Summary: Unity is not formed from agreement, but from love and forgiveness.
John 17:20-26 “Unity”
The words contained in today’s lesson are some of the most troubling Jesus ever spoke. We think we understand Jesus’ parables, like the Parable of the Sower, or the Parable of the Prodigal Son.” The significance of “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest,” and “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly,” we can grasp. But we’re confused when Jesus talks about unity.
HEAVEN ON EARTH
One of the struggles that we have with the concept of unity is that we envision heaven on earth. Unity is life without conflict or dissention. Unity is a sea of love. For some unity is one church, with one set of beliefs, to which all ascribe. These fantasies are not going to happen, and I’m not sure this was the unity for which Jesus was praying.
In his book, Life Together, Bonheoffer says that Christian Community, as many tend to imagine it is a 'wish dream' --- that the harmony we envision is not likely or perhaps even possible. In fact, he says, you and I have no right or reason to be disillusioned when it doesn't meet our expectations. For it is somehow in our very experience of this community not meeting our hopes and dreams that we actually finally discover our 'life together' --- not because we necessarily like one another or agree with one another --- but because of the ways in which all of our struggle with each other enables us to see more clearly and be all the more grateful for what Christ has done for us. That glory is best known in true forgiveness. That glory is best experienced among those who can examine their own faults and recognize their need for God... which is what our struggles also do.
We aren’t perfect. We’re family.
FAMILY OF GOD
I have never encountered a perfect family. Certainly, the family in which I grew up wasn’t perfect, and much to my chagrin my family, which is composed of my wife and two sons, is not idyllic. Families argue, disappoint, say and do hurtful things (both intentionally and unintentionally), even though there is love. There are people who would say that this is dysfunctional. If this is so, then we all come from some sort of dysfunctional family.
The Church is family. We are a family of one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. We act like a family. We bicker, we argue, we have hurt feelings, and we run to our rooms and pout. We also love each other, forgive each other. We’re there for each other, if there is ever a need.
One of the greatest signs of unity is for people who are: for background checks and against background checks, for Scott Thompson and against Scott Thompson, for gay marriage and against gay marriage to walk across the aisle, shake hands and say, “The peace of the Lord be with you,” “and also with you.”
Unity is surrounding a brother or sister in prayer during a time of need. It is bringing a meal to someone just home from the hospital, or providing transportation to someone going through rehab. Unity is pounding nails on a Habitat for Humanity build next to someone we had a shouting match with over a congregational policy. Unity is rejoicing with someone who is celebrating and shedding tears with someone who is grieving.
Unity is working together.
TOWARD A COMMON GOAL
Unity is discovering that the church is bigger than one congregation. Unity is working together boldly, lovingly to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I want to commend Grace Lutheran for doing just this. Grace has look beyond themselves and has supported a mission congregation in a distant land called Surprise, Arizona. You have prayed for and financially supported the congregation named Desert Streams Lutheran Church. Because of the support that Grace Lutheran and other congregations have shown Desert Streams hundreds of lives have been touched with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is through such unity that the people around us will believe who Jesus Christ is—the way, the truth and the life.
Unity isn’t what it’s cracked up to be—it is far better. When people see the unity that our faith inspires and the Holy Spirit empowers, lives are changed—and the world is transformed one life at a time.