What if we were united? Do I dare ask such a thing with all that is going on around us in the world, in our nation? Do we dare consider such a thing with all that confronts us, challenges us, demands our attention, and vies for our devotion?
As hard as it is, I think we have to. We have to be willing to ask the question if we are to live into any kind of answer. We have to consider what our role is in finding, creating, and being the answer. We have to reflect on what it will take to at least try.
I look at our world today. I listen to all the voices shouting, crying, beckoning, demanding, weeping, bullying, and blaming, and I question if being united is possible. A cursory google search brought up the following: There are 195 recognized countries in the world today. As of July 2020, there are eleven different “nations” within the United States. As of Feb. 2017, there were between 6,500 and 7,117 identified spoken languages in the world. In 2019 there were 576 antigovernment groups within the US, and 1,020 recognized hate groups. Lastly, there are some 200 denominations in the US, and 350,000 congregations (2010). 84,000 of which are considered non-denominational.
It doesn’t matter how you count it, that is a lot of lines in the sand, walls around the city, and deadbolts on doors. That is a great deal of divided households, conflicting beliefs, and “us versus them” opinions. It seems clear we live among a “he said - she said,” “we're better than you” “the other doesn’t count” kind of society. It seems clear, that is the world - our world; and guess who sits in the middle of it all?
Who sits in the hard, messy, unpredictable, uncomfortable, broken middle? We do. You and me. The church. That is the world, our world, that we, the church are called to love. That is our world that we who claim to believe in Jesus and seek to live his ways, are called to feed the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. That is the world we are called to show what unity looks like.
So, I ask you church, “What if we were united?”
Paul’s message was simple. Keep it about Jesus - the end. Work, live, act, serve, and love like Jesus - period. No one is better than someone else. No one is higher or holier than anyone else. No one person, organization, or institution has all the answers. Jesus Christ is to be the common thread - the shared goal - the mutual and overall purpose. And it must start in the heart of believers.
We are called, like the believers in Ephesus, to unite as a church - as the body of believers right here where we are. We start there. We start with claiming that as our call; recognizing Jesus is our common denominator, the rest is fluff. Yes, I said it - the rest is fluff.
A funny thing happens when we start with that - we begin to see with fresh eyes how Jesus loved. We start to understand how Jesus served those no one else would and those who were different, marginalized, and considered outsiders. We come to know what it means to accept differences because we know something and someone far greater holds us together and that is more important than what tries to drive us apart. We soon find that we are able to love not because of who we are or what we do or have, but because of who God is.
In other words church, we answer the question “what if we were united” and we watch as that answer unfolds in the living of our lives. We find hope scattered in the debris of division. We uncover a peace once thought to be buried beneath egos, power, and control. We begin to believe we can get through even this and that there is good in our world. We find hope and we keep on keeping on with all the grit and grace we can muster.
May it be so. Amen.
Pastor Jenothy Irvine