This message was shared at Centerville UMC in Centerville, IN on August 16, 2015.
Unity among the body of believers is an important theme we find throughout the New Testament. Paul addressed unity in many of his New Testament letters. Jesus talked about unity as well.
John 17:20-23 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, 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. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Jesus proclaims his desire that we would be one…why? So that the world will believe! Our unity is crucial to our witness as a church.
In 1991, the Irish band U2 released the album Achtung Baby. That album contained the song “One”, which would go on to be one of their greatest hits. I believe the song has a message for us this morning.
Ephesians 4:1-6 “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
What unites us? One body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.
Greg Garrett, “We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel According to U2”- “Our lives are for and with one another. We need one another to be who we are called to be. And not only are we called to carry one another – we are permitted to. It is a grace and a mercy for us as well as for those who need our help.”
There are times when the church has been the most loving, peaceful, joy-filled, kind, hospitable, encouraging, self-less…a place where we do the work of Philippians 2:12-15 together “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world.”
Yet, we also know there are times when the church can be the opposite of what it truly should be. There are times when we come to the church looking for peace, comfort, hope, encouragement, and what we find is a cold shoulder, tense interactions, and judgmental looks and words. Again, our unity plays a crucial role in our witness. Why would non-believers want to have anything to do with folks who are always bickering, complaining, gossiping, fighting, and judging one another?
Unity doesn’t necessarily mean we have to agree about every single thing. Unity means that we come together, as different and unique as we are, in Christ. Jesus Christ as Lord is the uniting force among all believers.
So, gathered here are many people with different views on political, moral, and social issues. Yet, we find unity in Jesus Christ as Lord. As a church, we might have differences of opinion, but we unite around Christ and our call to “go and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” And so, because we are united in Jesus Christ, the church should be united…we should make God’s joy complete, united by the same love, not being selfish or conceited, but humble, considering others as better than ourselves, not looking to our own interests, but to the interests of others
Now, look at your neighbor and say, “You’re awesome!” Now, look at your neighbor and say, “But, you aren’t perfect.” Now, look at your pastor and say, “Eh, you’re okay.” Now, look at your pastor and say, “You definitely aren’t perfect.” Now, look at your neighbor and say, “However, we’re all in this together!” We are on a journey of faith together…with Jesus Christ as Lord as our uniting force.
This summer, our family spent a lot of time at the softball diamond. It was a blast! Recently, Emily and I found ourselves asking, “What if the church could be like softball?” At the softball diamond, we all came from different backgrounds…but we all rallied together around one cause…the team! We all encouraged the girls. We all cheered for the girls. We celebrated their wins. We comforted them in their losses. We got angry at the umps together! We didn’t always agree with the coaches decisions, but we supported and encouraged the coaches. We shared conversations and there was a genuine sense of concern for one another. We heard each other’s stories (the guy who met his wife after a fight and is terrified of her). Our kids not on the team played together and entertained us. It was at the softball diamond we experienced a true sense of community. We looked forward to going to the games and interacting with the softball crew. What if the church could be like softball?
What if the church was a place where we rally around Jesus…where we look forward to going, where we encourage one another, cheer for one another, celebrate together, comfort one another, share our stories and share a common story as God’s people uniquely gathered in this time and place? What if the church was a place where we could come together in” all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain unity”? What if the church were to unite together in order to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, without murmuring or arguing, that we might shine like stars in the world?” What if the church was like softball?
The Scriptures are rich with text on unity because God is fully aware of how much we need one another. As we walk on this journey of faith together, life can, at times, give us more than we can handle on our own. That’s why we need each other. That’s why, as the unique body of believers gathered together in this time and place, we need to stand united. There are things we will face on this earth that will seem too much to bear…and the only way we’ll survive is with the help, comfort, care, concern, support, encouragement, and love of our fellow believers.
Again, what if the church was like softball?