Recently, I’ve been utilizing our blog to share about the renewed vision I believe God is leading us towards at First Wayne Street UMC. We have been blessed with an incredible church, with amazing people, a beautiful facility, and a unique and strategic location in the heart of the city. I am convinced that God is inviting us to step out in faith and take some risks as we begin our next chapter of ministry together.
God is calling First Wayne Street to go and love, together. We’ve talked about the call from the Great Commission to go into all the world to share the hope of Jesus with all. We are called to meet people where they are and share God’s love in word and deed. So, wherever we live, work and play – that’s where God is calling us to be witnesses for Jesus.
We strive to lead lives of love – because love is the key to it all. Jesus taught that the Greatest Commandment was to love God and love our neighbor. Jesus also took it a step further and called us to love our enemies. Essentially, Jesus called us to love everyone. In other words, if we are leading lives of love, it will be hard to be heading in the wrong direction. I love the simple way Bob Goff sums up Jesus’ call to love, “Love everybody, always.” We are called to go and love, together.
In John 17, in what has been referred to as the Great Collaboration, Jesus is praying. In that prayer, He lifts up a prayer for the unity of the believers. Jesus fully understands that we are better together.
I want to encourage you to take some time today to read all of John 17. It gives us a great pattern for prayer. It starts with Jesus praying for Himself. I think this is just great. Why? Because so many of the patterns for prayer that we are taught in children’s Sunday school and youth group focus on praying for everything under the sun before we pray for ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with praying for everyone and everything in the world before we pray for ourselves – in fact, it probably teaches us a lesson in humility, service and selflessness.
However, there are times when we are in desperate need and we need to spend some time focusing on ourselves – and that’s okay because even Jesus prayed for Himself first once in a while!
After praying for Himself and God’s glory, He spends time praying for His disciples. He knows the challenges they will face and prays for their unity, for their protection, and for their sanctification. Sanctification is a fancy word for being set apart, consecrated and declared holy.
Then, Jesus prays for all those who will come to believe. In other words, if you are a believer, Jesus prayed for you. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty awesome to know that long before we existed, Jesus prayed for us. Let’s hear these words from John 17:20-23, “20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Jesus prays that the believers would be one – that we would be brought to complete unity. It’s been said that there are over 30,000 Christian denominations in our world today. Now, I don’t know about you, but I often wonder if that represents the “complete unity” Jesus had in mind?
I believe it’s important to remember that unity and uniformity are not necessarily the same thing. Our unity is found in our belief in Jesus. Our unity is found in our call to love God, love our neighbors, to love our enemies. Our unity in the essentials is what binds us together.
But, unity does not require uniformity. In our church, we have people on every side of every issue. And, I believe that we are better for that. Can you imagine how boring it would be if we all agreed all the time? Our diversity in thought can actually challenge us to be deeper thinkers who are actually growing in our faith.
Jesus understands that we are better together. Jesus understands that it is our love for God, our love for one another, and our call to go into all the world to share the Good News that unites us.
We can disagree about social, moral and political issues, but still agree about Jesus. And, guess what, many times that’s enough. I believe that love, love will keep us together. Yes, that was a veiled Captain and Tennille reference…and even though the eventually split up…their message should give us hope. Love can keep us together.
We are better together. Our diversity in thought actually makes us better and I believe stronger. I am excited about where God is leading us at First Wayne Street UMC. I believe great things are in store for us as we go and love, together.