"Unity" Sermon / John 17:20-26 / Pr. Lucas A. Albrecht / Sunday June 2nd 2019 / Season of Easter / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Text: John 17:20-26
Intr – My good Christian friends: Can you imagine what an uniform couple would be like? I mean, a couple that agrees on everything, say, in sports; or has exactly the same tastes in the kitchen; a couple that shares exactly the same interests, one who thinks the same about all areas of life?
I think I can hear a lot of husbands here thinking "Pastor, in my house is more or less like this; because she says and I obey, and pretty much everything is uniform! "
Well, in fact the truth is that theirs is no such couple. A marriage is composed by two very different people. One is a man and the other a woman to begin with. There are biological, psychosocial, affective, and other characteristics that differentiate them. Even so, a man and a woman come together and become the unity of a couple.
Unity. Is this possible?
1 - INDIVIDUALITY
When we speak of a couple we talk about relationships. A couple is the most human basic relationship - that's how we started, with Adam and Eve. In recent decades, the "global village" that Canadian scholar Marshall McLuhan predicted seems to be here. We have more and more integration and closeness to each other. Not just with people around us but even with who's far away. I could use my phone here on Facebook now, go live, and people all over the world could watch this sermon instantly. Integration, proximity. We conclude then from this that the world, the people in general, are getting closer and closer, right?
Wrong. It seems that people are getting farther and farther away. Or perhaps where they have always been, and things are just becoming clearer, because tools cannot do what human being themselves are not willing to do. Even in small things, for example: have you ever sent a message to a family member calling for dinner or another activity... and this family member is inside the house? This is not necessarily wrong but in some contexts it may indicate how distant we sometimes can be from people at our side.
Connectivity and communication do not always mean closeness and affection. Sometimes it means just the opposite. We may share the same table at a restaurant and still be a world apart from the other person as we dive into the eternal present of the digital world.
2 - UNITY
In chapter 17 of the Gospel of John Jesus prays for unity. He asks the Father to keep the disciples as one - even in diversity, even with their differences and personal traits. The prayer of Jesus is certainly also our prayer: Unity in our diversity. Ironically, in an ever closer and connected world unity is something difficult to achieve. Even the Church is threatened by this danger. For example:
-to make Community, meaning the Congregation, into “Comunindividual”. You go to church and help yourself. Or, “it is all about a personal relationship between you and God, and no one else has anything to do with it.” You should go there because there is something good for you. You go, help yourself, and go back to daily life." We are tempted to forget that in the community Jesus serves us in fact, but with the fullness of his Gospel. So we will hear and receive the things we like, but also the things do not like to hear, but we need to hear. Here is sometimes the problem: we desire that the church doesn’t “offend” people, doesn’t preach things that would be sensitive, even when they are true. But that what Jesus called us to be – Church, preaching the Word, living the Word.
_Another temptation: to "outsource our good works” only. That means that we would give our offering, or specific money to a cause so that others to the work, and we don’t engage in effectively acting in the direction of our neighbour, which is the basic work of the Church. Supporting the work of others when and where we can’t help is a very good thing. But if we never get involved directly when we can, that is something to be re-evaluated in our Christian life.
Jesus calls us to Unity in diversity. He is the One who unites us, one of a kind people, around Him, around His Word. He is the head, we are the body. Diverse members united under one Head and Shepherd of our souls.
When we look at John 17, it is important to point out that Jesus is not praying for denominational unity only because at that time there were not hundreds of different denominations like we have today. Jesus prays for the unity of His body, the true Church. Different denominations, as different as they can be from us in their teaching, can represent different forms to bring Christ Crucified to many. True unity is in Christ, around His Word.
3 - UNITY IN DIVERSITY
As we see that the 21st century man is perfecting himself in individuality, Jesus asks the Father to perfect his disciples in Unity.It does not exclude the individuality of each, but draws them closer to the unity of His Word.
How does this happen?
_ Faith, love, patience, support.
_ PRAYER - as Jesus himself did.
_Holy Supper is the climax of this unity in diversity. It is vertical and horizontal. It is individual and collective. It is singular and plural. This unity is similar to unity in marriage as we mentioned earlier. Husband and Wife are united. But this doesn’t mean there are uniform. We are united, but not uniform.
Christian communities in each place and context they were inserted by God in act in a specific way, with the people around them. There are differences; they differ in many aspects from each other. But they are all united in Christ around the Word. They all are all standardized and made uniform by this Truth. From this uniform truth they seek to witness the love of God to many hearts.
Speaking of Jesus’ prayer, this is yet a point worth our reflection today. Jesus prayed for unity. He prayed. And he did not pray for himself. He prayed for others . We are invited to pray too.
I’ve mentioned earlier the digital world. It is a constant present. You dive into your computer or your smartphone and you might as well spend a couple of hours there in a constant present, forgetting your past or not noticing the future. Technology is not harmful in itself; it depends the use we make of it.
Theology is a word that abridges everything pertaining to God. If we add letters C and N, we have Technology. In our context here, technology should serve Theology, as we share faith and love through different means. In a figurative way, we could say then it depends on what is this C and N we add to Theology to have Technology. When it is “Care Nothing”, that’s when Technology is a threat and a danger. That can’t go right. That may end up in “care nothing”. If it stands for “Care and Nurturing”, that’s when we use Technology to make Theology – Christ’s work and love – to reach many.
Something always worth remembering is that we need not only the technology we create though but mainly the technology we already haveto connect, care, and comprehend. We have Love, Faith, Care, Support, help, comprehension everything from his hands. So we take Theology and ad Caring and Nurturing”. Faith active in love.
_Human technology satisfies. God’s Theology Secures - makes us whole and full of Grace and Love.
_Technology is useful. Theology is fundamental.
_Technology provides us a better life. Theology provides us with full, joyful and meaningful life.
Cc - As we are united in Christ, we may be diverse in many ways. But we will be always one in Him, who called us to hear His voice and follow His Way. UNITY. In Christ, we are UNITED in our DIVERSITY. It’s very good we can have variety of gifts, joys and talents, and to know that all that, by faith, finds its unity in love. This is the body of Christ, the Church. This is us all. We are all united by the love of God.
But the hardest part of prayer is to overcome self-centeredness. Talking with God seems to be a unanimity among all Christians: it is important and good. But when one thinks of the content of prayer, then opinions are not always converging.
Sometimes, there is an individualistic tendency around us to speak to God in our behalf. To thank what He has done in our lives, ask for things for our lives, begging for protection to our friends, relatives, loved ones, to bless our job. We come and pour out our feelings, we declare our love, we manifest our praise.
It's all right here because it's all important. But it would be really good if other pronouns also entered this conversation beyond 'me' and 'we'. It's good to use 'you', 'him' or ‘her’. We should regularly add words like 'others', 'the neighbour, 'the authorities, 'the leaders', our country…so many things! It is very, very important to expand our list of inclusions to reach even the most distant circles. In fact, Jesus commanded us that even that uncomfortable word- enemy - also be present.
He himself showed us how to. He prayed others. He prayed for his disciples a long prayer, which is in our Gospel today. He prayed even for the enemy, Judas. He asked those who preached on the cross; and so many more.
When we talk to the Father, in the name of Jesus, we know that He hears our prayers. We have the assurance of his own that His ears are always open. And that he smiles when in our prayers, besides all “mys” and “mines” he hears also many different names and situations listed. Live is diverse, people are unique individuals. Still the prayer for Unity stands. Because through faith we are all one in Christ, and in Christ alone.