Friday, October 26, 2018

We Are One in the Spirit, We Are One in the Lord


John 17:20-23
My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one - I in them and you in me - so that they may be brought to complete unity.  Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Laity Sunday was last week, and our lay leader, Jerry N., delivered a most inspirational message based on the Scripture above.  This post reflects my takeaways from the powerful words he shared with us.  Thank you, Jerry, for serving us so well, and especially for your unflagging service to the Lord!

No doubt about it, our country is going through one of the most divisive times in its history.  Heated rhetoric and incivility toward others of differing opinions has reached an unprecedented high, due largely, I believe, to the rapid rise of social media.  Anonymity allows for insults to be hurled and ideas to be unjustly shredded just because a person does not hold our particular beliefs.

What alarms me most, as the mid-terms are fast approaching, is the ratcheting up of volatility.  More and more masks are coming off.  The relative safety of the internet has been tossed aside as mob behavior is unabashedly encouraged by some, and conveniently ignored by others.  Dialogue is reduced to seeing who can out shout the other.

It's an us versus them mentality.

We've lost our middle ground, if there ever was any to begin with.  I'm beginning to wonder . . .

But as tragic as the division and discord is in society at large, it is especially heartbreaking when the church falls prey to secular vagaries, forgetting in the heat of the moment that their fellow worshipers are children of God.  We are overcome by the desire to be right instead of righteous.  Instead of actively listening to the opinions of others, we shut them up and shut them down over disagreements that are, in the eternal perspective, truly insignificant.

Let me share an incident that took place recently at our church.  For years, there was discussion about moving the contemporary service from the sanctuary to the CAC - Community Activities Center, which is basically a gym with a stage.  Was there an outcry of horror by some?  Of course!  Were there others who had a vision of what it could look like, who favored the move?  Of course, again!  Serious dialogue on this issue was initiated by the clergy and staff, and all opinions were respectfully listened to and considered.  When the decision was finally made to move the service, some folks were so outraged, they actually left the church.

You heard me right.

They left the church because they didn't get their way.  That is sadder than sad in my book.

As the Body of Christ, we are bound to have different outlooks and ideas for how things should be, but we also have a higher calling that is not of this world.  Jesus prays for our unity in worshiping God, that the Father may be one with us as He and the Father are one.  If we are to embrace Christianity fully, shouldn't we make this unity our greatest priority?  After all, God loves us all equally, no matter our race, social status or political affiliation.

Satan is reveling in the chaos which is now wreaking havoc on our country.  Let us not invite him into our houses of worship by refusing to love one another as Christ commanded.  May we, instead, be a beckoning light to this hurting, discordant world, demonstrating the powerful, restorative love of God to transform lives and heal divisions that threaten to keep us in denial of the love of the One who can, and will, always unite.

Let us strive, then, to be one in the Spirit and one in the Lord.  Ever praying that all unity will one day be restored.

And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.

They will know we are Christians by our love . . .

Amen!

19 comments:

  1. Excellent post, Martha. Thank you.

    I particularly love the quote from John you started with. One of my favourites.

    Two points:

    Here in the UK too, we seem to be a divided kingdom. Divided in many ways. Rich and poor. North and South. Old and young. Employed and not employed. Divided on religion, race, up-bringing, education, privilege and on many other issues. Like the European Union. Although we voted two years ago that we should leave the EU we are still debating the issue in parliament, as well as on social media, TV, radio and everywhere. I fear all these divisions and pray we unite once again.

    The second point relates to the Churches of all denominations to agree and somehow unite. Being a Catholic, I fear this may never happen, because the Catholic Church is somewhat aloof and feels superior to the rest (which it is not). There idea of unity is that other Churches should follow our example. This is wrong. I have voiced this within my Church. You can imagine the response.

    God bless.

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    1. Victor, thank you so much for taking the time to share such informative and personal thoughts here. Yes, it seems division is not relegated to just our side of the pond, and I find that so sad. When we really stop and reflect, we have much more in common than we do differences. After all, we are all made in God's image, and Jesus wants us to be one body in worshiping Him. Maybe, one day . . .
      And yes, this passage from John is so revealing and moving, I agree.
      Love and blessings!

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  2. Excellent message! Yes, we are also praying for unity to be restored...praying for peace and safety in our nation...and for we as Christians to be united in Christ Jesus for the purpose of reaching the lost with the saving love of Christ. It's a tall order, but with God, all things are possible!

