Peace – Prayer – Joy – Love

Unity in Community

As I stand before you at this Table, I reflect on the fullness of our worship today. We have already remembered the names of loved ones who have moved on to be with God. We’ve celebrated the holy rite of baptism, welcoming another beautiful child of God into the body of Christ. And soon we will partake in the communion meal, remembering the sacrifice of the body broken and the blood spilt.

This is bittersweet… because this will be the last time I’ll serve communion to you. Yet it’s in this one meal, we are reminded that no matter how many miles might separate us, whenever we eat of this bread and drink of this cup, we are together; united in one body, the living body of Christ Jesus.

This meal and promise are worth more than any other treasure our heart may possess; more than a mother, a father, brothers, sisters, or child; more than a house, a job, or a business deal; more than beautiful flowers and colorful trees, the vast sea and twinkling stars.This meal, and all that it stands for, is worth more than flesh and blood; the giving of self it took to acquire our freedom.

But this is not about us. It’s about Jesus, who, inspiring his saints with his eternal truth, leaves his mark upon every age. This is his hour. He is among us now, drawing us together and living within us. Through God’s Holy Spirit we possess the power to enlarge Christ, to make him grow in others, and to make him grow in us, so that we may become like him…bearers of God’s eternal love and light.

Yet it seems like there’s always something that stops us short from growing that way. Disruptions and disunity come to mind. Some people want to go left. Others want to go right. And whenever this occurs, especially in church, it’s impossible to move forward, much less stand united in Christ like love. So what will we do?

Might I suggest you first focus your attention, not on the problems at hand, but instead think about marching bands! Yes, marching bands; that unique community where unity literally translates into harmony. Think about it. Each musician has a part that contributes to the whole. And their part is measured and timed in such a way that they can march in sync without crashing into one another.

For a marching band to function properly, each musician must be an individual, and yet also be obedient to the conductor. While there might be solos from the brass or percussions, they play as one, they move as one; thus they become one unit and one song. What we learn from observing marching bands is that it’s impossible to spell community without unity.

This is similar to the lesson Paul gives us in his letter to the Corinth churches. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” Each person is given something to do that shows the world who God is. Everyone has a part, and everyone benefits.

Paul is writing to a newly formed Christian community where people are learning how to live together in a radically new way. In a city with a reputation for partying and pleasure seeking, “Love thy neighbor” means something different than what Jesus intended. Paul’s words are still relevant today. We are one body, with many parts. As such we must find our common unity if we are going to function as God’s community. Might I suggest you begin with love.

We must remember the church is more than an individual place, people or event. It’s a gathering of differences and diversity. It’s a common ground where everything comes together for a single purpose – to usher in the Kingdom of God in the way Jesus taught; through love, and the way we make that love grow.

However “Human unity is not something we are called upon to create, only to recognize,” says William Coffin. “We all belong one to another. That’s the way God made us. Christ died to keep us that way. Our sin is only and always that we put asunder what God has joined together.”

For this church community to begin its healing process, it must remember the human body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—yet it’s still one body. In order for it to function properly, all those individual parts need to be in sync with one another. If one suffers, all suffer. If one rejoices, all rejoice with it. In God’s perfect love, no part is more important than the others. May it also be so with you.

Think about the marching band again. Imagine an NCAA final four game, and what the atmosphere of a sold out event might be like, if the only instruments in the ensemble were tubas. Now the tuba is a fine instrument, but I doubt it could lift up or inspire a packed stadium for very long.

I don’t think I would attend a concert of a hundred tubas. But what marching band would be a band without a tuba? Or a flute? Or a trumpet? Or a steady drum? They all need each other. By themselves they can play notes or make music. But together, they do something greater; they make magic. Their common unity is the song, but as a community… they possess the power to lift up the world and fill it with joy.

Each of us has been given a different instrument of the Spirit, yet we’ve all been handed the same sheet music to play. Through Jesus, and this community called church, God uses each one of us to conduct the perfect symphony of life.

Like I said earlier, this is not about us. It’s about Jesus, who leaves his mark upon every age. He is both the head of the church, and the heart of what we’ve been called to do. Since there are no divisions in Jesus’ heart, nor double motives or secret intentions, then let us be like him and work in sync to love one another, and forgive one another just as God loves and forgives us. Let this be the common unity that shapes this community.

For it was the Lord’s desire that each of us to be one with one another, just as he and the Father are one. When we become one in the living Lord, we become visibly present in the world; bearing full witness and boasting of God’s glory with full power.

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