URC Daily Devotion Thursday 17 February 2022

Thursday 17 February 2022

St Luke 9: 49 – 50
John answered, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.’  But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.’

Growing up, I belonged to a tradition that believed there was only one valid way to be Christian (ours), and that Christians of other traditions, along with everyone else, were essentially lost.   I accepted the teaching, but it always sat heavily with me – were my friends of other denominations really not going to heaven? After I left home, I spent a decade as ‘spiritual but not religious’ before being led to find my home in the URC. Even then, I had some lingering suspicions about whether it was ‘above board’. 
In these verses from Luke, we hear of one who is casting out demons in Jesus’ name but is not one of Jesus’ followers. John’s and the disciples’ assumption is that he should be stopped and they attempt to do so.  But Jesus is relaxed about this. And why? Because “whoever is not against you is for you”. 
When I first read the Basis of Union, our governing document, I was profoundly impacted by the following words. 
“The United Reformed Church humbly recognises that the failure and weakness of the Church have in particular been manifested in division which has made it impossible for Christians fully to know, experience and communicate the life of the one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church.” 
These words spoke powerfully to that part of me, who like John and the disciples, still thought there were ‘real’ Christians and everyone else. But as humans, we must confess that it is we who create ‘in’ and ‘out’ groups – our history is littered with examples. But this was not Jesus’ vision for the unity of his Church or for the cause of Christ, which is love, mercy, justice and peace.  
The vision and energy of the ecumenical movement which saw the creation of our church 50 years ago may have waned. But Christ’s call to love, mercy, justice and peace, and for the unity of his Church remains the same today as it always has. 

whose very nature 
is unity and love.
May our hearts and minds be open,
so that we are ready to labour
with all people of goodwill 
for love, mercy, justice and peace. 
And may we never forget the significance 
of the ‘United’ in our name,
for the cause of Christ,