That They May Be One
Pastor Diane Gordon
Mt Pleasant FUMC
May 28, 2017
Scriptures: Acts 1:6-14 and John 17:1-11
Today is Ascension Sunday, celebrating the day Jesus ascended into heaven after giving his disciples their instructions. As they watched him disappear into the clouds they stood, transfixed, and they were subsequently called out by angels for standing idle.
How often do we stand idle, looking toward heaven, wishing for Jesus to come down and fix this hot mess? We distract ourselves with entertainments rather than do the work of being a follower of Jesus.
Yes, the angels said He would return some day, the same way he left, but there was no indication of when. The day and hour are only known to God. In the meantime, we are called to follow Jesus’ instructions and give witness to our faith and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our midst.
That first group of Jesus’ followers gathered together and constantly devoted themselves to prayer. They stayed together and cared for one another as they waited. Waiting is not something we do well in our world of instant gratification.
We saw a wonderful example of a community coming together and caring for one another this week in Manchester, England. After the bomb went off at the concert people were scrambling to get out of there. Many of them were young people, panicked, in an unfamiliar place and as the train service was shut down they had no place to go. Cab drivers who happened to be in the area shuttled kids to safety. Homeless people came to the aid of the injured. Neighbors from the surrounding area took total strangers into their homes, giving them shelter until family members could connect with them. The people of Manchester united in a common cause of caring for those in need, standing together against a violent act that was meant to tear their community and their country apart.
This bombing was in essence an act of war. It is fitting that as we celebrate Memorial Day, remembering those who gave their all for our country in the wars we have fought, we come together, united, as one people working for the common good. If we let ourselves be fractured by differences of opinion, then we let ourselves become vulnerable. If I have been demonized because I am a person who believes in democratic socialist principles, who will come to my aid in a country that worships capitalism with democracy being undermined by corporate interests?
Politics will not win the day. Faith in our Creator who offers us grace in order that any of us might live is the answer. Taking time to pray and connect with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is the answer. Caring for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, is the answer. Offering food, water, clothing, shelter, and aid to those who are in need is the answer. Telling them about Jesus being the reason we are motivated to help, is the answer. Remembering why we do what we do – because of what he did for us – is the answer.
I was happy to see the people of Manchester helping one another. Their community instantly came to action, united against the outward threat, but I found myself thinking why do we have to wait for such an event before rising to action? Why do we need a demon to fight before we are motivated to care for each other? Perhaps that is why we so often demonize others. If feels good to have a common cause and it is so much easier when we have an enemy to fight. Too bad for the group or person that gets demonized. It has been various peoples over the ages: The Romans, the Turks, the Jews, the British, the South (or the North depending upon where you lived), the Communists, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan…the list could string on forever and get even closer to home.
Jesus’ instructions said nothing about finding enemies to demonize and conquer. He called us to love our enemies. He didn’t say we had to let them bring an end to our freedom, but I believe he would question many of our decisions and motivations.
Why do we need a demon to fight, or find someone to demonize, in order to bring us together in action for the good? Are we so comfortable with the status quo that we think there is nothing to be done? Or are we so overwhelmed by the magnitude of the hot mess we see in the world around us that we are paralyzed and unsure of what action to take, thinking, “I’m just a single person. What could I possible do that would make any difference at all?”
There is a saying that was made famous by the ecology movement in the late sixties. “Think globally, act locally.” It is a call to action that begins where one lives, with consequences that radiate out across the globe, like ripples on a pond.
On this Memorial Day weekend, I propose that we begin a movement that will have far reaching consequences. Its motivation is not to make money or to take a stand against an earthly enemy. This movement will begin at a personal level and extend through our relationships, family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and then keep going to complete strangers. It will be rooted in prayer, calling on the power of the Holy Spirit to fuel a fire in us that burns away any hint of hesitancy, fear, laziness, self-serving, or procrastination.
The goal of this movement is to unite all people in the love of Christ – whether they know Jesus and worship Him, or not. It is possible to share the love of Christ (our love for Him) with those who don’t understand that love, or embrace it themselves. Over time, it is our responsibility to live into Jesus’ commission by revealing to them our reason for sharing this love as we do. And, over time, as that love is shared and we become united in fellowship, the love that Christ has for all people shines down into hearts and minds, transforming and bringing to faith those who formerly lived on the margins of faith.
This movement cannot be rooted in prayer if we do not pray together regularly. We cannot hope to call upon the transforming power of the Spirit if we have not opened our own heart, mind and soul to that same Spirit, in prayer – personal prayer, praying not just a wish-list for ourselves, but also praying intercessory prayer for the world. Think globally, pray locally.
In addition, (rather than next, for next implies we’ve finished praying. We can never cease praying if we hope to stay connected to God) we will be intentional to find opportunities to help those in our community – our family, our church, our neighborhood, our town, our county, our state, our country (you get the picture.) We will work and advocate for those with the least amount of power and influence. We will communicate regularly with our elected officials, calling upon them to carry out our wishes and that they care for more than the PACs and big money that seems to control them. We are having a Bread for the World offering of letters here in June, but you needn’t wait until then!
John Wesley called upon the people called Methodists to do all the good they can. Let’s be good Methodists. Join me in this movement that gets us out of our recliners, into an attitude of prayer, and out into the streets where we can get to know each other and develop relationships that will be the vehicle for sharing God’s love. There are far more friends out there than there are enemies! Amen.