Christ is Counting on You

“”As a prisoner for the LORD, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5one LORD, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:1-6

Let’s face it, one of the most difficult things about our environment is dealing with the people in it.  They constantly disappoint us.  They shock us with their lack of love and understanding.  They complain and whine and gossip. They point fingers at others when the blame lies closer to home– and when I say these things I’m talking about Christians!

When I’m frustrated with others, I need to remember the verses above from Ephesians.  I can’t change anyone except myself.  I need to humbly admit that I am not perfect, either, and my behavior is not always the good example I wish it would be.  I need to be patient and give everyone the benefit of the doubt.  Any correction I give should be gentle and loving.  The church is the body of Christ and I am part of it.  Nobody wants to hurt their own body.  When we’re angry at one another, the body is disrupted and can’t function at it’s best.

The early Christians “turned the world upside down.”  We’re called to do the same in our day and culture.  Unity is key.  To preserve our unity we must be positive and do our part. We must love one another with the love of Christ.  He is counting on us.  He has no other plan.

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One Bread, One Body

This contemporary song was written by John B. Foley, professor of Liturgy at St. Louis University.  It is often used on Lutheran Via de Cristo weekends and beautifully expresses the ideal of unity in the Body of Christ, His Church.

More on Brotherly Love

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!

It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down the beard, running down Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes.

It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion, For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.  Psalm 133

If you’re part of a family, you know the truth of the Psalm above, and you know what the reverse feels like.  Family is wonderful when everyone is getting along and helping each other– it’s a blessing.  When the family quarrels bitterly, life becomes miserable.  Family members have the power to lift us up or tear us down.

In many places the Bible refers to the church in terms of family.  It is the “household” of God.  We are to treat older people as parents, honoring and respecting them.  We are to treat those of our own generation as brothers and sisters.  When a child is baptized into our congregation, we all take on the responsibility of raising them in the faith.

Unfortunately we don’t always take these “family” responsibilities seriously.  When we don’t agree with someone, or they are rude to us, we just leave, thinking we’ll find a more congenial group;  or we stay and gossip, forming cliques that divide and weaken the body of Christ.  When a brother or sister in Christ stops attending worship or Bible study, instead of calling them up to encourage them and see what’s wrong, we just shrug and say, “oh well” or maybe we think, “the Pastor should check in on them.” We don’t want to risk confrontation or unpleasantness.  When an older member can no longer drive, we consider our own convenience instead of offering them a ride to church.  When a job needs doing, we tell ourselves, we just don’t have the time or the money or the talent to help.

The list can go on and on, and we’re all guilty of neglecting God’s family at times.  It’s true no individual can do everything– but we can all do something, and we should prayerfully consider what it is God wants us to do right now — at this time, in this place, with the family He has given us.

“Let brotherly love continue.”  Hebrews 13:1

Tertullian on Christian Unity

Look at what Tertullian (a church scholar who lived in North Africa c. 160-225AD) had to say as he described the young Christian believers:

“We are a body knit together as such by a common religious profession, by unity of discipline, and by the bond of a common hope. We meet together as an assembly and congregation, that, offering up prayer to God as with united force, we may wrestle with Him in our supplications. This strong exertion God delights in. We pray, too, for the emperors, for their ministers and for all in authority, for the welfare of the world, for the prevalence of peace, for the delay of the final consummation.”

Image result for images of tertullian

Keeping the Peace

“I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Ephesians 4:1-3

 The apostle, Paul, writing from prison, gives some good advice on how to maintain our unity with other Christians.  When I read it, I have to ask myself, am I walking in a worthy manner?  Am I humble, gentle and patient with others in my church family?  Am I willing to overlook some flaws as they mature in the faith?  Am I eager, really eager to get along with everyone? Do I love them, each individual, as a child of God and my sister or brother?

 It’s human to fail in all these things.  Just like everyone else, I can sometimes be self righteous, impatient, critical or abrupt.  That’s not worthy of my calling.  I’m called to love others, and that means acting in a loving way.  I can be eager in all the wrong ways – eager to prove my point, eager to look good in the eyes of others, eager to promote my own agenda.  That’s not worthy of my calling, either.  I’m called to serve others, not advance myself.  I can be guilty of surrounding myself with those I find most compatible, failing to include or ignoring part of God’s family.  How unworthy is that, forgetting that Jesus called me His friend, when I was still a sinner!

 Whenever I fall down, I need to remember my calling.  Christian unity depends upon you and me.  Am I committed to keeping the peace?  Are you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Prayer for Unity

I discovered this prayer for the unity of the church on a website for the Church of England. I hope you like it as much as I do.

These prayers may take place around a unity candle, the font or some other symbol of the Church.

Jesus prayed that his followers may all be one.
In the power of the Spirit, we join our prayers with his.

The following may be used

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace:
give us grace seriously to lay to heart
the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions.
Take away all hatred and prejudice,
and whatever else may hinder us
from godly union and concord;
that, as there is but one body and one Spirit,
one hope of our calling,
one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of us all,
so we may henceforth be all of one heart and of one soul,
united in one holy bond of peace, of faith and charity,
and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.

I am the vine and you are the branches.
All: Abide in me as I abide in you.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.
All: Abide in me as I abide in you.

No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
All: Abide in me as I abide in you.

You are my friends if you do what I command you;
love one another as I have loved you.
All: Abide in me as I abide in you.

Intercessions are offered for the unity of the Church.

This response may be used

Lord of the Church
All: hear your people’s prayer.

Silence may be kept.

This Collect is said.

Lord Jesus Christ,
who said to your apostles,
‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you’:
look not on our sins but on the faith of your Church
and grant it the peace and unity of your kingdom;
where you are alive and reign with the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
All: Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer is said.

The peace of the Lord be always with you
All: and also with you.

These words may be added

Let us offer one another a sign of peace,
God’s seal on our prayers for the Unity of the Church

New Month/New Theme

On the 4th of July Americans celebrate the union of our states, so it was suggested that the Lutheran Ladies think and post this month on the topic of unity.  That gives us lots of ideas to explore.  The trinity is a mysterious union of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Church has been described as a body –the union of many parts, working together.  It has also been described as Christ’s bride, a reminder of the union between man and woman, the two becoming one.

So ladies, what does unity mean to you? What is your understanding of the trinity?  How does unity in the Christian church exist despite a multitude of different denominations and theological ideas?  How do we achieve unity in our local congregation of individual believers with differing abilities, personalities and interests?  What does it mean to become “one flesh” with our spouse? What does it mean to become “one” with Christ? Is unity possible at all in a society that applauds diversity?  I’m sure this month, we’ll be studying our Bibles to find out what God has to say, and I’m sure I’ll be surprised and edified by the variety of responses.

Of course, as always, go where the Holy Spirit leads.  If another topic is on your heart and mind, feel free to post about it.  Ladies, and readers, send us your thoughts, comments and ideas.  We’re waiting to hear from you.