I recently took up the spiritual practice of the Moravian Watchwords.
The Moravian Church is one of the oldest protestant denominations in the world, dating back to the Bohemian Reformation of the 15th century. They fled Bohemia (western Czech Republic) to Saxony (southeastern Germany) in 1722 to escape religious persecution and settled near the town of Herrnhut. From there Moravians have spread across the world. Today the Moravian Church counts approximately 1.2 million members throughout Europe, North America, Africa, The Caribbean and Latin America.
Every year, for the past 290 years, the Moravian’s have published a devotional text known as The Watchwords. A daily set of two verses, one from the old testament and one from the new testament, paired to provide a framework for meditation and prayer. For three centuries millions of people have relied on the watchwords as their introduction to the scriptures and as a guide to prayer. I started using them this summer after I finished my reading of the Psalms and when I heard that one my spiritual heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, credited them with keeping him grounded while in prison for opposing Nazi rule.
Today’s watchwords where from Isaiah 53:5 and John 11:51,52.
It has become increasingly necessary for Christians all over the world to recognize that we are united by grace. We gather, from all economic realities, all walks of life, all countries, and all political affiliations, at the foot of the cross to be washed in the blood of Jesus our hearts sustained by the water of life that gushes from his side and sent forth into the world as one humanity. He took our punishment upon himself and healed us. Caiaphas thought that by killing Jesus he could save the Jewish nation, (John 11:50) but he did not realize that Jesus’ death would save, not just the Jews, but all nations and make them one.
My childhood church used two hymn books. One a traditional, red hard cover tome filled with all the old classic hymns from yesteryear. The other a small, green paperback full of more modern folk songs and spirituals called the “Sing and Rejoice”, songbook.
One of the songs that I remember from “Sing and Rejoice” was called “Unity” by Gerald Derstine. Derstine was a charismatic Mennonite pastor active from the 1950s to the 1990s who was well known in certain Mennonite circles for his evangelical teaching style and spiritual song writing. He wasn’t a particularly prolific songwriter however but with a bit of digging I managed to find this version of Unity on YouTube as performed by the Mennonite Covenant Choral. Close your eyes and let the words wash over you.
In these polarized times, Jesus, help us live in unity.