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Worship and Sermon Resources for
Christian Unity Prayer Week
January 18-25, 2012

On January 18 - 25, 2012, Churches throughout the world will join in prayer
asking God to to unite Christians everywhere. 

Click here to visit the Official World Council of Churches Website

Jesus prays for all Christians to be united:
"May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one
I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
John 17:21-23


Scripture Readings for Unity:

Isaiah 2:1-5
Isaiah 65:17-25
Matthew 15:10-28
John 17:1-11

John 17:20-26
Ephesians 4:1-6




Call to Worship

L: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
P: Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
L: By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
P: If you have love for one another.
L: Come, let us draw near the Source of all Love, our Savior and God!


Prayer for Possibilities and Unity

God of Power and Possibilities, we praise your holy name.  You have exalted and glorified our beloved Jesus, your Son, who humbled himself out of love and compassion for us.  We thank you, Lord, for the possibilities you have opened up for us through your Son:

  • for the work of Jesus' Spirit in and through our lives

  • for the courage and strength to go on when it seems impossible

  • for the capacity to reach out to fellow human beings in love and compassion

  • for the strength and comfort we find in and through your church, Christ's body on earth.

Help us daily to humble ourselves before you and help us to grow in our capacity to love and stand in unity with our brothers and sisters, so that Christ's prayer will be fulfilled in us.  May the world see our love and unity in Christ and turn to you, o ever-loving God.  All honor and glory and power be to you Father of our Lord, Alpha and Omega, giver and completer of our faith. Amen.

Prayer for the World and it Peoples:
(Church of Scotland 20th century)

O God, you are the hope of all the ends of the earth, the God of the spirits of all flesh.  Hear our humble intercession for all races and families on earth, that you will turn all hearts to yourself.
Remove from our minds hatred, prejudice, and contempt for those who are not of our own race or color, class or creed, that, departing from everything that estranges and divides, we may by you be brought into unity of spirit, in the bond of peace. Amen.

Benediction: Blessings Upon You
(adapted from a prayer by Margaret A. Davidson)

Blessings upon you, upon those you love
and those you shall never know.

Blessings upon your steps
and upon the vision of your eyes.

Blessings upon you in all circumstances;
joy and sorrow, for wisdom rests in them,
twin experiences with different faces.

Blessings be upon what lies before you,
the challenges and decisions,
the pain and the relief.

Blessings upon you, my friends in Christ.



Hymn Suggestions:

Lift Every Voice and Sing
The Church's One foundation
Christian People Raise Your Song )
O God of Every Nation 
This is the Feast of Victory 
The Bread of Life For All is Broken 
Draw Us in the Spirit's Tether 
Become to Us the Living Bread 
Forgive Our Sins As We Forgive 
Help Us Accept Each Other 
Let Us Break Bread Together On Our Knees
You Satisfy the Hungry Heart
Father Make us One


Sermons on Unity:

“We’re All in This Together”
A Call to Christian Unity
based on
Ephesians 4:1-6, John 17:20-26
by Rev. Frank Schaefer

When I look at how the religious, political, ethnic, and social differences in our world produce so much strife and hostilities, I wonder if it really has to be like that.  I understand that whenever people get together there are tensions, that's a given. Even when we get together with our extended family we often struggle with keeping things friendly.

However, there is a side in me that doesn't quite get why our differences cause us to feel hostile toward each other. I, for one, am one that's sold on the idea that we should find unity in our diversity.  I see diversity as a strength rather than a weakness.

Today, I want to address the topic of unity, especially as it relates to us--our church community. Allow me to start with a light-hearted anecdote. Have you heard this one?

Recently, a woman was reported to have visited the post office to purchase $20 worth of stamps. The postal clerk asked her: “What denominations would you like that in?” The woman exclaimed, “I can’t believe things have come to this? Just give me 10 Catholic. 6 Episcopalian, 4 Presbyterian, and 3 Baptists!”

Christian Unity—does it exist in light of the multitude of denominations, beliefs and worship practices?  If we truly desire to find unity in the body of Christ in this world, we must somehow find a way to connect on beliefs and practices we have in common and be tolerant toward our differences.

Or else, we can define Christian unity by claiming that our own denomination or church is the only true church, all others are wrong. That’s what Rev. J. A. Connellan seems to believe in when he writes:

Catholics believe that there can be no question at all of re-union of churches. The real Church of Christ has never been divided. Those who have broken away from union with Christ’s Vicar on earth, the Pope, have established religious organizations contrary to the will of Christ and ceased to belong to the true Catholic Church. 2

This opinion, of course, is not necessarily representative of all Catholic believers.

Somehow this attitude makes me think of the old joke about a man arriving at the gates of heaven. St. Peter asks, "Denomination?"
The man says, "Methodist". St. Peter looks down his list, and says, "Go to room 11. But be very quiet as you pass room 8". The man asks, "why?"  St. Peter tells him, "Well the Nybeterians (my generic moniker) are in room 8, and they think they're the only ones here.”

