One for All, All for One!
(John 17: 20-26)
Growing up as a kid in the late 50s and early 60s was a great time. Television had burst onto the scene and Saturday morning was my time to escape into fantasyland. Cowboy shoot-em-ups with Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger. Pirate movies starring Errol Flynn. King Kong, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and Godzilla scaring me out of my wits. But, one of my all-time favorites was The Three Musketeers. Released in 1948, it starred Gene Kelly, Van Heflin, Gig Young and Robert Coote as D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis who matched wits with the conniving and diabolical Prime Minister Richelieu played by Vincent Price. Fancy sword-play aside, what stuck with me was their loyalty to one another with the Musketeer’s mantra being: One for All, All for One as they dashed in to fight alongside an out-numbered comrade up against several foes.
One for All, All for One! I decided to research this motto to learn of its origins. I learned that it is traditionally associated with the novel The Three Musketeers written by Alexandre Dumas, first published in 1844. I learned, however, the phrase was used much earlier in a meeting in 1618 between leaders of the Bohemian, Catholic and Protestant communities which resulted in the defenestrations of Prague. From what I was able to determine, a defenestration doesn’t end well. It’s more than just being shown the door, and, more often than not, leads to an untimely death. In any event, it had been settled in 1555 that religious disputes in the Holy Roman Empire were settled by allowing the prince to determine the religion of his subjects. How un-American. As princes came and went, so did your religious preference. From what I could tell, there came a time when the Protestants were in the minority and, in regards to an adverse ruling, they pledged; regardless of any loss of life and limb, honor and property, we would stand firm, with all for one and one for all…nor would we be subservient, but would rather we would loyaly help and protect each other to the utmost, against all difficulties. Long story short, this was one of the precursors to The Thirty Years’ War. All the parties believed in God and recognized Jesus Christ as the Son of God, but they were not united in the ultimate mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. It was more about turf and status quo than it was about the kingdom of God.
And this was the concern of which Jesus speaks about in our scripture for this morning. Just before Jesus is betrayed in the garden and arrested he offers up a prayer for his disciples and future believers. He knows it will be tough going for each successive generation encountering their own specific set of challenges and hardships. He says that his prayer is not for his current disciples alone, but also for those who will come to believe in him through their message. He prays that all of them may be one, just as his Father is in him and he is in the Father. Jesus says; May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. Jesus makes the connection between us and God when he says; I in them and you in me. Our way to God, as believers, is through Jesus Christ. Jesus prays that we may be brought to complete unity to let the world know that God sent him and has loved us even as he has loved him. You can feel the anguish in his prayer as he says to God that he wants those God has given him to be with him where he is and to see his glory, the glory God has given him because God loved him even before the creation of the world.
Jesus ends the prayer by stating that though the world does not know God, he knows God, and that they know that God has sent him. Jesus says that he has made God known to his disciples and will continue to make God known in order that the love God has for him may be in them and that he, himself, may be in them.
Jesus’ great desire for his disciples was that they would become one. He wanted them unified as a powerful witness to the reality of God’s love. He prayed for unity among the believers based upon our unity with him and the Father, a unity that is our very bedrock, our lowest common denominator regardless of where or how we worship.
Christians can know unity among themselves if they are living in union with God. Think of Jesus’ parable of the True Vine where he said he was the vine and we, his followers, were branches of the vine drawing our nourishment from him. In a perfect world, each branch would be living in union with the vine and united with all the other branches doing the same. Unfortunately, there is disunity within the kingdom of God. You don’t have to go back to the defenestrations of Prague to find examples of disunity among Christians. Christians, and even our own Methodist denomination, have endured bitter conflicts and splits over issues such as women in the clergy, slavery, politics and sexuality to name just a few. Our own denomination, the United Methodist Church, is on the precipice of disunity over the total inclusion of God’s gay children into the church. Many of those in favor of full inclusion are so dismayed and hurt by the recent vote in favor of the Traditional Plan that they are calling for a split from the United Methodist Church. The opposing factions have dug their heels in so deeply that compromise and further dialogue is not an option either side appears willing to consider. The forces of evil are hard at work in their attempts to drive a wedge between God’s people, thereby compromising the mission of God’s church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This wedge, this division, calls into question as to whether or not we are one with Jesus. It calls into question whether or not the world can believe that God really did send Jesus to heal the sick and save the lost. It casts a stain upon the glory given to us by Christ that He received from the Father, that we may be one as He and God are one. It runs counter to Jesus’ prayer that we may be brought to complete unity letting the world know that God sent Jesus and that he loves us even as he loves his Son. The world can only know God through us as we live our lives according to the teachings and examples of Jesus Christ. Our inability to get along, to agree to disagree, casts a dark shadow over our profession of faith in Christ Jesus that we love others as he has loved us.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we must love one another so that the world may believe in the reality of his love. The loving relationship of believers to each other is the greatest witness to Jesus Christ. Our belief and correct thinking about Jesus and God the Father must be based upon the sound doctrine of love. Our correct belief must bear fruit, a life that demonstrates God’s love and produces unity between all believers.
We have to ask ourselves what, if anything, we are doing to help unify the body of Christ, God’s holy church? We must pray for other Christians, avoid gossip, build others up, work together in humility, give our time and money, exalt Christ, and refuse to get sidetracked arguing over divisive matters.
We must pray for our United Methodist Church, that we stay united and one in Jesus Christ, as Jesus prayed that all of us may be as one in him and the Father. We must pray that we stay united as proof to the world that God sent Jesus to heal and save mankind. We must pray that we be brought to complete unity, letting the world know that God sent Jesus and that God loves us as he loved his only begotten son. We must pray that we are the ones for all, and that we are all for the one, Jesus Christ the Savior of the world and the Prince of Peace.
Please pray with me.
Most gracious and loving God, we pray that we are your people, your chosen, born of the Spirit and established by the Word. Our cornerstone is Christ alone, and strong in Christ we stand. We pray that we live transparently and walk heart to heart and hand in hand with all your children. We draw comfort in knowing that your Son prayed for us two thousand years ago, praying that we remain united in your love. We pray that we remain united as proof to the world that you sent your Son to us teaching us to love one another as you have loved us. We pray that we are one in Jesus for all and that we are united together for the One who sacrificed himself on the cross for our transgressions. Jesus for All, All for Jesus. Amen.