A video has been going around. If you’re a Christian, you’ve gotta watch it.
Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM) founded by the famous televangelist from Texas, recently hosted a conference for Evangelical leaders. I mention KCM because of this video containing the iPhone-recorded video message of Pope Francis to the KCM conference attendees.
As Liz Scalia points out, many folks have skipped the bulk of this 45 minute recording to watch solely what Pope Francis had to say to his fellow Christians, but, “To watch only the pope is to be moved, but to ultimately miss the point.“
Watch the whole video.
This video genuinely BLESSED ME, with an excitement for the possibility of Christian unity. Is it coming sooner than we imagined?
- Anglican bishop Tony Palmer, introducing the video of his dear friend Pope Francis, tells the crowd, “Jesus is sacramental. [...] But he was also Evangelical, because he said, ‘You have to be born again.’ [...] But he was also the contemplative. He was also the Charismatic. How much of Jesus do you want? Do you only want one denomination of Jesus? Jump in! Get it all!”
- Palmer calls the audience’s attention to the agreement signed by Catholic and Lutheran leaders 15 years ago. Palmer addresses the crowd, “This brought an end to the protest of Luther. Brothers and sisters, Luther’s protest is over. Is yours?” Seemingly stunned silence. A few claps. Palmer challenges them to bring forth an Evangelical leader to sign the agreement. From the crowd, we hear emphatic “YES”-es.
- Palmer says, “The spirit of Elijah was on John the Baptist, ‘to turn the hearts of the sons to their fathers, and to turn the fathers to the sons.’ To prepare the way for the Lord. [...] We know that Elijah will come before the Second Coming, as well. I’ve understood that the spirit of Elijah is the spirit of reconciliation; to return hearts to each other.”
Palmer describes the divisions between Christians for the past 2,000 years. Then, he says,
I’ve come to understand that diversity is divine. It’s division that’s diabolic.
Claps from the crowd. He continues, “The glory that the Father had, he gave to Jesus. The glory is the presence of God. What is the Charismatic Renewal? It’s when we experience the presence of God.” He quotes Christ, “‘I give them the glory -‘ pragmatic reason! ‘- so that they may be one.’ It’s the glory that glues us together, not the doctrines.”
Some people watched this video and freaked out. Comments about “ONE WORLD RELIGION?!?” give voice to a fear that many of us have: leaving our comfort zones, our affirmative environments, and reaching across denominational divisions to embrace those who are different from us.
The problem is: Until we are united, Christians will continue to lack credibility.
When my husband and I started dating, he invited me to attend Mass at his parish. I remember the first time I walked through the church’s doors that Sunday morning at 12:15pm. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced:
People were welcoming me from all sides. The sound of strong, ardent voices sang God’s praises in the sanctuary. It was almost as if light and energy and life were a tangible force that burst forth from the crowds of people who had gathered prior to 12:30pm Mass to sing God’s praises. I saw hands lifted up. Voices lifted to Heaven. On their faces were wide smiles and tears. I felt like I had stepped into life in the Spirit of God…and that beautiful experience was just a warm-up for the gorgeous worship during Mass!
You guessed it; our parish is heavily involved in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. I’d heard many negative things about the CCR: poor catechesis, disobedience, fluffy faith. But I’ve been happily surprised to find enthusiastic, Eucharist-adoring, Rosary-praying, Scripture-studying, bishop-loving Catholics. The main difference, I’ve found, between this parish and the others I’ve been to, is the enthusiastic welcome, joy, and excitement that these parishioners have.
In their hearts and ‘in the air’, there seems to be less fear.
One of the lessons I’ve learned from the priests who serve our parish (members of the Brothers of the Beloved Disciple religious order) is that the Holy Spirit brings unity — and that includes unity between Christians. The BBD are closely involved in ecumenical dialogue, serving as the Archbishop’s official representatives in local ecumenical events. I’ve admired how they genuinely connect with fellow Christians without sacrificing their Catholicism. It’s a gift.
I believe our Pope has got it.
Before you protest about our gloriously-gifted past popes, I want to point out that reconciliation is a two-way street. No matter how much I may desire reconciliation with my brother, he must be open to it.
Some people possess a characteristic approachability, relate-ability. These qualities are God-given gifts. I remember when Francis’ papacy had begun, I described him as someone who seemed to easily break down people’s defenses.
Our world is aching for love. People long to be accepted — to know that nothwithstanding their color, creed, sexual attraction, body, pain, or addiction, they are unconditionally loved. We live in a world divided – where people sitting beside each other stare at screens, where teenagers haven’t learned how to converse face-to-face, where bullying happens online, crime and terrorism and wars are waged in cyberspace. Political factions are more decidedly divided. Political and religious leaders alike speak of “how to win the culture wars.” Our deeply divided world is aching for personal, authentic love.
Francis’ emphasis is that personal connection. That meeting between brothers. That look into the eyes of a beggar when we give alms. That pure, joyful embrace.
For that reason – and also the fact that the Spirit moves on God’s schedule, not ours – I believe that we will begin to see an unprecedented unity between Christians under Francis.
I pray that this is true. I pray that Palmer is right: That the spirit of Elijah is with Francis, and Francis is preparing the way of the Lord. I pray that Christ will come soon, and that Christ’s prayer will soon come:
“Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are. [...]
I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. [...]
I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.”
Therein lies our challenge: To love with a supernatural love.
Come, Holy Spirit, come.