Message Supplement for 8 May 2016–“Spiritual Unity”

First and foremost, happy Mother’s Day! On behalf of all the fine folks at St. John United Church of Christ we wish all mothers God’s blessings. Moreover, our prayer is that mothers will be blessed and celebrated each day of the year, not just on a set-aside single holiday. We thank God for our mothers, and we ask God to bless us through mothers’ faith and how they demonstrate God’s love.

Now to the lectionary text. The world says much about division and separation, but painfully missing are reassuring signs of human unity. Thankfully, there are insights from our faith and other religions that point to the pervading power of unity and oneness in God. Today’s reading in John (17:20-26) provides a superb illustration of how important this was—and is–to Jesus.

Jesus’ prayer in the lectionary text is about achieving oneness/unity with God. Jesus indicated that he wanted God’s children to be one with another, just as he felt that he was one with God. The emphasis on unity is not surprising because spiritual solidarity empowers those who both understand and embrace it. All this might sound a bit philosophical and distant. Yet what better way to perceive the promise, privilege and power we share than to emphasize a common spiritual nature, a oneness that unites us into a body of faith (our local version of which is known as St. John United Church of Christ).

Jesus’ plea for spiritual oneness is apropos given that he would soon depart earth. Jesus’ absence might have meant the death of the barely-there church along with the collapse of his attempt to reform Judaism. Striving for spiritual unity among and between God’s followers is something toward which we can still aspire. Consider how empowerment arises from spiritual solidarity, and it is reassuring to know that Jesus wants us to overcome barriers by highlighting our underlying unity.

What is the great power underlying spiritual connectedness between all creatures? It is love, and Jesus pointed to the evidence of love as pervading all reality. Unity on the basis of God’s love is often overlooked because appreciating spiritual unity forces us to see ourselves in the “other”. If we really feel and believe that we are connected to other humans then we might not inflict such atrocities on people perceived as different/inferior. A sense of spiritual solidarity is also lacking within and between many Christian sects as various denominations remain hostile over doctrinal disputes. The sad truth is that Christians haven’t done a very good job of setting an example. Often, we are as guilty as anyone of perpetuating divisions that feed ongoing anger and rage.

The Bible teaches much 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. We can continue Jesus’ emphasis by choosing to unite ourselves by and through love. Inasmuch as God is love, our filling with love is tantamount to sharing God’s essence. 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 image and likeness of God.

Considering ourselves as one body of believers doesn’t mean that we don’t have differences. God created us 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? People look, dress, and diverge in so many bewildering ways that aside from forcing people to think and act alike it’s crazy to even suggest total unity. On another level, God seeks among us a unity of purpose, such that we each find a wonderful way to love one another. We are unique individuals but we are united in needing to love God and one another.

Love is the root and binding force unifying all creatures. 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). My prayer is that you will find a way to preserve and celebrate your uniqueness while also coming together in receiving and sharing God’s love.   –Reverend Larry Hoxey