A Home Movies Greeting

Have you seen the recent video clips making the rounds? I have. And since this blog is called “The Fourth Watch” (the last watch—3 a.m. to 6 a.m.—in the Roman reckoning of night time) and since this blog’s purpose is to track indicators in the world portending the end of this civilization’s long night and the nearness of Christ’s return—I would like to comment on these forwarded web messages that are circulating. The forwarded link is to a YouTube recording of Bishop Tony Palmer. (His Anglican affiliation is not clear according to online sources—and he is described at this site as a “personal friend” of Pope Francis.) In the clip Palmer is addressing a recent convocation of evangelical Pentecostal ministers in Texas and makes a passionate appeal for unity between Rome and the Pentecostal movement: “We are living in an incredibly important generation. I believe that God has brought me here to this year’s ministers conference in the spirit of Elijah.” Palmer then describes this Elijah spirit as the spirit of reconciliation that brings back the fathers to the sons and the sons to the fathers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=b5TwrG8B3ME). And then seven minutes into this clip this Protestant bishop brings a personal message from Pope Francis. But in a rather unusual manner, this message is more than a read statement relayed through an emissary. After quoting Jesus’ prayer in John 17, “That they may be one as We are One, Father,” Palmer directs the convention’s attention to the big screen for a seven minute video recording of Pope Francis personally greeting the gathered ministers. I must say it is an amazing piece of personable, warm, collegial greeting from the Pope, given in Italian with English subtitles, apparently filmed (it feels like a home movie) by Bishop Palmer himself, whom the Pope describes, “we’ve been friends for years.” And the message is unmistakably clear. We are separated now because “it is a long road of sins that we all shared in. Who is to blame? We all share the blame. . . . I am nostalgic [yearning], that this separation comes to an end and gives us communion.” At one point appealing to the story of the reunion of Joseph with his brothers in Egypt, Francis declares: “But we have to encounter one another as brothers. We must cry together like Joseph did. These tears will unite us. The tears of love. . . . I thank you profoundly for allowing me to speak the language of the heart. . . . And this is a miracle. The miracle of unity has begun. . . . [God] will complete this miracle of unity. I ask you to bless me, and I bless you.” (If you want to watch the Pope’s message by itself, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHXKTKYunYo). Is there something sinister in Christian brothers seeking unity in Christ? Hardly. But on the basis of the Apocalypse and the Great Controversy I remember that there is predicted  before the return of Jesus a global unification that will transcend religious and theological lines. A global, ecumenical, political unification championed by Rome and the United States. “The opinion is gaining ground that, after all, we do not differ so widely upon vital points as has been supposed, and that a little concession on our part will bring us into a better understanding with Rome” (Great Controversy 563). But there is a line Bishop Palmer did not read from Jesus’ prayer for unity: “Sanctify them by Your truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Lasting, meaningful unity in Christ can only be built upon the solid Rock of the Word of God. Which means you and I, whatever our persuasion, must only be persuaded by a “Thus says the Lord.” Unity pursued on any other ground will never be unity. No matter how many home movies are played.