“Behold how good and pleasant it is when brother dwell in unity.”
So begins the 133rd Psalm.
But in unity of what, and for what, and to what purpose?
The 133rd Psalm is a psalm of ascent and would have been sang by the priests as they were going up the Holy Mounty – Mounty Zion, in Jerusalem, as they ascended up the mountain to the temple. In this context it is a song of priests who dwelled in unity of thought, unity of faith, and unity of service. They had minds and heart of one accord, undivided and unified in the worship of the Lord and carrying out His will.
What then are we unified in. Are we all not priests according to our understanding of the “priesthood of all believers” being those who offers prayers on behalf of ourselves and others before God. Yes, we are then what are we to be united in?
Obviously we are to be united in our worship, having no division among us, but worshiping the one true God – one God in Three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So that is the What… we are unified in faith.
We come together to worship the one true God, yet the church worships in many different ways, reflecting the various cultures and people within it. Yet we are united in faith, which true Christians confess in the creeds.
But is our unity simply for the purpose of coming together for worship? Is our unity an end unto itself? Certainly unity is always better than disunity. In unity there is strength; there is harmony. In disunity there is weakness. Unity is the result of and underlying truth. Disunity is the result of underlying lies – more often than not.
In the account from Acts we see unity and harmony grounded in truth. All shared things in common with one another there were none who were needy because with great power the Apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and “great grace was upon them.” They lived in the unity of the truth that Christ is Lord and He lives. This is the for what – that we might live in unity with God and one another, as a for taste of the Kingdom to Come. We live in the unity of the faith, under the unity of truth so that grace and harmony might prevail among us rather than disunity and discord.
Now then for what purpose? Is it simply so we who believe can live quiet and faith filled lives? No. The answer is found in The today’s Gospel message from John.
We find the Apostles huddled together, behind a locked door for fear of the Jews and Jesus appear among them. The first thing he says is “Peace be with you,” in order to allay their fears and then he says to them: “As the Father sent me, even so I am sending you.”
Jesus is giving them a unified mission – giving it to all, not so some, but to all. Then in order that they might be equipped for this mission he give them something else that unifies them.
“As when he said this he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
This is the purpose for which we are unified as the church, in faith, in the truth, with a common mission, given the same authority and commissioned by one with the same authority as the Father. All our efforts are about one thing and one thing only – the furthering of the Kingdom by the spreading of the Gospel message.
“Jesus sends (us) to bear testimony to the truth, to preach the word of salvation, and, by life and teaching, to show the way of blessedness to the people.”
This is why we do what we do. This is the weight of that which we do. This is the purpose for which the church was created and is sustained by the Holy Spirit.
When you look at “church” and what we do as “the church” in the light of this, you can see the seriousness of who and what we are. This is weighty stuff. We are not just a mere coffee club, or a mutual aid society.
I do believe this congregation has as good sense of this – and it is unified in this understanding. And for that I give thanks to God.
But I preach this because we must never forget it and we must always work to maintain ever greater unity in faith, in truth, in purpose among us.
A congregation does everything as a team. Therefore, we should never allow disunity and discord to fester within, but rather should always strive to remain united as a single body. Yes, the body is made of many members, each with special gifts, but yet the body is one, with a unified nature and purpose.
So must we as a congregation be.
We must strive for that unity in God’s Word. Exemplify that unity in our worship, and exhibit that unity as we go out as Christ sent us, for the singular purpose of furthering the kingdom of God in the world. All we do must be united to this purpose.