The Church’s Unity: a Healthy Witness

Fourth worship service in a collection of building blocks for a series of worship services based on key themes from the Belhar Confession


Love One Another by Laura James (www.laurajamesart.com)

Belhar Confession Service #4

Family unity (both a gift and obligation) must be made visible for those in the church and those in the world.  This unity, seen in multiple ways, speaks to the world about the reconciling work of Christ and therefore becomes a healthy witness to the gospel of Christ.

Belhar References: (excerpts from sections 2 and 3) 

We believe… that this unity must become visible so that the world may believe that separation, enmity and hatred between people and groups is sin which Christ has already conquered, and accordingly that anything which threatens this unity may have no place in the church and must be resisted (John 17:20-13);that this unity of the people of God must be manifested and be active in a variety of ways; in that we love one another; that we experience, practice and pursue community with one another; that we are obligated to give ourselves willingly and joyfully to be of benefit and blessing to one another; that we share one faith, have one calling, are of one soul and one mind; have one God and Father, are filled with one Spirit, are baptized with one baptism, eat of one break and drink of one cup, confess one name, are obedient to one Lord, work for one cause, and share one hope; together come to know the heights and the breadth and the depth of the love of Christ; together are built up to the stature of Christ, to the new humanity; together know and bear one another’s burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ that we need one another and upbuild one another, admonishing and comforting one another;  that we suffer with one another for the sake of righteousness, pray together, together serve God in this world and together fight against all which may threaten or hinder this unity (Phil.2:1-5; I Cor.12:4-31; John 13:1-17; I Cor. 1:10-13; Eph.4:1-6; Eph.3:14-20; I Cor.10:16-17; I Cor.11:17-34; Gal. 6:2; II Cor. 1:3-4). 

Therefore, we reject any doctrine…which absolutizes either natural diversity or  the  sinful separation of people in such a way that this absolutization hinders or breaks the visible and active unity of the church, or even leads to the establishment of a separate church formation; which professes that this spiritual unity is truly being maintained in the bond of peace while believers of the same confession are in effect alienated from one another for the sake of diversity and in despair of reconciliation; which denies that a refusal earnestly to pursue this visible unity as a priceless gift is sin; 
that the credibility of this message is seriously affected and its beneficial work obstructed  when it is proclaimed in a land which professes to be Christian, but in which the enforced separation of people on a racial basis promotes and perpetuates alienation, hatred and enmity….

Suggested Scriptures

Psalm 87
Psalm 111

Matthew 28:16-20

John 17:20-23

Acts 2:1-21

I Corinthians 1:10-13

James 2:1-13

References in Other Confessional Documents

The Belgic Confession of Faith, 28

Possible Songs

All those notated with an asterisk will be found in “Lift Up Your Hearts” (LUYH), to be published in 2013 by Faith Alive Christian Resources.

Bring Forth the Kingdom, SNC 123
*Go to the World!, SNC 294
     [paired with ENGELBERG]
*Gracious Spirit, SNC 166
     [paired with NJOO KWETU, ROHO MWEMA]
*O Give the Lord Wholehearted Praise, PFAS 111A
     [Psalm 111: paired with GERMANY]
*O God, We Kneel  Before Your Throne, SNT 185
     [paired with KNOLLCREST FARM]
*Taste and See, PFAS 34B
     [Psalm 34: paired with TASTE AND SEE]
*They’ll Know We Are Christians, LUYH
     [paired with ST. BRENDAN’S]
*We Will Extol You, God and King, PFAS 145G
     [Psalm 145: paired with SCARECROW]

Liturgy Resources

Prayers

Triune God,
you have called us to live in unity with each other
and with our brothers and sisters around the world.
Help us to sense that our love for Jesus binds us together.
May our worship today be a witness
to the kind of unity that comes only
through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Taken from The Worship Sourcebook, © 2004 Faith Alive Christian Resources, S.1.1.1

