John 17:20-26 & Ephesians 4:1-6
Peacemaking/World Communion Sunday
6 October 2013
Elizabeth M. Deibert
We live in the United States at a time when it is hard to see what unites us – other than the tendency to argue. We have so much for which to be grateful, but like spoiled children, we seem always to be bickering when we don’t get our way. We go to great lengths to manipulate, hoping to win the fight. Apparently over seventy percent of us would like to see compromise from both political parties, rather than strict adherence to principle, but we’re still waiting for this obnoxious game in Congress to be played out.
What Jesus prayed two thousand years ago is that his followers would be one, as Christ and the Father are one. He said that with Christ in us, and God in him, we can be completely one. And in being one, all the world would know God’s love. This is the truth of our existence – something we do not much appreciate. We really are one with each other. At the heart of our conflict, our broken relationships, our misunderstanding and lack of concern for people different from us is our inability to see that we are really are one. We share a common humanity despite all our differences.
Let us pray: God of our salvation, how beautiful are those who bring good news and announce your peace. By the power of your Holy Spirit, help us to hear and believe your Word and to show and tell this good news: peace on earth and good will to all; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Based on Isaiah 52:7 and Luke 2:14
20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, 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 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
(New Revised Standard Version)
If there is one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. And if this God has come in the person of Christ, who said we are his body. And if we his body are called to be humble and gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, then there just has to be a better way than we are seeing. This better way is available to us, if we only will live into our calling to be united with Christ and one another completely.
You see glimpses of God’s work in the world. When a whole conglomerate of singers got together with Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson back in 1985 to perform We are the World, we are the children to raise money for Africa after a famine had devastated that continent, especially Ethiopia, the Spirit of God was at work. When that same compassion spurred a new group of singers to do a remake of the song for Haiti after the earthquake, we humans were living as we are called.
(Hotel Montanta slide) While at our son Andrew’s University last week-end, we heard the story of a family, whose daughter Britney happened to be on a college mission trip to Haiti when the earthquake hit three years ago. She, three other college students and two professors from Lynn University were killed in the Hotel Montana in Port Au Prince. (Brit with orphans slide) Her last text message to her parents said, “They love us so much and everyone is so happy. They love what they have and they work so hard to get nowhere, yet they are all so appreciative. I want to move here and start an orphanage myself.”
Brit’s parents decided not to let her dream die. (Orphanage slide) They have spent the last three years raising money and building this earthquake-proof orphanage which will house sixty children. They spend one week every month in Haiti. (Dedication of Orphanage) They have always had this oneness with the people of Haiti, but they came to appreciate it when their daughter died there, with love in her heart for the children. How much easier to run from the country where their daughter died, but they chose to invest.
(HOM slide) The Presbyterians at Burnt Store Church in Punta Gorda have invited our congregation to consider sending folks with them on a week-long mission trip to Haiti where they have a partnership with Haiti Outreach Ministries and Pastor Leon D’Orleans to help with a Church, medical center, and Christian school there. Maybe you are being called to go in February to make a difference. Maybe you’d rather give money to help someone else go.
(Syria slide) The people of Syria, need us to connect with them, to experience our oneness with them in their time of weeping. More than two years of conflict have resulted in over 100,000 deaths, 2 million Syrians becoming refugees, and the internal displacement of as many as 5 million Syrians. The Peacemaking Program and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) are working collaboratively to respond with humanitarian aid to those most affected by the crisis in Syria. Please give generously today to the Peacemaking Offering. Make a difference.
(Christ and the World slide) Your peacemaking offering helps with peacemaking projects here and abroad and helps bring people like Rev. Helavio Poget from Madagascar to our country to help us to appreciate the fact that we have deep connection, just as we saw last year with Pastor Kade from Bali. Many of you made a commitment to pray for sisters and brothers in Pastor Kade’s congregation. Oneness shaped by our relationship with her and our prayers for them.
Your peacemaking offering has helped us to do our own small part in building a more peaceful character in the school children of Manatee County. Peace begins with recognizing our oneness with God through Christ, and then expands as we live peaceably, knowing that all others are God’s children too.World Communion Sunday, celebrated by many different denominations now, was first celebrated at Shadyside Presbyterian Church of Pittsburg 80 years ago. In the dark days of the Depression, when there was fierce loyal to particular branches of the Christian faith, they had the wisdom to initiate this day of celebrating not our differences, but our unity – which is seen best at the table of Christ.
We have choices to make. We do not have to turn cynical while sitting around watching talking heads debate who is winning the senseless battle of words in the Congress. We can do the challenging and meaningful work of living into our name, Peace. We can make a difference in the lives of people by being one in Christ, humble, gentle, patient, loving with one another and with those near and far away, building our sense of oneness with God’s people all around the globe, learning what makes each country and community unique –sharing our mutual burdens and joys. Living as Christ would, by caring for all – even those different from ourselves.