One – 5-8-24

You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday’s gospel reading is here.

One day I was reading Amos, a prophet to whom God gave symbolic visions. So I said to God, “If I were a prophet, what would you show me?” Right away a picture formed in my mind. To my left, I saw a crowd of people, frantic, their faces turned toward the sky, their mouths open like baby birds waiting for food. I understood they were ravenous. Then my attention was drawn to another crowd nearby, angry, shouting at each other. I realized these were bakers, arguing about who had the best recipe for bread. The interpretation came into my mind almost as quickly as the images: the bakers were the churches, squabbling over their differences, while people hungered for the Bread of Life.

If we were to draw out one strand of the many in Jesus’ farewell discourses, we might pick unity among Christ-followers. In his prayer for his disciples on his last night among them, Jesus expresses a deep concern. He prays that they be protected from the world, and from the evil one. And it seems that what he most wants to see them protected from is disunity. “Love one another as I have loved you,” he tells them. As he prays for them, he says, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” 

It’s as though the worst thing that could happen to the worldwide community of Christ-followers is not injury or failure, but breaking faith with one another. When we look at how fractured the church of Jesus Christ is and has been, we can understand his concern. The power of God is unlimited except when it comes to the human heart. God gives us choice, and we can hear the longing in Jesus that we exercise our choice to come together, not stand divided.

I don’t see in this passage an indictment of denominations and different expressions of Christianity – that’s just the way human nature and human institutions work. Jesus doesn’t need us all worshipping the same way or even emphasizing the same points of doctrine. What Jesus does plead is that we love one another and that the world see his church as united in love for him and for God’s children.  So much divides us – interpretation of scripture, history, theology, divergent views on justice and holiness. Much of this is real and important. Can we possibly set aside those things that divide and focus on the One True thing – or, more biblically, the True One, our Lord Jesus, Son of God, risen savior of the world?

Or is it the worst sort of denial to say, “Oh, let’s just get together and love Jesus, and I’ll overlook your homophobia/ racism/ defense of privilege/disregard for the sanctity of life/ cherry-picking Scripture/[fill in your own rant here]?” Where do the claims for Christian unity crash against God’s call for justice? That’s a huge question. I can’t answer it. I only know this polarization, even injustice, is not Jesus’ will. Jesus prayed, “While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me.” He promises he is still praying for his apostles, those called to reveal the Good News of restoration in Christ. I don’t know how to lay aside my outrage at some of the things my fellow Christians say or do, any more than some of them know what to do with what they might term my “Godless liberalism.”

But we all know how to pray to the One we call Lord, whose power to heal and transform can work even on our stubborn hearts as we’re willing to invite him in. Enough prayer and enough humility, enough allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us, one day we might fulfill Jesus’ prayer that we be one.

© Kate Heichler, 2024. To receive Water Daily by email each morning, subscribe hereHere are the bible readings for next Sunday. Water Daily is also a podcast – subscribe to it here on Apple, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform.

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