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Posts Tagged ‘unity’

cornerstone[Peter said] “. . . then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’” [Acts 4:10-11, NIV]

This is the gate of the Lord
    through which the righteous may enter.
I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
    you have become my salvation.

The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone; . . . [Psalm 118:20-22, NIV]

gateOriginally, a cornerstone was foundational to the construction of a building because all other stones would be laid out in reference to it. Later, this stone became more ceremonial with inscriptions and time capsules and the like. I am sure that both Peter and the Old Testament writers were referencing the Messiah as a cornerstone to the faith in its most traditional sense. For the disciples, Jesus was the cornerstone for something very new upon which believers would build a church–a force of change. For the psalmist, the prediction would be that the One Messiah would be rejected (unrecognized for his assigned role to humanity) and despite being a way to God, the way would be closed. And yet, despite rejection, the foundational stone would remain and the “building” would grow.

We are living the outcome, for good and for ill. The “house” is still standing, rooted and grounded by the cornerstone. And inexplicably, this structure is also a gate. As soon as anyone links up with the cornerstone, that person becomes a “gate” for the next person to enter, to connect.

holdinghandsIt’s a strange metaphor when combined, and yet, I get it. In this picture, the gates (the people) are transparent but linked up. We are transparent because we want people to be able to see inside, to behold the glory as it were, the spark and flame of life.

Jesus, the cornerstone of the Church as it was meant to be. Jesus, the cornerstone of my life as it is meant to be as well. Come in. The way is open; the gate is open.

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chameleonBack and forth I go over this scripture from Paul about being “all things to all people.” More than likely, he is referring to his ability to accommodate various beliefs and behaviors by being non-judgmental and that’s a good thing, but then I can envisage a mis-use of this passage to assert we should blend in and not rock the boat. It’s all a bit of a fine line.

I act weak to the weak, so I can recruit the weak. I have become all things to all people, so I could save some by all possible means. All the things I do are for the sake of the gospel, so I can be a partner with it. [I Corinthians 9:22-23, CEB]

Honestly, I’m not sure Paul could have blended in anywhere anyway. He was so opinionated and seemed to step on toes wherever he went. I’m just sayin.’

Jesus is really the role model for this scripture. He never changed his spots and yet, he engaged each person and group fully. He allowed people to be who they were in that moment and the by-product was that they recognized his authenticity. I could imagine him walking into a bar and hanging out and although he would be drinking water, he would be available without condemnation.

When serving outside our comfort zone, it’s important to be secure in our faith without reserve, but also realize that every journey is different. But we must learn to “look” to the spark of human within, the spark that is waiting for the flame of the Holy Spirit, for all of humanity is waiting in one form or another [Romans 8:19] for the personal revelation of God. In this way, we are all the same. Our outward selves and circumstances are often a poor reflection of the core within.

The real chameleon is the spirit within who can melt into a unity with the essence of Other.

I see you. See me. I see you. See me.

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right handThe most common reference to “right hand” placement is the right hand of God and the One on this side, that is the Son of Man, the Messiah, Christ Jesus. This is a place of shared power and signifies authority. This norm has carried down through the ages to the point that most “guests of honor” at a dinner table are seated to the right of the host. It is a place of And yet, in Psalm 16, there is a new take on this idea:

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. [Psalm 16:8, NIV]

I am moved by this proclamation and realize it should be mine each day. With it, I could give authority to God to move on my behalf and with it I could count on God’s presence to protect me, to guide me, and to support me. In addition to giving God authority, if I could practice keeping my eyes on God, symbolically speaking of course, I could focus my energy and direction, cast off distractions and, potentially, move forward without fear. Oh, what prevents me?

I remember back in acting school when we were introduced to a variety of circus skills, my favorite was tightrope walking because of the visual concentration required, to keep the eyes looking ahead at a single destination point.

But I also remember the story of Peter who walked on water, albeit briefly, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. Did he try it again? I always wondered. Did he remember the experience as a success or a failure? He defied, for just a few steps, the laws of gravity and science. He stepped outside the known dimensions of reality. But was it enough to believe?

spiralBut here’s a conundrum:
“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore. [Psalm 16:11, Amplified]

And here, in the same psalm, I am now at God’s right hand, receiving the benefits thereof. An interesting circle: God at my right hand and me at God’s right hand: Oneness. That is the point. Fueling and being fueled, loving and being loved, giving and receiving, all at the same time. Strength to strength [Psalm 84:7].

 

 

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make a wayWe all were. Sent ahead. In some cases, that is more obvious than in others, but if you think about it, we can each lay a path or new ground for our descendants and loved ones.

