Unity in the life of the church
‘May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Romans 15:5-6)
That was our wedding text.
God calls my wife and I to give a united witness to Christ, who has joined us to himself and has also joined us to each other. He wants us to be of one mind and to speak with one voice before the world in our witness to Christ. So far so good, however imperfectly, after 38 years we are still singing off the same hymn sheet!
Together, you and I are ‘synod’ – walking together, witnessing with one mind and voice to Christ. That’s how the church is meant to be and live before the world as a common witness to how we have all been brought back together with God and each other through Jesus Christ.
In the readings from Ephesians in recent months, we heard that there is ‘one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.’ (Ephesians 4:4-6)
We have only just marked 50 years since God brought two Lutheran synods into one, the LCA. Our ‘togetherness’ is based on Christ and his forgiving sacrifice for us, his justification, his love and grace, which come to us in his word, in baptism and in the Lord’s Supper.
We have been joined together in one baptism and are one at his table. Our togetherness as Lutherans is expressed in a common confession to Christ and his word.
The reality is we are not always of one mind and voice. Our ‘togetherness’, our God given and Christ centred unity, is about to be tested at the General Convention of Synod in October, and no doubt after it.
We are all probably conscious and nervous about that. We are no doubt conscious of what divides us on one issue in particular. When it comes to ordaining both women and men to the public ministry, pastors and laity alike can’t agree on what God is saying in the same scripture that we all subscribe to as the authority for the teaching and life of the church.
We have different interpretations and strengths of opinion on the same Bible texts. We have different views on whether we can ‘live with’ whatever outcome.
We have seen disunity played out on the political stage and it doesn’t draw us to our politicians. Further disunity in the life of the Christian church doesn’t help draw people to Christ, who unites us and who is our peace.
And yet, at the same time, we can’t force people against their consciences to accept what they can’t, in whatever direction, just for the sake of an outward appearance of unity. Unity has to have integrity and substance.
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.
While outward unity or organisational unity is not an idol to be served at all costs, we dare not lose sight of what unites us. Reflecting with thanksgiving on what we have in common, I urge you not to act or react too quickly post-convention, but allow time to reflect, pray and consider together ‘what next’ and ‘where to from here’.
As General Convention approaches, I urge you to pray that Christ himself, who unites us, may keep us together somehow by the miracle of his grace. I encourage you to honour, accept and respect each other and each other’s consciences and convictions, even while disagreeing with each other.
Pray that if there is a way of staying together, because of what we hold together and the one who holds us together, then God will show us a way that has integrity.
I pray that somehow God will find a way, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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