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    1. Pamela, I love your optimism and hope shown here. Yes, with God, all things are possible, and we need to keep up those prayers for unity and peace.
      Love and blessings!

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  3. WONDERFUL message, Martha! Having attended a Unity church for many years, at first I misunderstood your message. I'll never forget my poor mother's reaction when she visited one Sunday and realized there was no Cross above the altar … rather, the 'winged' logo (https://www.unitygainesville.org/unitys-logo.html) … reminds me of an angel with her face down flying towards the congregation.

    The state of our Country these days seems overwhelmingly awful. I need to remember your words, and those of Pamela. All things are possible!

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    1. Your title, I mean. Not your message.

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    2. I'm so glad this message spoke to you today, Myra! Yes, things are a mess, but when you think back to the 60s, the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, we were pretty divided then, too, yet we came out of it. I have hope we will also come through these crazy times.
      Love and blessings!

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  4. We are overcome by the desire to be right instead of righteous. That statement says it all. I am heartsick at where this country is today and where it seems to be headed. Satan is winning.

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    1. Yes, Terri, Satan seems to be winning, but we know already that Jesus has the ultimate victory. Let us cling to that knowledge with everything we've got, and strive with God's help to live into the unity He wants His children to embrace! May we choose righteousness over being "right."
      Love and blessings!

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  5. it is sad when the outcome of discussion from both sides, the offerings of opinions from both sides, and the careful study and prayer afterwards results in people leaving. But us wanting to be sovereign of our own little kingdom will result in pettiness. It also shows immaturity on the part of those who left because they didn't get their way. Sad

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    1. It truly is sad, Bill. And as you write about so often in Be Transformed, we get too wrapped up in our own little kingdoms and forget that we are here to serve the kingdom of God. May we pray that we all become one in the Spirit.
      Love and blessings!

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  6. Amen indeed, Martha. A Course in Miracles teaches that any time we separate ourselves from each other -- through judgment, fear, anger, criticism, prejudice, etc -- we separate ourselves from God. We cannot see someone as "other" and still be in open relationship with God. Not that God would cut off relationship with us, but that we block our unity with God when we fail to recognize our unity with each other.

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    1. Yes, Galen, we are the ones who block the natural and overflowing love of God that wishes to unite us when we ignore or choose to diminish the value of others. The older I get, the more I understand Jesus' commandment to love and pray for our enemies. Am I always true to this? In a word, "No." But God is working in me and through me each and every day, refining this dross into gold. Trusting that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.
      Love and blessings!

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  7. We are overcome by the desire to be right instead of righteous. Truth, truth, truth Martha. It's the disease that kills churches, politic, people, marriages, relationships in any area. I am going to use that quote on my facebook tomorrow, powerful. Good to read your wisdom again. I have been silent for a while, life has been busy. We are on a ministry trip now, down on the southern border of Arizona and Mexico and tonight I finally got my computer out and trying to catch up. Know this has made you sad, it makes me sad and I don't even know these people. Glad you are staying...

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    1. Thanks so much, Betty, for your kind and encouraging words, and I'm honored that you would quote what I said about right/righteousness in your blog! Glad to know, too, that you are back here and blogging after a hiatus. You've been missed!
      Love and blessings!

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  8. Martha, you've hit on what is happening in secular society, as well as the church. It seems to me that the church--instead of being different from the world and setting the tone for society--is mirroring society and calling it "seeker sensitive". Sadly, churches split (or people leave) over carpeting.

    It's grieving to my heart to see all the discord, the hatred in this world and in the church.

    By the way, are you familiar with the hymn, "They'll Know We are Christians by Our Love"? Your title is a phrase in the hymn.

    Love and blessings!

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    1. Oh, yes, Kim, very familiar with that hymn, hence the title here. Yes, we are living in sad and discordant times, and the church needs to be united more than ever. And splitting over carpeting? Give me a break! Reminds me of Paul's admonishment that some of us are still at our mother's milk as Christians, and not yet ready for solid food.
      Love and blessings!

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  9. I love when we track in the same direction as another blogger who we so deeply respect does. Without even knowing it.

    Kindness matters. You've written so beautifully about this needed grace, this available fruit, friend.

    I'm sharing your link over at my place.

    Bless you!

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind words here, Linda, and for the share! Yes, isn't it amazing how we, as bloggers, will mirror each other's thoughts without even knowing it? God is so good!
      Yes, kindness matters incredibly in this beaten up and beaten down world. May we practice it with our whole hearts.
      Love and blessings!

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