Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Power of One

It's late tonight, at least late to still be at the church, but I had so many things I didn't accomplish this week and I'm determined to take my day off with the kids on Friday. I must get a little more sermon prep done so that we can spend that day together. I must.

I've never really observed the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity before, at least not in this country, but we will at least make it the focus in worship this Sunday. Maybe next year I'll plan ahead enough to work with some other churches so we aren't just talking about unity, but giving it a shot.

I learned about WPCU on my first trip to Hungary, where the week was observed with nightly worship and fellowship time between the Reformed and Catholic churches. It was interesting to me because it really showed how divided the church is in that culture. We don't do a LOT with our Catholic brothers and sisters here, but I guess tensions don't seem so high that I feel the need to go out of my way to be unified with them either.

I think we get so settled into the idea that different is OK that we forget that different is OK, division is not. And where do you draw the line? I don't know.

Right now in the US, at least from my perspective, it feels like the real division in the Body of Christ isn't necessarily along denominational lines as much as it is along lines of similar ecclesio-political lines. I'm pretty sure I just made up a term, but it fits what I'm thinking. Our divisions are based on a our church-politic stances more than our denominational affiliations. For example if I moved to a new town and there was a Confessing Presbyterian church, an Open and Affirming UCC church, a moderate Methodist church, and even a progressive, activist Catholic church, I'd try ANY of the others before I'd worship within my own PC(USA) denomination in that town. I can confess that division that I am part of.

(An aside - - in general I don't like "single issue" churches no matter where they are on the spectrum. I think the church is about more than any one hot button issue even if a particular church holds the same opinion that I do.)

It's hard for me to remember that the way I practice my faith, the way the church exists in this time and place, is not the way God wants it, even if we're doing the our best to follow God. In doing our best to reform it we still mess it up.

In Ezekiel's passage (Eze. 37:15-28) it's not by their own power that the sticks become one. It's not by their own will; it's not by their own word. In fact, they are only one in God's hand. Anywhere else they exist, they are divided against the will of God. When the church allows God to hold onto it, to guide it, to direct its ministry and mission, God will hold us together with our brothers and sisters as one.

God desires our unity. God desires for us to look past the artificial divisions among humanity, among the Church (Galatians 3:26-29). God has given us one identity in Christ, and as children of God we are called to share that identity that unity with the world. We are called to treat others as the children of God that they are.

Good things happen when we work together. Movements of united Christians can change the world. MLK, Jr. united churches to work together to further the cause of desegregation, a job that has come a long way but is not over yet. United churches are working to fight hunger locally and globally. United churches are laboring to battle the spread of AIDS and help those suffering from malaria.

We have heard it said that there is strength in numbers, but I say, Scripture says, there is power in one, the united Body of Christ, the church called and blessed by the Spirit of God.

Sermon focus:
When we recognize that God holds us together as one body of Christ we will be blessed with strength to love God and others as we are loved, without prejudice or hesitation.

Sermon function:
Call the congregation to make a covenant with God and this church to seek out opportunities to be in worship, fellowship, service, and study with Christians of another tradition or mindset.

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