Summary: Many congregations, as they worship, experience union but not unity. They lack a spirit of oneness. What does it take to experience unity in worship?
“More Words on Worship: Focus!”
Six people were marooned on a desert island. Two were Jewish, two were Catholic, and two were of Reformed background. The two Jews founded “Temple Immanuel.” The two Catholics organized “The Church of the Holy Name.” The two Reformers built 1st Reformed and 2nd Reformed Church. Unity in anything is hard to describe. But what Roger Williams said back in the 1600’s is accurate: “We find not in the Gospel, that Christ hath anywhere provided for the uniformity of churches, but only for their unity.” That sounds great, but how does unity come about? As someone wisely pointed out, you can take a dog and a cat, tie their tails together and hang them over a clothes line; you would have union but not unity! Unfortunately many congregations, as they worship, experience union but not unity. The people are together because they need to be together, but they do not have a spirit of oneness. What does it take to experience unity in worship? From the words of Jesus we learn that UNITY IN WORSHIP OCCURS WHEN WORSHIPERS SHARE A COMMON FOCUS IN JESUS CHRIST. So let’s take a look at His words.
The first thing we discover is that WE ARE TO WORSHIP IN CHRIST. Jesus sat by Jacob’s well. A Samaritan woman came to get water 7-9). “Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’…The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)” It was a double scandal in the milieu of that day – a man speaking to a woman in public, and a Galilean speaking to a Samaritan. Galileans and Samaritans were bitter enemies and avoided each other like the plague. Yet Jesus talked to this woman longer than he often talked to any of the disciples, any of the accusers, or anyone else in His family. And Jesus said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
WORSHIP IS NO LONGER AN ISSUE OF PEDIGREE BUT UNITY. Worship is not a matter of heritage, background, denomination, or race. Worship is not about that which makes us different, but that which unites us. It’s not about reputations or character or degrees of sinfulness or holiness, but about the Sinless Holy One. It’s not about our past life, but about our present and future lives. Worship is about encountering life in Jesus Christ.
WE COME TO ENCOUNTER JESUS. In the book, The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer gives this interesting illustration: "Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship." (1)
And that tuning takes place as we encounter Jesus in worship. As Jon Walton wrote, “Where the gifts of Water and the Spirit are present, people can overcome their hostility, their separateness; finding peace and creating community because that is where the Water is flowing and that is where the Spirit is leading.” (2)
Therefore WE MUST PARTNER FOR WORSHIP. We must desire to worship with others who are different from us. Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, in their book Fearfully & Wonderfully Made, wrote about the variety of cells within the human body. Then they applied it to Christ’s Body: “Just so, Christ's Body comprises an unlikely assortment of humans...Novelist Frederick Buechner playfully described the motley crew God selected in Bible times to accomplish His work: 'Who could have predicted that God would choose not Esau, the honest and reliable, but Jacob, the trickster and heel, that he would put a finger on Noah, who hit the bottle, or on Moses, who was trying to beat the rap in Midian for braining a man in Egypt and said if it weren't for the honor of the thing he'd just as soon let Aaron go back and face the music, or on the prophets, who were ragged a lot, mad as hatters most of them...? And of course, there is the comedy, the unforseeableness, of the election itself. Of all the peoples he could have chosen to be his holy people, he chose the Jews, who as somebody has said are just like everybody else only more so – more religious than anybody when they're religions and when they were secular, being secular as if they'd invented it. And the comedy of the covenant – God saying 'I will be your God and so you shall be my people' (Ex. 6:7) to a people who before the words had stopped ringing in their ears were dancing around the golden calf like aborigines and carrying on with every agricultural deity and fertility god that came down the pike.' (3) ...(Jesus said) 'You have not chosen Me. I have chosen you.'...Our crew of comedians from central casting is the group God wants...A color on a canvas can be beautiful by itself. However, the artist excels not by slathering one color across the canvass but by positioning it between contrasting or complementary hues. The original color then derives its richness and depth from its milieu of unlike colors. The basis for our unity within Christ's Body begins not with our similarity but with our diversity.” (4) Deliberate partnering in worship leads to unity.