Traditional Sermon Easter 7
“One love, one heart. Let’s get together and feel all right”
Bob Marley friends. Bob Marley. Didn’t think I would ever be singing a reggae tune in worship, but God works in mysterious ways!
Bob Marley’s song about unity was written in the midst of great turmoil in his homeland of Jamaica. Political parties were at each other’s throats, random violence would burst onto the scenes, and violence even burst into Marley’s home threatening his very life. Two days later an injured Bob Marley took the stage at a concert, and sang those words
“One love, one heart
Let’s get together and feel all right”
They weren’t trite…they weren’t the words that we attach to pool parties or commercials. They were the words urging love and unity in the midst of discord, violence, and fracture.
Sometimes in my darker days I think that we Americans have created a special brand of discord and disunity that makes its mark in polarization and fighting. But though some days we may feel more like the Disunited States of America, disunity and brokenness is nothing new. It wasn’t copyrighted by Americans or any other nation on this earth.
It’s part of our human condition. The brokenness that we pray about and confess, the brokenness that needs God’s mercy and grace to reconcile.
We’ve always been a broken, discordant, and dis-unified people. That’s what sin does.
And it’s one of the reasons why Jesus prays for us.
Did you ever realize that in John 17, our Gospel today, when Jesus is praying, he’s not simply praying for his disciples, he’s praying for all of the disciples who come after.
That’s you. That’s me.
Yes, he’s praying for his wayward disciples who will be scattered by fear, and who will once again be gathered together by the risen Lord, given peace, and sent out to share the good news.
He’s praying for all of us scattered and scared and bewildered followers. He’s praying for us to be one.
It’s such a simple word. One. We sing about one love, one heart… we hear Jesus praying to God the Father for us to be one.
Ironically…the oneness that Jesus beseeches us to be can never be done alone.
Being one in the story of God means being in relationship.
In the moments when life gets tough,
when the bile of the day seems to throw its toxicity at you,
it can be really tempting to just go it alone
…to walk away
…to try to find God’s presence outside alone in nature or secluded in a singular space.
But friends, let’s ponder this truth. God is not alone.
If God is not alone, who could think that we, God’s creation, could ever make it alone ourselves?
Think about it, in the Triune nature of God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–it is a carload of God and Godself–talking and communicating and creating and loving. And we’re invited into that car for the drive of our lives.
We all are.
When we encounter Jesus’ prayer in John chapter 17, he is openly praying and speaking with his heavenly Father. And he says,
The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one.John 17:22
Sometimes I get a bit lost with words like “glory”…there’s so much to it…and it’s so foreign a word to my everyday existence. But the Gospel writer John uses that word when he writes,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.John 1:1,14
What if the glory that John writes about is really presence.
God fully present.
The Word that came from God the Father and became fully present and wrapped in skin and flesh and bone and grew to be the one we know as the Messiah,
Jesus our Savior.
And when Jesus prays, he is saying,
“The full presence that you have given me, I have given them.”
And mind you, Jesus doesn’t say that he’s given this full presence to just Peter, or just James, or just John…he says “I have given to them.”
More than one.
In the mystery of God, we can only know the full presence of God when two or more of us are gathered together.
Jesus is praying for our unity.
In our hearts I think we know and we feel and we long to be one.
It’s why a baby seeks out their parent,
why we spend our early years gathering as many friends as we can,
and we spend our middle years seeking a partner who completes us,
and perhaps why in our later years we long to reunite with family and friends who have been separated by time and space.
We long for one love, one heart.
Our very soul craves unity.
Because in unity we see the very face of God.
And though we crave unity, I think our brokenness so often gets in the way. Oh how many times have we attempted unity and only hammered out uniformity. I know what I like, I know what I believe, I know that I’m right…and for unity you just have to be more like me.
I think it’s why we seek out our silos and echo chambers. I am searching for you to be more like me, so I can hear and see and think in one uniform way.
But God doesn’t ask for that.
God in the full presence of the Trinity is unified, but distinctly different–God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit. Three in one.
God is not alone. Nor should you or I be alone.
It struck me the other day, that I am only here because of the presence of God as seen and revealed in the people who Jesus prayed for. I am who I am because of the people who love me, support me, and pray for me.
And God’s work through the Holy Spirit makes this possible.
Think about the people who have worked and loved and lived to make it possible for you to be here this day?
You are not alone.
And one cannot be a Christian by oneself.
A congregation cannot exist by itself.
We are dependent upon each other as we are all dependent upon God.
“One love, one heart. Let’s get together and feel all right”
So what does oneness look like?
I’ve felt your oneness when as a family you come to learn about God’s love or you gather around the communion rail to receive the real presence of Christ.
I’ve seen oneness with my own eyes. I’ve seen you with your own ideas and ideals put your head together with someone who couldn’t be more different in life, love, and attitude–but you are working together because in doing so you are serving the Lord and making God visible for we who long to see God’s presence.
I’ve witnessed oneness when you gather together and become the body of Christ for each other. Whether it’s a bunch of you visiting a home bound member, or visiting a hospitalized child of God, or praying with another who longs to see the face of Christ and can see Christ in you.
Yes the presence of God is here, now, in this place, in you.
So how may we continue to be one?