That they all may be one
Alexander Laneexplains that Christians can move towards unity with each other by individually moving closer to Jesus
It seems that we have been talking about unity among Christians, or the unity of the Church, for ever. I was blessed as a pious AngloCatholic youth to have been involved in the ecumenical movement from a very early age. I was desperate to be involved in Church matters from my early teens, and in fact was one of the youngest Secretaries for Churches Together in South Wales. But have we got any further?
St John records for us, in chapter 17, the great prayer of Christian Unity which Jesus offered to the Father at the Last Supper. He prays for the disciples, and he prays for the Church, ‘that they may be one – that they may be perfectly one – even as we are one, Thou in me and I in Thee’.
It is for our unity that Christ died – to break down the barriers of sin that separate us from God, and those same barriers of sin that separate us from one another. Very sadly, Christians have become separated from each other for many centuries, so that we (almost) have come to regard it as the natural, or ordinary, condition of the Church. But (of course) it is a terrible wound in the Body of Christ. A self-inflicted wound! No one has done this to us! We have done it to ourselves! No government tore the Church apart. No anti-Christian conspiracy tore the Body of Christ limb from limb – we have done it ourselves, with faults and failings on all sides. We seem to move on in leaps and bounds and then move back in even bigger leaps.
The church family
Many of you are familiar with the book by Alexander Dumas entitled The Three Musketeers. The heroes of that story had as their motto ‘All for one and one for all’. This meant that each member of that group of men would fight for the group or for any of the others. In other words, they
were vowing to stand together in their common fight. As I thought about Christian Unity, it seems a good maxim for us to have.
Simply stated, I believe that the Lord expects us, as a church family, to walk together in absolute unity for his glory. These verses tell us that unity is not just a possibility, it is a divine requirement if we are to be everything God wants us to be as Christians. How then are we going to move forward? How then are we going to grow closer to each other? Well, thank God, we already have a common Baptism and a common Faith. We are already one in Christ through our Baptism. We are already one in Christ through our common profession of the Christian Creeds. But we are not perfectly one – that perfect unity for which Christ prayed and for which Christ died.
How then are we going to move forward towards that greater unity? that perfect unity? Each of us (each of us individually) must make it our aim to draw closer to Jesus, because that only is the Holy Ground where we are all going to meet. Where else should we want to meet, except at the feet of Jesus? And if you and I make it our sole aim to draw closer to Jesus, then, one day, we are all going to meet up together. We shall discover, to our great surprise and joyful delight, that in seeking to become perfectly one with Jesus, we have become perfectly one with each other. What a great day!
And so none of us is being called to any sort of compromise. No compromise of conscience. No compromise of truth. No compromise of faith. If our aim is to draw closer to Jesus, there can be no compromise. Where is the compromise in these words? ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind and with all thy strength’. And if we do this we shall find that we are loving each other as we love ourselves, for we are one Body and (asks the Apostle Paul), ‘who hates his own body?’
So let us today covenant with each other to make it our aim to draw closer to Jesus. No compromising! No fudging of the truth as we understand it! But Jesus only! Jesus always! Jesus forever! Jesus with all my heart! Jesus with all my soul! Jesus with all my mind! Jesus with all my strength! And when we are there, all of us, at the feet of Jesus (heart, mind and soul perfectly one with him) we shall find, to our great and everlasting joy, that we are perfectly one with each other.ND
This sermon was originally preached at the Tyburn Convent on 22 January 2012
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