But God sent me [Joseph] ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. [Genesis 45:7, NIV]

My mother and father left Europe and came to America and worked hard for the sake of their children and a new life. My mother’s mother left her village in Lithuania to go to Riga to experience city life. In my own life, bouncing from city to city, I eventually landed with a husband and a home here in Maryland and drew three orphaned children to us from Latvia and St. Petersburg, Russia, their lives forever changed.

We can each make a way. We can cut the brambles to the best of our ability so that others can walk behind.

But of course, some people refuse. The road ahead seems too difficult, too overwhelming. And so they sit in what small space they can carve out and wait. Reminds me of the parable of the “talents.” Three servants were entrusted with wealth to invest for the Master while he journeyed away. Two took risks and plunged ahead. But the one merely buried what he was given and although he returned it all, he had made not change or increase.

Humans are given gifts as well as challenges that make us who we are but also help make us what God intends. It is not about the money but about the attitude, the response to life’s events, accepting the truth of what is and making the very best of what that truth can contribute.

This process is true for organizations as well as individuals. Churches, in particular, have a mission to reach out to those stagnant souls who have lost their will or hope toward the next step. The Church, the Body of Christ, can do corporately what cannot always be done by the one. But it must be done in unity and love.

Look back: who is following you? Whose steps are landing in your footprints?

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We are asked to cultivate unity by using the “bond of peace.” A bond is something like a rope, handcuffs or Gorilla Glue. It’s a connection, a relationship, a hookup. It’s a union, an agreement, a promise. With these, unity is possible. And without, what do we have? Just watch CNN.


Ephesians 4:3-6
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

A bond of peace cannot be achieved alone. It takes at least two. Oh, I suppose there is inner peace, but even that comes from an agreement between the mind, soul & spirit. Peace is not achieved by threat, dictatorship or commandment. That is just an absence of conflict. A true bond of peace comes out of mutual desire, love, commitment, and compromise.

There are a couple of people I know from my work who have learned one of the first steps toward creating bonds of peace. One of their distinguishing characteristics is not taking personal offense (even when it’s intended). I watch them in difficult or tense situations and it’s like the verbal attacks or innuendos float across their spirit lakes. They know how to listen fully. They don’t grab onto words or tone of voice and prepare a response ahead of time. They know how to wait. It’s disarming in the best way. In this way, they open a door to unity and understanding.

I want this but I’m not very willing to practice. I confess, I’m always taking offense. I’m always expecting the worst in a situation. I critique the tones, the eyes, the body language and if I come up with an attack assessment, I ready my own arsenal. I’m quick. It doesn’t take long to raise the battle flag.

Unity is all those “ones.” One body, one spirit, one God and so on. Can I let go of mine long enough to enter the One? It begins with small steps, I think. Bonds with family and friends. A peace driven by love.

And so I take a breath today. I take a breath and ask for mindfulness again, to remember, to make peace.

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Unity, like love, requires consciousness and choice. We will never always agree. Like the old cliche of “pick your battles” with one’s kids, the same is true for the body of Christ. Not every disagreement requires the drawing up of sides and the raising of battle flags. I suppose a better word for unity is compromise or even love.

I Corinthians 1:10b
. . . that there be no dissensions or factions or divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in your common understanding and in your opinions and judgments.

I would say my closest friend is Kathy. We have known each other almost 40 years (age hint). Historically, I have been the conservative one and she the more liberal one. We don’t agree on everything by a long shot, but we know each other and we trust each other and as a result, we respect each other. And so, yes, we are in unity. We don’t live close by and we don’t talk every day, but when we do connect, it’s meaningful. We share deeply and we share honestly. When we disagree, we speak it, but we know that no disagreement is powerful enough to divide our hearts. We anticipate growing old together, 21st century Golden Girls.

But every relationship is not so easy. There are people who have put me under the microscope and nothing I say or do seems right to them. I am suspect and therefore, I am a challenge. There are people, I’m sorry to say, to whom I have done the same thing. My expectation is that they will behave badly and when they do, I am not surprised. Who knows if they behave well, I’m not looking for that. In neither of these cases is unity possible. Even though there is no outright hostility and on the surface everything seems fine, the inner turmoil is fraught with misery.

We will never be all the same. It’s not the way our creative God works. Everything in nature is about uniqueness. It is putting uniqueness together that makes a new “whole.” We each bring our special something to the table.

I can remember when Mike and I used to attend pitch-in suppers at our old church in Atlanta. Most of the cooks brought fried chicken, southern-style green beans, cole slaw, and mashed potatoes. I brought hummus and tabouli. I don’t need to tell you what was barely touched. It’s not that it wasn’t good, but it was outside the box for a church supper, at least back then. Most people wouldn’t even try it.

Each person’s personality has a little tabouli or baba ghanoush in it. Unity comes from tasting … trying … accepting … loving.

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