Contributed by Jeff Strite on Nov 20, 2016 (message contributor)
Summary: Unity in His church is important to God... but do you know why? (Preached at a Unity Service with English, Spanish and Burmese speaking worshipers)
(I went over to the thermostat on the wall that we have on stage)
Over here on the wall we have a box.
I look closely here and I see a number.
It says “70”. What does that mean?
That’s right – it means that that’s the temperature here on stage.
Now is that the temperature on the outside? (It was 35 outside)
Because in this box there is not only a thermometer, but also a thermostat.
A thermometer tells me HOW hot or cold it is on stage.
A thermostat allows me to CONTROL how hot or cold it is.
Now… hold that thought for a moment.
APPLY: Today is a special day for us.
This is our Unity Worship service.
It’s the day when we deliberately gather the people from 3 different languages into ONE combined worship service.
Now, that took some extra work
The English and Spanish worship teams had to get together to practice songs.
We had to go to Burmese congregation and see what songs they knew that we could sing
And we had to buy transmitters so we could translate the worship service into Spanish/Burmese
It is extra work for Mosi (our Burmese translater) and Max (our Spanish translator)
That’s a lot of extra work isn’t it??
But all three congregations saw this as an important time.
A time when we gathered together in unity to worship God.
A time when we declare to the world… we are ONE church!!!!
In our text this morning we have the most unusual command from God.
He commands us to be
“EAGER to MAINTAIN the UNITY of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3
Notice that word EAGER.
God wants us to be eager to be united as Christians.
Whether we speak English/ Spanish/ Burmese – or any of 1000s other languages
Then notice that word “MAINTAIN”
We must not only be eager… we must WORK at maintaining that unity.
And that involves more than just having a unified worship service once a year.
God is commanding us to WORK at being ONE church… all the time.
Now, how are we going to do that?
Ephesians 4:2 tells us we accomplish that “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love”
Now, I’m a preacher and I could preach a whole hour just on that one verse (pause)
But all that can be summed up in one word: Love.
If you love someone you’ll be humble with them.
You’ll be gentle with them.
You’ll be patient with them.
You’ll “put up with them”.
And as Christians we should do love that way because we ALL belong to the same Jesus.
ILLUS: Back in 1945, the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers recruited Jackie Robinson to play for them. Now people that don’t know much about baseball that may not seem all that important. But back then, it was very important – because Jackie Robinson was a black man… and black men were not allowed to play ball with white men. The owner of the Dodgers told Robinson he intended to change baseball/ break racial barrier. But Robinson would have to expect to be mistreated, insulted and endure potential death threats AND he would not be allowed to fight back or defend himself
Every town the Dodgers traveled to - when Robinson came up to bat - he had to dodge fastballs pitched at his head. And when he played 2nd base, runners would try to cut him with their spikes as they slid into that base. And the crowds would boo him and insult and call him all kinds of nasty things.
In a game they played in Boston during his 2nd year with the Dodgers, the insults and taunts became almost unbearable. It was at that point the short stop… a white southern boy named Pee Wee Reese called time out and walked over to Robinson… and put his arm around him.
In that simple gesture Pee Wee Reese was telling the crowd
“This is my friend. This is my teammate. And I stand with him.”
From that point on the crowd settled down and backed off their insults.
It was such a powerful gesture that there’s a statue in New York that commemorates it.
That’s what God is calling US as Christians to do.
God wants us to tell this world (by how we treat each other) that we STAND together.
We are HIS people and we will protect and encourage each other.
You see –the world can be a very harsh and cruel and mean place.
If you are look different…
If you talk different…
If you think different…
People will often mistreat you and reject you.
Because they just don’t like you – you’re different.