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Message for Sunday 2 June 2019: “Spiritual Unity”

The world experiences division and separation, and painfully absent are reassuring signs of unity. Thankfully, there are insights that point to the pervading power of oneness with God. Jesus prayed “that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us …” (John 17:21).

Jesus’ bold prayer is found in today’s message text from John 17:20-26. Jesus’ words highlight unity, a form of spiritual oneness and solidarity that can strengthen believers. All this might sound philosophical and distant. But unity is worth pursuing as a promise, privilege and power for people of faith. Together, we can share a common spiritual core, a oneness that unites people into a body of faith such as our church.

Jesus’ plea for spiritual oneness is apropos given that the Lord would soon depart earth. Jesus’ absence might have meant the death of the barely-there church, along with the collapse of his small band attempting to reform Judaism. In both ancient and modern times, striving for spiritual unity is worthwhile. Unity among and between God’s followers is something toward which persons of faith can still aspire. Consider how empowerment arises from spiritual solidarity. Be reassured knowing that Jesus’ compassionate message inspires unity.

What is the great power underlying spiritual connectedness? It is love, and Jesus pointed to the evidence of love as pervading all reality. Unity from God’s love is often overlooked because appreciating spiritual unity invites you to see yourself in the face of the stranger, the “other” who can arouse fear and suspicion when we judge rather than love.

There is a way to overcome perceiving other people as distant and different. When you understand that you are profoundly connected with other humans then that insight can promote peace and acceptance. On the other hand, seeing supposed outsiders as threats magnifies the chances of hate and atrocities. Often, a sense of spiritual solidarity is also lacking within and between many Christian sects as various denominations remain hostile over theological doctrines. The sad truth is that Christians haven’t done a very good job of setting an example. Often, folks in the church are as guilty as anyone of perpetuating divisions that feed anger and rage. Each of us can take steps to remedy this by not engaging needless disputes and by not picking fights.

The Bible has many verses about love, but in today’s message the focus is on love’s unifying power. Jesus prayed to God that love would be the force uniting all believers. The great challenge is to continue Jesus’ emphasis by choosing to unite ourselves by and through love. Inasmuch as God is love, filling ourselves is tantamount to uniting ourselves with the Almighty. Want to know who and where God is? God is in you! God is also in your neighbors near and far, in everyone who has been made in the loving image and spiritual likeness of God.

Considering ourselves as one body of believers doesn’t mean that we don’t have differences. God created humanity with diversity because that is the divine plan. On one level, God doesn’t want everyone looking and thinking alike. The universe is a colorful place, so why should God want a monochromatic, black/white humanity?

Outwardly, people diverge in so many bewildering ways that aside from forcing people to think and act alike total unity is unachievable. Inwardly, God seeks a unity of purpose, such that all of us can find a wonderful way to love our neighbors with one almighty, unifying love.  Love is the core force unifying all of us. Let Jesus’ words soak in, “so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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