O Lord, open our eyes, that we may see the needs of others.
Open our ears, that we may hear their cries.
Open our hearts, that they need not be without help.
Let us not be afraid to defend the weak
because of the anger of the strong,
nor afraid to defend the poor
because of the anger of the rich.
Show us where love and hope are needed,
and use us to bring them to those places.
Open our eyes and ears, that this day we may
do some work of peace for you. Amen.
Alan Paton, South Africa, in The Complete Book of Christian Prayer,
©2000 Continuum, p. 194 [468], alt. Found in The Worship Sourcebook, first edition © 2004 Faith Alive Christian Resources, 4.5.3

Glorious things are spoken of you, God, the source of all springs.
     Our names are known by you and recorded in your book.
Your blessing was pronounced on all families through your servant Abraham,
     and you have established a home for all of us.
We pray, O God, for all the nations of the earth,
     lands physically separated by geography –
     peoples divided by language, culture, custom, and color –
     yet united as your children.
As of old you claimed your people from all lands and nations –
     from Egypt and Babylon, Philistia and Ethiopia-
     even so, look with mercy upon your church in this land and in every nation.
     (Other nations may be added.)
    
Guide us in your ways of justice and peace.
We call upon you – from every tribe and every nation,
in every tongue and language, joining our voices together in song proclaiming,
     all our springs are in you.
Taken from Psalms for All Seasons, ©2011 Faith Alive Christian Resources, 87C

Startle us, O God, with your truth   
and open our minds to your Spirit
that we may be one with Christ our Lord,
and serve as faithful disciples, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Taken from The Worshipbook: Services, copyright © MCMLXX The Westminster Press: Altered


We rebel against God; we hide from our creator.
     Ignoring God’s commandments,
     we violate the image of God in others and ourselves,
     accept lies as truth,
     exploit neighbor and nature,
     and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care.

We deserve God’s condemnation.
     Yet God acts with justice and mercy to redeem creation.
     (
Silent Confession: In this moment of silence, confess your own failures asking God to renew your will to do what you believe.)
A Brief Statement of Faith of the Presbyterian Church USA © 1983

Affirmations

God has reconciled us to God's own self and to one another,
and has made us one community of love.
We celebrate God's gift of unity, and claim it as our calling.
Separation, enmity and hatred are sins that Christ has already conquered;
they have no place here among the beloved of God.
God has given us many ways to enjoy our unity.
We commit ourselves to bless one another.
We will keep the one faith and fulfill our one calling.
We will be of one soul and mind.
We will share one baptism, eat one bread, and drink one cup.
We will confess one Name, and share one hope.
We will bear one another's burdens and build each other up.
We will suffer together for the sake of God's righteousness.
We will pray together and serve God together.
We will fight together against everything that threatens our unity.
We will use our differences to serve Christ, one another, and the world.
We celebrate God's gift of unity, and claim it as our calling.
Paul Janssen, Pascack Reformed Church, Park Ridge, New Jersey, RCA Belhar Confession: Singing Praying and Preaching. © 2012 Reformed Church Press


We share one faith,
have one calling,
are of one soul and one mind;
have one God and Father,
are filled with one Spirit,
are baptized with one baptism,
eat of one bread and drink of one cup,
confess one Name,
are obedient to one Lord,
work for one cause,
and share one hope.

Together we
come to know the height and the breadth and the depth of the love of Christ;
are built up to the stature of Christ, to the new humanity;
know and bear one another's burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ
that we need one another and up-build one another,
admonishing and comforting one another;
that we suffer with one another for the sake of righteousness.

