.


Extended Church Family

“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church…”, starts the third paragraph of the Apostles’ Creed. Catholic in this sense has nothing to do with today’s Roman Catholic Church. In today’s Reading 1 Peter 5:1-14 Rome is referred to as “Babylon” and the parish there cannot claim authority over others but individuals send encouraging letters to “sister churches”. “Catholic” is just another word for “Ecumenical”. So the catholic church we are looking at here is the body of Christ in its entirety, not limited to a specific branch of Christianity.
Here is the good news: Christians are never alone: “Be firm in your faith and resist him, because you know that other believers in all the world are going through the same kind of sufferings.”
Your extended church family has your back – not matter what.


Peter’s Nirvana

Seriously, sometimes there are texts, that I just do not enjoy reading due to the flow of their language. The Epistles of Peter are prime examples of that. The same holds true for tweeting celebrities. Mashable lists Celebrities on Twitter: 30 Famous First Tweets. I follow many of them, because I enjoy their style. One I would never consider following is the @dalailama. Everyday he tweets a quote of himself that sounds like today’s: “When our intentions are good, we are stronger and have greater self-confidence.”
Maybe I am just not the kinda guy to enjoy words of wisdom. Now today’s reading 1 Peter 4:1-19 is full of stuff like that: “From now on, then, you must live the rest of your earthly lives controlled by God’s will and not by human desires.”
Guess who thoroughly enjoyed the reading of Peter’s Nirvana. Yeah, right:


Interfaith Marriages

Being married to someone with a different religion can be both enriching and challenging.

Yesterday’s reading suggested for Christian slaves to accept their heathen masters’ authority.
Today’s reading 1 Peter 3:1-22 starts: “In the same way you wives must submit yourselves to your husbands”
– You best win them for Christ if you don’t try to proselytize them but show them God’s unconditional love for all!

The same applies to Christian husbands with non-Christian wives: “In the same way you husbands must live with your wives with the proper understanding that they are more delicate than you.”
– Treat them with respect, because you are no better than they are.