For the unity of the Church
Reading: John 17:20-23
Blanks: believe, message, unity, loved
(3) Today we have about 2.4 Billion Christians in the world.
We, Protestant Christians are about 800 Million.
Roman Catholic Christians are about 1.5 or 1.7 Billion.
Orthodox Christians are about 250 Million.
You know who Roman Catholic Christians are, right?
You know Protestant came out of the Roman Catholic Church about 500 years ago, through a reformation.
Through that reformation, Lutheran church and Presbyterian church and baptist church were formed.
Today we will learn about Orthodox Church.
They are also called Eastern Orthodox Church.
So who are they?
How were they formed?
In order to learn about them, we need to learn about what happened before the year 1054.
Because in the year 1054, the church was divided into Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church.
Catholic Church is saying “we are universal.”
Eastern Orthodox Church is saying “we are right in our theology.”
Why were they divided?
There can be many reasons.
But we can also say that they were growing apart because of their differences:
For example, their languages were different:
(3) The Eastern Church used Greek.
The Western Church used Latin.
The Western Church means Roman Catholic Church:
The Western Church used the Latin Bible, that Jerome translated in the 5th Century.
They used two different languages living in two different cultures
They were politically different:
Between 4-8 Century, the Eastern Emperor were able to vote to elect the Pope in the West.
But in 8th Century, the West ended up having their own empire: Holy Roman Empire (800-1806) and had Charlemagne as their emperor.
So, they elected their own Pope, without consulting the Eastern Emperor.
In the West, the Bishop of Rome, the Pope was more powerful than their emperor.
In the East, the emperor was more powerful than the Bishop of Constantinople.
They were growing apart like this, too.
At the council of Nicaea they decided to celebrate Easter on the same date on which the Passover sacrifice had been offered when the Second Temple stood: on the 14th of the first month (Aviv) or on the 14th day (the full moon) of the Jewish lunar month of Nisan.
The East celebrated Easter on that day.
The West celebrated Easter on Sunday following that date.
(3) Also, the Western churches use statues.
The Eastern churches use icons.
Then the East asked the West to remove statues, because it looked like idols.
The West refused to do so.
Then there was a controversy over using of icons.
Then at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 AD, the issues of icons were resolved.
(3) The East used leavened bread for communion.
The West used unleavened bread.
(2) Because their location was different, they faced different challenge religiously.
The Eastern leaders had to deal with those who didn’t recognize the divinity of the Holy Spirit.
The Western leaders had to deal with those who didn’t recognize the divinity of Jesus.
(3) So in 589 AD, the Western council decided to add “And the Son” to the Nicene creed.
So it is read like this:
“And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.”
So they were saying: through the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit came to us.
In this way, they wanted to emphasize the divinity of Jesus.
They also said Ambrose of Milan (c. 340 – 4 April 397) already said:
“The Holy Spirit is the gift of both the Father and the Son.”
Then one day, the East noticed that the West changed the creed.
The East said that the West could not change the Nicene creed which was established at the Ecumenical Council.
(4) The East also didn’t want to change because the Eastern Churches had taught people like this about Trinity.
The Father is eternal and not begotten.
Jesus is eternal and begotten.
The Holy Spirit is eternal and proceeds from the Father.
In this way, they wanted to distinguish between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
So they didn’t want to add “And the Son” to their Nicene Creed.
(3) Their religious order was different:
In the West, priests were single.
In the East, priests were married.
Then the Western Church asked the Eastern Church to have their priests be single.
(The Eastern Church was pointing out some Western clergies were having housekeeper who had their children: Nicolaitism)
The Eastern Church pointed out that the Western Church allowed people to buy and sell the clergies positions: Simony.
And sometimes, the one who bought the position never appeared at the churches: Absenteeism.
Then there was a question of: how should we govern our church?
The West wanted to have one Pope over all the churches.
The East wanted to have patriarchs and have them govern together.
The Easy considered that the Pope was one of patriarchs.
But time to time the Pope would insist his authority and would not bow to the will of patriarchs.
(1) Then in 1054, there was an incident.
The Patriarch of Constantinople Michael pointed out something that the West was not doing well.
So he sent out a letter pointing out about that.
Cardinal Humbert (Umberto) read this document.
He was upset and reported to Pope Leo IX.
Then Pope sent Cardinal Humbert (Umberto) to have a talk with the Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Cerularius.
When they met, they ended up having a shouting match.
(3) Then they excommunicated each other.
Humbert excommunicated the Patriarch Michael at the Hagia Sophia on the Easter Sunday.
In return Michael excommunicated Cardinal Humbert and the other delegates.
Excommunication means they didn’t allow each other to take communion at their church.
In this way, the East would not recognize the authority of Pope.
The West insisted his authority saying that the Pope approved this and that.
This kind of excommunication happened before.
But in this time, they took nearly a century to be reconciled.
(2) Then in 1964 the West and the East officially recognized each other.
They were like:
"We are sorry.
We made a mistake.”
Then they try to understand each other.
(4) Since then when they worship together, they decided to use the Nicene creed without “And the Son” clause.
(3) There are many different churches in the world.
There are many cultural differences.
We use different languages.
We have social, religious and political differences.
We may understand the Bible differently.
We may emphasize certain things above the other.
We may explain God differently.
We may have grown differently.
We may be different.
But we need to live together.
(3) When Jesus prayed to the Father God, for all the churches, he was like this:
“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.”
Jesus was praying that his church may be one like Trinity.
So we pray and try to be one in Jesus.
We know it is difficult.
It is almost impossible.
So Jesus prays for us.
So we pray together with Jesus.
We pray to believe in Jesus together.
We pray that his church may be one through Jesus the Christ.
We pray together and recognize that we are one in Jesus.
Then the world will know that God sent Jesus and God loves us.
Jesus, help us to understand ourselves. .
Help us to understand each other, so that we may not judge others.
Thank you for your love for all of us.
In your name, we pray.