Reading: “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints.” (Apostles’ Creed)
Reflection: Every year, evangelical churches in Sarajevo organize a joint worship service in an attempt to draw closer to the important truth found in this statement of faith. I believe it is one of the most important and beautiful days in the life of the church in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina when they show that the Church is one and that the holiness of those who make it up is evident in their unity.
Each of the five words in the Apostles’ Creed that relate to the Church is extremely important and fundamental to understanding the Church. “Ecclesia” is a Greek term (ἐκκλησία) that was often used in ancient times to refer to gatherings or assemblies of people. In the context of Christianity, the term specifically refers to the ‘church’ or ‘assembly’ of believers. This term is used in the New Testament to describe the community of believers who follow Jesus Christ. The Church was ‘called’ into existence by God the Father. Its head is Jesus Christ, and the life-giving energy comes from the Holy Spirit (1 Tim 3:14-15; Eph 3:20-4:16; 1 Cor 2:6-3:17; Acts 1-2; 10-11). This is what makes the Church a “holy” or “separate” group of people. The adjective “holy” is found twice in this part of the creed. It emphasizes not only the “separation” of those who make it up, but also the special character and role of this community in relation to others, such as marriage, social, national, and others. In its inception, the Church was tasked with being a witness for Christ. It is the place where the witness for Christ through the Holy Scriptures is preserved, taught, and proclaimed to the world that needs to hear it
Christians should understand that the term “Catholic” does not refer to “Roman Catholic,” but rather to “universal” or “all-encompassing.” Therefore, in this context, it refers to the Church as a whole, encompassing all believers through time and space. The unity of the Church cannot be overstated. Karl Barth calls us to seriously consider understanding and giving importance to the unity of the church when he says that it is sancta (holy), even ecclesia (church), only when it is decisively catholica (universal) in its essence and will.
The saying attributed to many theologians, starting from St. Augustine through Luther and Wesley, provides us with an excellent recipe for practicing Christian unity: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
Prayer: Lord, we thank You for Your Church and all believers scattered throughout the world. We pray for unity and love among brothers and sisters, regardless of the differences among us. We pray that in essential matters, we may be unified and that in non-essential matters, we may provide freedom of choice. Finally, we ask for Your help to sincerely love one another as You have loved us and gave Yourself for our salvation. Amen.
Photo by Erika Giraud on Unsplash.