Together we pray; together we serve God in this world.
Nolan Palsma, Pitcher Hill Community Church, North Syracuse, NY, RCA Belhar Confession: Singing Praying and Preaching.
© 2012 Reformed Church Press

We believe that this unity of the people of God
must be manifested and  be active in a variety of ways:
in that we love one another;
that we experience, practice and pursue community with one another;
that we are obligated to give ourselves willingly
and joyfully to be of benefit and blessing to one another;
that we share one faith, have one calling, are of one soul and one mind;
have one God and Father, are filled with one Spirit,
are
baptized with one baptism, eat of one bread and drink of one cup,
confess one name, are obedient to one Lord,
work for one cause, and share one hope;           

together come to know the height and the breadth
and the depth of the love of Christ;
together are built up to the stature of Christ to the new humanity;
together know and bear one another’s burdens,
thereby fulfilling the law of Christ;
that we need one another and up-build one another,
admonishing and comforting one another;
that we suffer with one another for the sake of righteousness;
pray together; together serve God in this world;
and together fight against all which may threaten or hinder this unity;

we believe that this unity can be established
only in freedom and not under constraint;
that the variety of spiritual gifts, opportunities, backgrounds, convictions,
as well as various languages and cultures,
are by virtue of the reconciliation in Christ,
opportunities for mutual service and enrichment
within the one visible people of God;
we believe that true faith in Jesus Christ
is the only condition for membership of this church.

We believe in the triune God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
who gathers, protects and cares for the church through World and Spirit.
This, God has done since the beginning of the world
and will do it to the end.  Amen
.
Belhar Confession, Article 1 and 2


In a broken and fearful world
The Spirit gives us courage
to pray without ceasing,
to witness among peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,

to unmask idolatries in church and culture,
to hear voices of peoples long silenced,
and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.

In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit,
we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks
and to live holy and joyful lives,
even as we watch for God’s new heaven and new earth,
praying, “Come, Lord Jesus!
A Brief Statement of Faith of the Presbyterian Church USA © 1983

We believe in the triune God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
who gathers, protects and cares for the church through World and Spirit.
This, God has done since the beginning of the world
and will do it to the end.  Amen.

Belhar Confession, Article 1

Glossary

Confessions and Testimonies:

(Note: When we use the term “Other Confessional Documents” we are using the term “confessional” broadly to include those which have been formally adopted as a Confession of Faith by a denomination, but also those which more loosely are considered a Testimony or Declaration of Faith by a denomination.)

Belhar – the Belhar Confession
BC – The Belgic Confession of Faith
HC – The Heidelberg Catechism
OWBTG – A Contemporary Testimony: Our World Belongs to God
OSOH – Our Song of Hope
WC – Westminster Confession
WCRC – The Worship Statement of the World Communion of Reformed Churches
WLC – Westminster Larger Catechism
WSC – Westminster Shorter Catechism

Hymnals/Resources:

ELW – Evangelical Lutheran Worship
CSW – Contemporary Songs for Worship
GSW – Global Songs for Worship
LUYH – Lift Up Your Hearts
PFAS – Psalms For All Seasons
PsH – The Psalter Hymnal
SNC – Sing! A New Creation
SNT – Singing the New Testament
TWS – The Worship Sourcebook

General Hymns:

*Abana in Heaven, GSW 44
*All Are Welcome, LUYH
     [paired with TWO OAKS]
*Be Thou My Vision, LUYH
     [paired with SLANE]
*Canto de esperanza/Song of Hope, LUYH
     [paired with ARGENTINA]
*Faith Begins By Letting Go, SNC 172
     [paired with LUX PRIMA]
*God of Grace and God of Glory, LUYH
     [paired with CEM RHONDDA]
Let Streams of Living Justice, ELW 710
     [paired with THAXTED]
Lord, You Call Us
     [JOYOUS LIGHT Morningstar MSM-50-7800 SATB and Congregation]
*Perdón, Señor/Forgive Us, Lord, LUYH 2.2.1
     [paired with CONFESSION]
*Psalm 51, SNC 50
The Church of Christ, in Every Age
, ELW 729
     [paired with WAREHAM]
*The Church’s One Foundation, PsH 502
     [paired with AURELIA]
Belhar Hymn, David Alexander 
     [sung to O WALY WALY, Unity, Reconciliation and Justice: Apppendix C, p.87]

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