Unity in Community
(Ephesians 4: 1-7, 11-13)
Earlier this week I had a breakfast meeting with a young man who wanted to pick my brain. I know what you’re thinking, the pickings are pretty slim. In any event, he had heard about some of the things we were doing as a church here in our community. Over breakfast at the Highway 20 Roadhouse I told him, with great excitement, all we were doing and that we were eagerly looking for other opportunities to make a difference. I asked Brian what his interest was and what was it he was looking to do. He told me he was working at Safe Harbor Recovery Center and was currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University of Washington. He said there was this thing over in Seattle called the Recovery Café that tries to address the many problems of substance abuse, addiction and homelessness. He was interested in talking about what we can do as a community to help our neighbors who are suffering from homelessness, addiction and mental illness in the Port Hadlock area. That got my interest because he was actually talking about our immediate community. I told him about all our mini-missions and our SODS philosophy, you know, Somebody Oughta Do Something, and that such a project might be of interest to our church. What was really exciting was that he told me that he and his partner just closed on a house in Irondale. He’s invested in the community, our community. I told Brian that I was just starting my third year here at Community and my goal for this year was to see what we could do to get the other area churches involved in some local missions on a more coordinated and integrated fashion, hoping that together we could make a greater impact. I told him about our joint service and picnic we had last Sunday with The Church United followed by a benefit concert where we raised money (and awareness) for the Quilcene Food Bank and the Center Valley Animal Rescue Center.
And that is my goal for our church this year. As a church, we are unified and are of one purpose. We are mission driven and have a genuine outward focus. People in the community have taken notice and are talking about us. They are starting to look to us for help and see us as problem solvers, not afraid to try. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not implying that there is disunity among the local churches in the Port Hadlock, Irondale and Chimacum area, it’s just that I don’t think we are focused on uniting against the common problems that plague our area. Unity of believers is important for several reasons. Unity makes the church a positive example to the world and helps draw others to us. Unity helps us cooperate as a body of believers as God meant us to, giving us a foretaste of heaven. Unity revives and revitalizes ministry because there is less tension to sap our energy. Living in unity as a church with the other churches in our area does not necessarily mean that we will agree on everything as there may be many opinions, but we must agree on our common purpose in the life of the church and work together for God. Our outward expression of unity will reflect our inward unity of purpose and, together, the churches in this area can and will make a difference.
This is what the Apostle Paul is trying to tell the church in Ephesus. He encourages them to live as people worthy of the call they received from God. Wow! That’s pretty blunt but great food for thought. We’ve received a call from God and we need to live as people worthy of that call. No pressure there. He tells them to conduct themselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. He says to accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties them together. He reminds them that they are one body and one spirit, just as God also called them in one hope. He stresses that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all. He says that God has given his grace to each one of us measured out by the gift that is given by Christ.
God has chosen us to be Christ’s representatives on earth and Paul challenges us to live lives worthy of the calling we have received, the awesome privilege of being called Christ’s very own. This calling, this life in Christ, includes being humble, gentle, patient, understanding and peaceful. The same applies to the church. People are watching us. Can they see Christ in our church? Now this unity just doesn’t happen overnight. We have to work at it. Often differences among people can lead to division, but this should not be true in the church. As a church we have common goals and missions and the discussions should be about how we accomplish those missions. Instead of concentrating on what divides us, we should remember what unites us; one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God! Our joint picnic with The Church United last week was a perfect example of two churches in the same community worshipping together with a common purpose, to support and help the Quilcene Food Bank and the Center Valley Animal Rescue Center. Together we did more than we could have done individually or as one church. It underscored the fact that we must learn to enjoy the way we members of Christ’s body compliment one another.
To build unity is one of the Holy Spirit’s important roles. The Spirit leads, but we have to be willing to be led and to do our part. We do that by focusing on God, not on ourselves. Like believers, each church has God given abilities that can strengthen the whole body. Our special ability as a church may seem small, but it is ours to use in God’s service. I mean, who would’ve thought a group of senior citizens could go to Omak, work on rebuilding burnt down houses, and come back in one piece? We need to ask God to use our unique gifts to contribute to the strength and health of the body of believers which, I think, means leading by example and challenging the other churches to join us in attacking the ills that plague our community. The Holy Spirit has given each Christian, each church, special gifts for building up the greater church of Jesus Christ. Now that we have these gifts, it is crucial to use them. We need to look for more opportunities to serve and, if we’re unsure, we need to ask God to show us.
God has given his church an enormous responsibility, to make disciples in every nation. We need to start right here at ground zero. This involves preaching, teaching, healing, nurturing, giving, administering, building, and many other tasks. There is just too much need out there for us to do it alone. We need to partner with other like-minded churches. As the body of Christ, we can accomplish more together than we would dream possible working by ourselves. Working together, the church can express the fullness of Christ right here in our own community where he is so desperately needed.
There is unity in Community, but we need unity in the community, the community of believers. This, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is our goal for this year.
Please pray with me.
Most gracious and loving God, how grateful we are to be called your children. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit help us to do all we can to make disciples in every nation. Provide us the tools to do the preaching, the teaching, the healing, the nurturing, the giving, the administering, the building and the many other tasks that call out for our attention. Give us the unity of mind, will and purpose to be one people focused on the mission of meeting the needs of the least, the last, and the lost. Move us to be a unifying force in our community, a community of believers devoted to being the somebodies who do something. In the name of your loving son, Jesus Christ, we pray, Amen.