Unity, is an interesting topic.Unity our first glimpse of unity is within the character of God himself, having both diversity and unity within the Godhead.One of the earliest statements from God on the human condition was about unity, ‘it is not good for a person to be alone’, which seems at odds with our massively individualistic culture.John Donne said: “no man is an island”, we were created for relationship, we created to be united with each other and with God.God created a diverse universe, and yet before the fall there was unity within that diversity.So, unity, what’s there to say?
If you forgive me I’m going to go around the houses a bit as I think about unity.
Sometimes we think we are being unified is meaning a vaguely pleasant relationship with the other local Churches, we might even sit through the occasional Churches Together meeting -or Fraternals- where traditionally we spend our time dipping rich tea biscuits into weak coffee in a ‘church hall green’ cup with a saucer avoiding any topic which might be contentious.
This isn’t unity.
This is a veneer of unity.
Unity is not a bland tolerance of each other, nor it is passive or pointless as so many things that sometimes wear the ‘unity’ badge can be.
In fact sometimes those of us who are passionate about unity often paradoxically are the people who also people who rock the boat.
I believe unity is pointless unless we are united IN something. We as Christians are united IN Christ.
We often forget that scripture calls us primarily to ‘seek first the Kingdom of God’ yet too often although we pay lip service to this command of Christ, we don’t live it out, our primary directive.
Our primary aim is to seek the mission statement of Jesus when he taught his disciples to pray “may your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”…
I recently spoke at a men’s event about passion, because I believe apathy is what is crippling much of the Church in this area and across both our nation and western Europe too, we are not seeking God’s Kingdom on earth as in heaven, other things are getting out of perspective and this is why unity breaks down.
It is a call to carry our cross, a call on the narrow way, a call to go out like sheep among wolves, it is a difficult tight rope to walk, one that will at times not make us popular. A call to challenge in love our brothers and sisters in Christ, it is also a challenge to let our brothers and sisters in Christ challenge us (also hopefully in love).
We are united in the one in whom there are no male or female, black or white, rich or poor, jew or gentile, ordained or lay person, but makes us all one IN him.
Also apathy is indifferent to each other, so overlooks the commands to love, to ‘each others needs to prefer’, true biblical unity is a surrender to God of our own ideas, agendas and baggage… the greatest key for unity is both love, grace and wisdom, we don’t have to agree on everything, there are some issues where our theological differences make partnering difficult in some instances, but we are called to love one another, we are called to serve one another, it’s not up to us to pick our team, but to us to work with those whom God sets alongside us, ultimately God is the team captain not us.
If we are going to be people that seek first the Kingdom of God, then much of our differences fall away, in fact when we engage in mission our pettiness suddenly seems much less important than it was.
I’ll close with an image from the crucifixion where Jesus was carrying his cross, and I suspect was praying “God help me carry this cross”, he trips and falls and Simon of Cyrene helps him carry his cross, a picture of vertical and horizontal living; God I need to help carry my cross, I need you -my brothers and sisters in Christ- to help me carry my cross….
…and by the way, I will help you carry yours too.
Yesterday at All Souls Southey Park we had a awesome sermon by our friend Rev. Jackie Davies, who spoke about the danger of Churches becoming an enclosed sheep pen, church is safe and it never was meant to be safe…
A call to be fruitful, a call to go where God is calling us to go, a reminder we might be the only christian who comes into contact with many of our friends, neighbours and colleagues, possibly we might be the only person praying for them.
Yet she went onto say how we so often are caught up in so much stuff that binds us up, what Mark Rich used to call maximum weariness for minimum fruitfulness, both echoed that verse of “I only do what I see my father in heaven doing”, are we kept from fruitfulness because we are doing things that God isn’t asking us to do but we feel we ought to be doing whether through misplaced duty, guilt, need to be needed (or whatever)… I remember praying at the end of the meeting that God would set people free and used the phrase “let it go” -sounding like the princess from frozen! Yet, maybe we are being called, for such a time as thing, to lay down the good in order to pick up the great.
Maybe God is wanting to rescue us from those situations which aren’t going to move (or at least move yet) and wanting us to be free a thrive where he had called us?
Alongside this was challenged once again at Wildfire about being where God has placed us, the call is to build the Kingdom not prop up an churchy shaped institution, reminded that 37 out of the 39 miracles in scripture happened not in the temple, but on the streets where ordinary life happened.
A challenge that we often big up difficulties of the situation where God has placed us, whether it is out Church, home or work place rather than bigging up the size of the God we serve.
And lastly at wildfire there was some pregnancy images, always get worried about pregnancy images in Churches as know how raw these can be when people are going through the difficulties of life, but the idea that new things, new dreams, new stuff was ‘coming to birth’ was an exciting one.
Where has God placed you?
What is he calling you to do? Is there stuff he is calling you to lay down, in order to pick up something better?
Are we placing our faith in the toughness of our situation or the power of God to break through?
Do we believe we can be fruitful?
What is the new thing God might be bringing to birth through you?