Common Ground

Earth, Planet, World, Globe
Pixabay

There is that which divides us

Creating wedges and space

That make us distrustful

Of things like class or race

Yet there is more – which us does link:

Love and compassion

Music, and good food and drink

Smoothing the edges

Reconciling our mood

And when we look at this globe

From afar in the air

We are but a race human

As a common existence we share


Padre

In Agreement By Our Love

 

This song has always been a favourite of mine.  It calls to mind Jesus’ prayer for His people to be as one, even as He and the Father are one.  It strikes at call of the Hebrews writer for “Brotherly love to continue (Heb. 13:1),” and John’s admonition of I John : 7-8 for us to “love one another.”
Lyrics:
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that all unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
By our love
We can make it come together
By our love
Yes, the Spirit of our God
By our love
We can make each other better
By our love, by our love
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love
By our love
We can make it come together
By our love
Yes, the Spirit of our God
By our love
We can make each other better
By our love, by our love
By our love
We can make it come together
By our love
Yes, the Spirit of our God
By our love
We can make each other better
By our love, by our love
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that all unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love
Source: Musixmatch

As I was doing my daily study, which these days also includes readings from Dianne’s prayer and study journals I found reference to the power of such loving unity.  Matthew 18:19 tells us,  “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”  Agreement in love.  Love in agreement.  Let us do so, then as Pastor Vince reminded us on the weekend, look out for the tidal wave to come.

Padre

Manifesting Power

 

Pastor Vince spoke this week on the topic of manifesting power.  He gave his message the title:  POWER THAT WILL END THE MATTER.

He began the lesson with Joshua 2 which, in paraphrase, recalls the two spies sent by Joshua to the region of Jericho.   They are harboured by Rahab, and she gives a telling admission, that the Canaanites are in terror of the people of Israel.  They have seen God’s hand in the crossing of the Red Sea and the defeat of the kings of the Wilderness.   They now cower behind the mighty walls of Jericho.  She then gives a wonderful revelation that she is convinced that God will give the Hebrews the land.  She then seeks assurances that she and her family will be spared because she has acted in a friendly way to the people of God.

She didn’t have to help them.  She didn’t have to be fearful just because of the Hebrew numbers.  She was fearful because she could observe the power of God among the Hebrews.

We need to have such a power.  We are not “going into all the world,” just as smiley or “happy clappy” people, but ones forged in and instilled with the Holy Spirit.  We like the Hebrew children before us are empowered.

But we need to focus on how that power is manifested and what is required.  Psalm 133 reads, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”  Like Israel approaching the walls of Jericho we are to be united.   United with God and His purposes and instructions, but also with one another.  Look at 1 John 4: 7-8, “ Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  We are the people of God unified in love and purpose.  With that comes power.   Here we can return to Psalm 133 which says our unity, “It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion (v 3),” a dew of dedication or common purpose.

Pastor Vince next called our attention to Matthew 13:44f in which a man sells all he has to buy a field in which he will find treasure.  All else falls short of the dedication to the goal.  Our service to God is to be like that.  But again this is not ideally an individual act.  It is an act of a loving brotherhood of people.  Remember when Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment of the Law.  He started out with saying we need to love God with our whole being, but the second point is like onto it, “Love your neighbour.”  We are not meant to do this alone.  Yes our Christian walk can be done in a solitary manner, but it will often lack the power possible when together.  It may well be the reason for Hebrews 10:25 telling us not to forsake meeting together.   When we are combined and committed we will be like the church at Jerusalem in Acts 2 and following – having all things in common, and dwelling in the Apostles’ teachings.  The result – the church was held in high regard by all of the people.

Here we can go to Hebrews 11: 31 “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.”  She witnessed the unity of the Hebrews, saw the power of God, and she believed.   Think of what we can achieve when we come together in God’s plan, unified and supportive of one another.  We will act in one accord, and then just look out for the power to become manifest!

Padre

This is a message that was well understood by Dianne.  Even in her weakened last weeks, her goal was to be unified with her church family and actively sought prayer requests that she could life up her brothers and sisters.  Seeking first the kingdom of God, we likewise should always unite with and lift up our Christian family.

 

 

2 ÷ 2 = 1: Beyond Division

“Welcome to the First  Assembly Fellowship Church of God in the Trinity Congregation. We are a new outlook, old school modern body with innovative Spirit filled worship, while honouring the solemnity of High Church traditions.” This fictional [I hope] church is an example of the two-headed monster confronting God’s people today. Consumerism and its “we have the church for you” with its something for everyone, everything for no one is one side.  While the “mine is better than yours” segregated, denominational exclusionist vein is the other.

Is our attitude that of “all have sinned and fallen short of the Assemblies of God, therefore repent everyone of you and be Baptists?” Is it about religion, or about our relationship with God? Jesus prayed that His people be unified even as he and the Father are one. Is that our approach?

