Summary: A sermon focussing on Christian love and unity.
Sermon for 7 Easter Yr C, 23/06/2004
Based on Jn 17:20-26
By Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &
Chaplain of the Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
“Christian Love and Unity”
In today’s gospel, Jesus prays the high priestly prayer for the whole Church. In this prayer, Jesus prays for the unity of all Christians. He prays that all Christians might be united in love, just as he is united in love with us and with God the Father. If Christians are united in love, then they will bear witness to the world that God loves the world, and all peoples in the world.
In verse 20, Jesus prays: “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word.” And what does Jesus ask for us? What does he feel we need from God if we are to be faithful Christians? He asks: “that they may be one.” Century after century, Jesus singles out as the greatest requirements of his Church first, that we should live near, with and in our God; that is first and foremost. Second, out of that there needs to flow a desire in us to draw nearer to one another, to live in unity with other people. It is because we live too far from God that we are alienated or separated from each other—person from person, church from church. For just as we are not capable of loving God without, at the same time loving our neighbours; we are likewise not capable of loving our neighbours without also loving God—and loving God first. The love of God claims first priority; for it is only God’s love through faith in Christ that gives us the power to love and live in the unity of love. Only if we live in the unity of love can we be witnesses to the world.
This point is made very clear in a Charlie Brown cartoon. In the cartoon Lucy is talking to Charlie Brown. Lucy says: “Our family has solidarity! And our family has loyalty and” Then Linus walks over to Charlie and Lucy hoping to get in on the conversation; when all of a sudden Lucy yells at Linus in an angry voice: “Why don’t you stop dragging that stupid blanket around!!!? You Blockhead!” Then Lucy continues to tell Charlie as if nothing happened: “and this family has love for one another.” Charlie looks at Lucy sadly, and Lucy does not convince him that her family does have love for one another.
Faced by the lack of unity among Christians, the world cannot see the true value of the Christian faith. It is our calling and purpose as Christians to demonstrate that unity of love with our fellow human beings, which is the answer to Christ’s prayer. Such Christian love and unity shall accomplish much more together, than alone as an individual, a congregation, or a denomination.
A story is told about a young lad who strayed from his home in a small town in Maine. It was a cold day and snow was falling. When the parents discovered that the child was missing, they first began to search for him in the homes of neighbors and friends. When he could not be found within the limits of the town, they began to search for him in the neighboring fields and woods. After a while the entire population became alarmed and all were eager to help. They ran around frantically in all directions, calling the boy’s name, but their search was fruitless. When a wise man saw what was happening, he summoned the people and said, "This will never do. Let’s organize this search properly and we are bound to succeed. Let us all join hands and march through the fields and woods and we will find the child." When they did as they were told, when everyone in the community joined hands, they came upon a pile of snow. They brushed aside the snow and found the frozen body of the lost child. The heartbroken parents cried out in grief, "Oh, if only we had joined hands earlier!"1
My hope and prayer is that all Christians might take the point of this tragic story, along with the words of Jesus in today’s gospel to heart. If that were the case, then this world and the Church would be a much better place to live in, as Christians everywhere reflected and lived that unity and love of Jesus. However, sad to say, too many congregations and denominations are divided and torn because they find it easier to fight with one another than they do work together in unity and love.
In a Kudzu cartoon, preacher Will B. Dunn is the coach of a church league ball team, offering words of wisdom in the game of life. The cartoon shows the batter waiting for the other team to resume the game while Will says, “This happens every time we play the Baptists! They squabble amongst themselves, and somebody winds up going off and forming another team!”