Hello Church Devotion Sept. 21, 2013

“U” is for “Unity”

1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-- 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attainto the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Have you ever noticed the body language of those around you? It can be quite revealing. Do people look you in the eye? Do they look down? Do they hold themselves? Are they gesturing with their hands? As you examine the body language of a person, you find out more than what their words declare. That is why emails and texting can mess up relationships so easily. You don’t get to see the facial expressions or the body language to help decipher the meaning of their words.

I remember quite vividly the first time I had a disagreement via email. It was sometime back that I was sending some opinions about happenings at a meeting. The return email was short and emphatic that what I had sent was somehow erroneous. After a few other emails, it was quickly escalating into something that was much more powerful than what the topic really should have conveyed. After arranging a face to face meeting, it was clear that what we supposed to be the issue really wasn’t. It was altogether something else. The problem was not with what was written, but rather what was assumed by the reader.

Unity is something that comes to us when we walk and live in a manner that is approved and encouraged by our God. Some of the attributes of that unity is humility and gentleness. Notice it does not ask for others to be humble to us, but rather that we be humble and gentle in our relationships with others. Patience and bearing with one another also are characteristics of the renewed life we have in Christ.

Imagine Black Friday Shoppers… They are lined up outside the store two days before the doors open. They are anxiously awaiting when the store opens and they can get in and get the prizes they desire. Do they exhibit the renewed life in Christ as they trample each other; as they claw their way to the devilish deals of the day; as they yank from their neighbors hand the prize?

We act as if it is just us alone way too often. We think of the holy trinity of “me, myself, and I”. But folks, that is not a trio! It isn’t even a duo! It is a selfish and sinfully inward way of viewing things. As you read our passage today, it is easy to see that the words given are given for community and for the building up of the body of Christ. Not just the individual. But rather, the calling we individually received from God is for the building up of not just us, but the community around us as well.

Relationships with others continue in every way throughout our lives, and it is within those relationships that our faith expresses itself, where it is put to the test. It is only with others that our love can be expressed and used, that we can be forgiven and strengthened. Love demands another to love.

God creates a community because He is a community. He creates us with others because He is with others. He is not alone. He is One but also Three: the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 133 puts it this way: 1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! 3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

Our unity first and foremost is centered in Jesus Christ, the holy Son of God. We have faith and trust in Him and in His holy sacrifice on the cross. It is that saving knowledge of the Gospel good news that provides us with faith and salvation.

1 Peter puts it another way: 8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For "Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." 13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

We are called in our Baptism to a unity of mind; to a unity of faith; to a unity of knowledge; to a unity of the Spirit. God’s Word and Spirit work together to inform us of what unites us.

In marriage, man and wife are united in “one flesh”. St. Paul talks about Christ and His bride, the Church in the same way. In Romans 6, we are told: “ Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been unitedwith him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

All of us have been baptized into the same Christ. We have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have received the same Word of God. We have unity of faith, mind, knowledge, and Spirit. All of that is centered in the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him, we can rejoice in the gift of unity!

Further Study:

Take a look at the Athanasian Creed. See where unity is mentioned there. How does that help our understanding of unity in the body of Christ?

Take a look at the 1 Corinthians 10:16. How does participation in the body of Christ help us understand unity together?

Prayer: Lord, united us together under Your divine Lordship. Guide us by Your Spirit, to be humble and gentle, sympathetic, and caring towards those around us. Help us find our unity by looking to our Savior and Redeemer. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son. And in that Son we have hope, life, and salvation. That is what unites us. It is the cross and empty tomb. The sole work of God that can bring us together and help us to be all that we can be for each other. Lord, open my eyes to see and my heart to believe, so that we can be the kind brother or sister to one of Your children today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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