Sunday, 12 May 2013

'That they may be one.'

Two into one?
Sculpture at Highmoor Hall

Revelation 22: 12-14; 16-17; 20-end
‘See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end... 

...The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who is thirsty come.'
John 17:20-end
‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 

Do you ever wonder what the church is for?
In days gone by (we might call it during Christendom) it was obvious…perhaps…
The church was for hatching, matching and dispatching; i.e. baptizing, marrying and burying people.
Today the majority of the population appears to live lives unconcerned with the things of God, and of the church.
Vast numbers of young people have dropped out of the church in recent years.
It is largely accepted that Christendom is dead and this leaves is with some big questions.
One of which is what is the church for?
One way to answer this is to see what Jesus said he wanted for his church, and luckily he did just this in the longest single discourse recorded in the NT, a part of which we had read just now.
John’s gospel shows Jesus telling his disciples what his desire for the people of God is…and that includes us.
‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word.’
So what was Jesus’ parting shot to all his followers?
‘That they may be one’…
So we’re going to look at what it might mean to be ONE; what example we have within the Godhead and why it’s so important.

Firstly, what does it mean to ‘be one’?
One is a fundamental word; the basis of all counting; the foundation upon which everything else is built.
We talk of ‘one flesh’; ‘one heart and mind’; ‘as one’.
All these denote unity of heart and purpose.
To ‘be one’ is a good thing.
It’s in stark contrast to the individualism and its consequences that we often see around us.
Individualism is occasionally a good thing…each person is different and unique and should be valued as such…
Eg. We treat siblings according to their uniqueness…
But it can be, and often is, taken to extremes:
On Radio London the other day I heard a debate about August born babies in primary schools…
In our current education system, an August baby is seen to be disadvantaged because they come into school later than other children to Reception class, and particularly with summer born boys, they are seen to be behind in their class work because of it.
The suggestion was made that in ‘exams’ (I’m not sure if they were referring to National Curriculum tests in this, or later exams) each child should have test streamlined to their age in years and months…
It’s complicated already without trying to get a system whereby August and July birthday children can be graded entirely fairly alongside their winter counterparts; I cannot imagine any computer could ever devise such a thing; it’s individualism gone mad…
By the time children get to secondary school everything evens out anyway, and if it’s five year olds we’re talking about, they shouldn’t be taking exams (and they’re not!)
Jesus says ‘may they be one’.
How can the members of God’s family be one when we all like different styles of worship?
We have four different Sunday service just here in this small village! (Parish Communion; All Age Worship; Evening Prayer and BCP Communion).
Obviously there’s some crossover, and it’s natural that with different ages and backgrounds we are drawn to expressing our faith in different ways communally.
So haw can be ‘one’?

What is the theological mandate for one-ness as laid out in the gospel today?
The clue is in verse 21. Jesus says ‘As you, Father, are in me, and I in you…’
That’s the high order of one-ness we are to aim for.
Jesus and the Father are one.
Does this mean they just merge with each other into something indefinable?
No, they maintain their distinctiveness.
The early Christian Councils were at pains to show that each of the three persons of the Trinity was distinct in their person-hood; yet one in mind, purpose and substance.
Remember our Creed: ‘of one being with the Father
This is straying onto the material for Trinity Sunday of course…!

But that’s too how we should be with one another.
We are all different; we see God in different ways; we express our understanding of Him in different ways:
To some, quiet contemplation is the way God is known; to others, the vibrancy of musical instruments, the louder the better; to others, God is unchanging and steady; to others the Spirit is unpredictable and surprising.
All these points of view are correct of course.
We all need to enlarge our vision of God.
So if we’re all going to different services Sunday by Sunday, how practically can we be ‘one’?

Some suggestions: Go to a different service for a change!
What do you experience of God there that you haven’t experienced before?
Come to a mid-week event: Thursday Prayer in June or a Coffee Morning if you’re free.
Come to one off events like our forthcoming Spring Fayre. (May 18)
Attend joint services: if we all did that on the same day, we would be around 60 people!!!
If the Christian Church is not expressing one-ness across boundaries, we cannot hope to be a witness to Christ in the world

Because, finally, this is why Jesus prayed for on-ness: ‘that the world might believe’
There’s a reason why we need to be one: it points to Christ in a fragmented world.
Jesus knew that even the pagans show love amongst their own kind.
If we only ever go to church gatherings where there are people like us, then how are we distinctively Christian?
People naturally divide over barriers of age, gender, class, economic status, church-goer, non…
We are called to be inclusive and different.
So to sum up:
1.      Jesus calls us to ‘be one’.
2.      How? Like he and the Father are one.
3.      Why? Because a fragmented world needs to see God’s love expressed in the church, the body of redeemed people whose unity points towards the final end of all things: ‘The Spirit and the Bride say Come!’

No comments:

Post a Comment