The Apostle Paul calls upon us to adopt a spirit of unity, and he does so at a time when churches were very much divided over who to follow, and how to believe.  Remember, Paul’s letters had not been canonized; he wrote during a time when there was no New Testament yet, so Christian theology was still developing.  Amidst all the confusion that permeated the church of Ephesus, Paul writes:  "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Eph 4:3)

It's interesting how Paul correlates unity and peace.  Unity and peace go hand in hand.  Show me a church where people are united and I show you a church where you will find peace.

Why do we need unity?  There needs to be some form of unity in any given

organization.  “A house divided in itself cannot stand,” Jesus once said. Reversely put:  There is strength in numbers.  People who unite for a common purpose can move mountains.

Before he ascended, Jesus prayed a last prayer for his followers and that prayer was for unity.  "Let them be one as you and I are one, Father."  Why?  So that the world will see that the Father sent the Son.  In other words, unity is at the very core of the church's mission.

OS Hillman3, referring to this passage in John 17 asks the following question:

What is the greatest power that allows the unsaved to make a decision for Jesus Christ? It isn't prayer, though this is important. It isn't good deeds, though deeds indicate a fruitful relationship with God. It isn't good behavior, though Christ commands us to be obedient as sons. The greatest power God's children have over darkness is unity. …

Of course Rev. Hillman takes his cue straight from John 17:22: “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me…”

Hillman continues:

In the last days we are seeing God's Spirit convict His children of the lack of unity among His Church. We are seeing God move between blacks and whites, ethnic groups, denominations, and para-church groups. There is much work to be done. The walls of division and competition among His Body are a stench in God's nostrils.

Here is one of the problems: People often think that differences divide—even in the church of Christ!  But think about this: how boring would life be if everybody thought the same, had the same ideas, and the same outlook on life and the exact same theology.

Our God is a God of multiplicity; look around! Nature is full of colors, variations and creativity.  Not one leaf is like another, not one snowflake is like another, not one finger print is like another.  Every rock, plant, animal and person is unique and different from all the others.  Our God created for us a beautiful, many-faceted and colorful world. And that’s what makes life so interesting and beautiful!

We have got to learn to appreciate variety, we need to learn how to see and use the benefit that lies in our diversity and the strength that lies in our differences. Yes, you heard that right, there is a tremendous, God-given power that comes into play when we use our differences toward a common goal.

Paul is saying: "here is a well-kept secret: "there can even be unity in diversity."  We can actually turn the very thing that usually keeps us from being united, our differences, into a uniting strength. 

How? Imagine with me a church board meeting:

The issue is to put an air-conditioner into the church’s sanctuary.

Visionary: "I move to have an air conditioner put into the sanctuary.  It’ll boost our attendance during the hot summer months.

Cautionary: "where is the money going to come from? We're struggling as it is to pay our bills."

Realist: "All I know is, the sanctuary is too hot in the summer time, that's why attendance is low."

Historian: "we tried to pass a similar motion in 1970 and it didn't pass."

PR person: "if it is something that's important to people, they will be willing to give extra for it.

Strategic Planner: "where does this fit into our long-term goals?  We need to plan for this and run a special stewardship campaign."

Biblicist:  "is there a reference to air conditioning in the bible?"

Statistician: "The problem for low attendance is not the heat.  We never had an air conditioner back in the 50s and yet the church was full every Sunday.

Brother with ADHD: "enough talk, if it's needed, let's put it in and get done with it."

Now, when you’re at this board meeting and you hear all these voices, you might think that there is no way that the air conditioner will ever be put in.

So, where is the unity in this diversity of opinions? 

It is the belief that everyone's voice is making a very important contribution--indeed it is the belief that all of these different voices will provide insights to our advantage. 

Something happens when we listen to all the different voices: when we’re finally ready to put that air conditioner in it will be a perfect thing.  It will fit into the long-range plans, the money is going to be raised for it, it will be custom-made to fit into the traditional look and somewhere a reference will be found in the bible for it. It may take a while, but when it's in it will be a very beautiful thing, and most everybody will feel good about it.

There is a place for everybody in Christ’s church. Everybody is unique, everybody is equal before God, and everybody has something to contribute. Our unity lies in the strength of our diversity and our differences.

In closing, allow me to quote St. Paul once again: “there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph 4:6)

And: “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:27-28)



1)  Bush calls Obama's win a 'triumph of the American story', CBC News,
) REV. J. A. CONNELLAN, Christian Unity in God’s Way, Australian Catholic Truth Society (1951) No. 1124.
3) The Power of Unity, in “TGIF Today--God Is First” Volume 1 by Os Hillman, Saturday, October 18 2008.