Summary: A July 4th communion meditation
The Fourth of July is upon us again and we it is a time of picnics, fireworks, and celebration! We sing “Happy Birthday” to ourselves as Americans and we again both celebrate and are reminded of our nation’s birth and life.
There are many commercial reminders of this national holiday that offer us deals, deals, and more deals for all sorts of things – cars, furniture, clothing (and this weekend probably marks the beginning of summer sales and move toward, shall I say it, the “back to school” emphasis in retail), and a host of other items. But, there is one commercial that I think really captures the importance of this holiday.
It is the ad council commercial entitled, “I Am An American.” In it, people of different ages and races say the simple statement, “I am an American.” Somewhere in the commercial, I believe at the end, we see our nation’s creed, “E Pluribus Unum” which is translated, “Out of many, one.”
That creed has been in practice since 1776 and one of the threads of our history has been the working out of that creed in times of war and in times of peace; in times of plenty and in times of want; in times of tranquility and in times of tumult. We have been challenged in many ways, politically, religiously, racially, economically, and educationally, to insure that “out of many” our nation is “one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” Easier said than done, isn’t it?
E Pluribus Unum could also describe the church of Jesus Christ because there is a biblical basis for it in John 17 that contains Jesus’ prayer for unity of all believers. We read in verse 21, “My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father-that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me.”
The Biblical doctrine and belief of unity is a key belief in our church. We believe that when you are saved you are a part of the church no matter what the sign says on the door and that the church is not a matter of this denomination or that denomination but of all who claim Jesus is Lord and is living out that proclamation the very best they can with the help and power of the Holy Spirit. But, like trying to live out our national creed, easier said than done.
But, it was Jesus’ prayer and on this holiday and this communion Sunday, we need to reflect on what He actually prayed because the unity we must seek to live out in our community and with one another is a specific kind of unity.
It is a unity of relationship. The unity for which Jesus prayed, “that they will be one just as you and I are one, Father,” is a unity of relationship that Jesus demonstrated during His life and ministry here on earth.
We get glimpses of this unity from time to time through the gospel accounts in places such as Luke 2:49 where he responds to his worried parents, “You should have known that I would be in my Father’s house.” Or in John 10:34 where He says to an enraged group of societal leaders, “But if I do his work, believe in what I have done, even if you don’t believe in me. The you will realize that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.”
Jesus’ relationship with God the Father unified them together so that the Father’s purpose of forgiveness and plan of salvation through the Son, Jesus Christ, would be accomplished. This unity of relationship was strengthened and developed in those moments when Jesus would withdraw from his followers, the crowds, and even his enemies to be alone with the Father in prayer.
It is a unity of purpose. “That just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us” is a statement as to the why of unity for which Jesus prays. The unity for which Jesus prays is a unity that is designed to accomplish the purposes of God in us.
There was unity of purpose 228 years ago when the Declaration of Independence was signed and the church bells tolled throughout Philadelphia. Though the signers were of different backgrounds and regions of the colonies they were in agreement that the King and England had gone too far and it was time for a new nation.
Unity of purpose for the church is in Christ’s mission of salvation and in Christ’s message of repentance and forgiveness. As such, it is a defined unity because since it is God’s purpose, there are boundaries, or definition, to it.