After last week's sermon by Sara, I was intrigued by her telling about the geese. We had 14 geese in the field next to our house and they were very independent and not afraid of the surroundings. They were busy eating the new grain that just came up and I admired them as they can go and fly where they want. Just flap their wings and lift off free to go wherever. But, that certainly wasn't how the disciples felt when Jesus was trying to explain to them that they would be on their own and to go into the world to love, share and teach the gospel of the Lord to their fellow beings. They were certainly afraid of the unknown, just what would happen to them. Can you just imagine the fear they really felt, not paying too much attention to what Jesus was telling them and trying to explain to them? All they could think about was that Jesus was leaving them and they would be on their own.
It isn't clear what effect Jesus' prayers and teaching has had on the disciples. On the one hand Jesus doesn't mince words when he tells them about the world they are facing. They will know sorrow, persecution and life will not be easy. Jesus doesn't just pray for them to be rescued from suffering, pain, hurt or even death, or have magical powers to overcome evil. But, by all this, Jesus prays that they will come together as one in community, one that gathers in Christ's name. Jesus prays to the Father for protection for his disciples when he is gone. He also prays that the Holy Spirit will give security and energize them to carry out their mission, to spread the word of the Lord to the world.
One of Christ's main dreams he had, for his followers, was Christian Unity. That was a major desire of our Lord, it was his burning hope for the Church and for good reason:
Love and unity attract, bickering and anger repel.
Love unifies and hatred disintegrates.
Love bonds and arrogance destroys.
Love heals and mean-spiritedness wounds.
Love brings to life, and cruelty brings forth death.
Christ wanted us to be one in unity, for our own good, for the good of the Church and for the betterment of the whole world.
Being truly a Christian today means being an ecumenical Christian. Ecumenical is taking into consideration all those who bear the name of Christ in the worldwide Church; regardless of what denominational label they bear. From the early day of Christ's physical existence, it has been his hope that all of mankind dwell together in love and harmony. He prayed that the Church would set an example and the rest of the world would follow.
I just wish that the world would follow Christ's plan, but to be honest about the issue--we are not all following Christ's plan, we are not dwelling in unity and are at odds with one another. We tend to argue, rather than embrace, we may insist that "our way" is the way Christ prefers. We stake our ground, put up barriers and repel those who differ from us. This is not the way Christ had planned for us.
A few years ago the World Council of Churches gathered in Zimbabwe to mark their 50th Anniversary of their body's existence. It was formed to begin work toward making Christ's prayer for "oneness" a reality. But they ran into trouble the very first day. It was said that the Orthodox delegates from Russia and Greece could not bring themselves to attend the opening worship service. They boycotted it. Some say they did not want to share Holy Communion with those whose worship patterns and theology differ from theirs. The meeting was fractured from the very beginning.
We are compelled to wonder why they can't even start in unity. Maybe they will keep dreaming that someday all will come together, to honor Christ's plan.
A story was told about Jesus meeting with a group of men. The Lord began by saying "Men, I've got an idea." Immediately he was interrupted--
A Presbyterian asked: "Is it sophisticated?"
A Baptist asked: "Is it for the saved and those baptized by immersion?"
A Methodist asked: "Is it nonalcoholic?"
A United Church of Christ person asked: "Is it Scriptural?"
A Lutheran asked: "Is it true to reformed theology?"
A Quaker asked: "Is it quiet?"
A Catholic asked: "Is it approved by Rome?"
An Episcopalian asked: "Is it in accordance with the Book of Common Prayer?"
A Church of God representative asked: "Is it evangelical?"
AND JESUS SAID: "FORGET IT!"
This just shows our insistence of sheltering our own "sacred cows", but it certainly hits the truth somewhat doesn't it? Isn't it more important to try sincerely to answer Christ's prayer that we be one than to insist on having everything our own way??? A troublesome question, isn't 't ??
“Love one another as I loved you”, says the Lord. Sharing the Peace to me, is a sign of love, friendship and unity. That is shared in so many Churches today. That is really unity for all of us.
We once went to see a good friend that was struggling with a personal problem. We visited for quite some time and she did most of the talking and I just listened. We had a cup of tea and discussed our families and mutual problems, then I left. The next day I ran into her husband and he told me how much better she was and he was so grateful that I went to see her. Well, I didn't do anything, but listen. Maybe that was all she needed was to get it off her mind.
So you see, you don't have to be a Professional Councilor or guru, (which I'm not), all you need to do is listen.
The first part of April this spring, Lorraine, Bonnie and I attended the CADO conference at Alderbrook Inn. We had the most wonderful speaker I believe I have ever heard, at all the retreats I have attended. Maybe it was because he talked my language, plain and simple. He was the Rt. Rev. Eugene Sutton, Bishop of Maryland, and was so deserving of being a Bishop. The setting there is so beautiful and peaceful. Guess what, it rained, but we were still able to walk around some. What a great experience.
We sometimes consider "Nature" a nuisance, never knowing what the weather will be like or if the sun is going to shine for a day or maybe a week! But one thing we do know "Nature" does its own thing.
We can take a lesson in this from Nature. We have seen cocoons hanging from trees and bushes in the spring. The cocoon provides protection for a wormy creature which is in process of maturing into a Butterfly. The beauty and grace of a butterfly is wondrous to behold, but full maturity does not come without a struggle. Biologists have discovered that the struggle to break through the cocoon of old life into new life is absolutely necessary for the butterfly's survival. Without the struggle, the butterfly would die in the cocoon. Without the struggle, the tiny wing muscles would not develop the strength required to fly free.
As Christian people followers of Christ, our present mission is not to rest on past laurels, but to advance through the struggle toward greater maturity. Lying dormant within the protective cocoon of some glorious past may offer us temporary comfort, but it is only an evasion of the maturing process. Our true hope lies outside the cocoon, where there is work to be done. How often we hear it said, "Well, I did my job but my heart wasn't in it." Not so with the work to which Jesus Christ calls his followers to do. The work that they have spelled out for them will not be easy. Building a kingdom of peace and brotherhood is a work of the heart and work of love.
Once, in a corner of the State of Iowa, the countryside was severely parched by a record drought. One Sunday, the local pastor asked all his congregation to stay with him in Church to pray for relief, until the drought ended. They knelt together in prayer until Monday morning when, suddenly, the heavens opened and the rain fell in torrents. The downpour continued for days. By Thursday, the tiny community was all but wiped out as flood waters rose from the nearby stream. A rescue party spied the pastor sitting on the roof of his house. Pointing below to the swirling waters, the pastor cried out joyfully, "Not bad for a little Church like ours!" Isn't it amazing what a small Church can do, especially with God's help. AMEN+