We divide, we bicker, we compete.  We quarrel over minor points of doctrine, the number of cups used in communion, the mode and manner of music. Surely the outcome must be [and pardon the misapplication of scripture] that “Jesus wept.”

Padre

 

It’s About “Us”

ChicagoTribune

Building on from his message on communal and corporate prayer, Pastor Vince brought our focus onto the body as a whole. The idea of community is important. While not the proper etymology it still is still telling that the word community gives us a “common” “unity.”  It is exactly how it should be.  In the Book of Acts we see this.

  • “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place (Acts 2:1).”
  •  “All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people (Acts 2: 44-47).”
  • All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had (Acts 4:32).”

We can see clearly that the early church was unified.  It had everything in common, bot in possessions and in belief (“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship [Acts 2:42]”).

But how do we achieve this level of community? Paul tells us simply, Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (Philippians 2: 1-4).”

See, it isn’t about me, it is about us! And this is fully in keeping with Jesus’ prayers and wishes in John 17. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  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. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity (vs 20-23).”

Kennedy said “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” God asks a similar but greater feat of you.  What can you do for your God, your brothers, and your world? It is about “us.”

Padre

 

 

Black Church, White Church, Christ’s Church

I came across some YouTube videos today entitled “Black Church vs. White Church.”  These were rather cute as parodies, and they relied heavily of stereotypes. Fair enough they were intended as comedy.  But it is sad that many still think in such terms as “Black” or “White” church.

I have written before that I come from a mixed religious tradition, with my Irish fore-bearers doing the unthinkable by entering into a Catholic/Protestant marriage.  While very rare at the time, it nonetheless set the stage of my life.  This idea of being a religious “outsider” didn’t really come home to me though.  I was who I was, and my faith was my own.  Later when I was in the forces, I on several occasions worshiped at Japanese churches.  Yes, I was dependent of translations, and some practices were alien to my own tradition (such as worship in the round rather than facing forward towards an altar or pulpit). I felt “at home” all the same, as I was in the presence of God’s people.

This “at home-ness,” was also seen when I went to university.  I had a work study job on campus and worked for a man whose “Sunday Job” was as the pulpit minister at a “Black” church.  Because of our friendship, and not having a “church home,” I began worshiping with his congregation, and for a while mine was the only “White” family at the church.  This gradually changed (but sadly was resisted by some of the older members).  Again, I will say fair enough, I and my light skinned fellows were reaping what “our fathers” had sown.  The church in question was in the Tennessee/Mississippi border area – enough said.  But through it all, I saw brothers and sisters.

Okay, there are differences between worship styles, but these are not fundamental differences in the gospel.  I have worshiped “High” church, and “Low” church.  I have experienced and appreciated the liturgical and the “free moving” of the Spirit.

What I am saying is simple, we need to look beyond tradition, race, and any diversionary influence and come together as people of God.   Galatians 3:27-29 reminds us, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Friends whether it is “Praise the Lord” (while jumping and clapping) or solemnly muttering “in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.” It is all Christ’s church and His body.

Just something to think about.

Padre

Spiritual Xenophobia

“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” Wait a minute, upright from Uz? Here we have one of the fundamental ideas of the Bible.  Origin and background are not a prerequisite of righteousness.  Job was not a Hebrew, but he was nonetheless pleasing to God.  The New Testament re-emphasises this idea in Paul’s charge to the Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28 NIV)”

We however, often suffer from a religious xenophobia. We distrust that which is unfamiliar.  I recently had a conversation in which the person I was talking saw the use of Arabic as divisive.  The suggestion was that Arabs and Arabic-speakers were agents of militant Islam.  How then can we reconcile such a view with the fact that the Syrian refugees who sparked the conversation were Christians who had fled Damascus.

The suspicion of difference therefore blinds us.  Don’t get me wrong here, I am not in any way denying the centrality of Jesus in the plan of salvation or challenging people to dabble is Eastern mysticism. Rather, I am saying that salvation is open to all – Jew and Greek; Spaniard and Turk; American and Pole. What is at issue here is whether one follows God’s path or not.   Yet we seem to forget this, and sometimes get obsessed with our “us and them” scenarios. We focus on what divides us, not what we share.

There is a similar us and them when it comes to what we see as our Christian heritage. Do we get so caught up in our own denominational and sectarian stances, that we miss this essential truth, that Christ died for all sinners – including me and you?  Backgrounds are interesting, but not a measure of worthiness.  Just remember for every Saul of Tarsus with his immaculate religious pedigree, there are a score of Simon Peters expressing their roots in a humble “”Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man! (Luke 5:8 NIV)”

What God wants from us is not an unbroken ancestry of Bible thumping evangelists, but a self- willingness to follow Him.  Like another famous religious outsider who said to her mother-in-law: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. (Ruth 1:16 NIV).”  Jesus said simply “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NASB)”  No one is a real outsider in the Lord.

Padre