Going Deeper: One


On5iRrkKEoTe of our deepest human longings is for intimacy. We hope to find it in marriage. Perhaps we have found it with a friend or group of friends. We long for it in various communities of which we are a part, including our church communities. We may even long for this with God but not be sure whether such closeness is actually possible. And when we find that intimacy, we often describe it using the language of one–the two become one, being of one mind and heart, being at one with each other, oneness with God. It is the oneness not of losing one’s sense of self but of knowing and being known.

This past Sunday, our Pastor Rich preached on John 17:1-26. There was one section of this which yielded an insight I’ve wanted to go deeper into this week, found in verses 20-23:

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you 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 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

I’ve often focused on John 13:35 that says,  “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if Bob Trube2you love one another.” What I’ve paid less attention to is that our ability to love for each other, to be one with each other is rooted in a deeper oneness. Jesus prays that we might share in the oneness he has with the Father, and it is by this that we are also at one with our fellow Christians. Rich talked about this incredible thing that we’ve been brought into the life of loving oneness between the Father and Son and that our oneness with each other flows out of this oneness. Intimacy with Jesus is the fuel for intimacy with each other.

The challenge for me is that I try to do the “oneness thing” on my own strength and what these verses say is that my oneness with my community in Christ comes from being in Christ who is in the Father. The best way I can nurture “the beloved community” with God’s people is to know and accept and embrace my belovedness. Because of Jesus, God is for me. Because of Jesus God loves me in spite of all my faults. God loves me just because He does, and invites me to be as close to him as Jesus and the Father have been forever.

Because this is so, I don’t have to change the things I don’t like in others to be one in Christ with them, or conform to the expectations of others. We simply have to love each other just because. I’ve found myself loving people I didn’t like or wouldn’t have chosen to hang around with. I’ve found myself loving people I disagreed with.

Rich talked about the beautiful thing that happens when we are one with God and each others in these ways–“more and more people, as they see our unity, are drawn into the divine community that we ourselves are a part of. ”

One of the things I love about our church is that it is this crazy place where people who otherwise would not be in each other’s lives are learning to love each other and anyone else who walks in the door in practical and life-giving ways. We don’t do it perfectly, at least I don’t. But we don’t give up. That is the power of One!


Learning from 1 Corinthians


In his sermon this week, Rich invited us to look back over 1 Corinthians and reflect on what we’ll take away from the book. He asked us what we would say if someone asked us what the book was about. What has struck me is that 1 Corinthians is a master class by the apostle Paul on how to apply the gospel to life. Here are some examples.

ImageUnity (chapters 1-4): Christians are one in Christ, and the one Holy Spirit dwells in them. Thus there is no excuse for cliques or celebrity leaders in the church. Those of us who think we know stuff need to be especially careful to keep the focus on Jesus and follow the Spirit’s lead. We are all members of one body, and that body has only one Head.

Unity and diversity (chapter 12): But unity doesn’t mean uniformity. The church, as the body of Christ, needs both unity and diversity to function. All gifts are necessary, and all people are important. This means that our value doesn’t come from how we compare with other people. It comes from the unique dignity and gifts that God has granted to each of us.

Bodies (chapters 5, 15): God cares about our bodies. What we do with them is important. We’re whole people, not souls riding around in disposable shells. Our spiritual lives have physical expressions, and our physical lives have spiritual expressions. We belong to God, body and soul, and God plans to make us truly whole in the resurrection.

Sex (chapters 5-7): Sex is good: it’s meant to be a joyful part of marriage, experienced with mutual sensitivity. Not all sexual expressions are good, though. Our sexuality, like every other part of our lives, must be submitted to Christ. Marriage is good. Singleness is good. Whatever our marital status, we need to be following Jesus.

Separation (chapter 5): Some Christian groups think the church is called to be separate from the world so that it won’t be tainted by the world’s immorality. But Paul is more practical: there’s no way to completely avoid contact with immoral people as long as we’re in the world. What concerns Paul is that we keep our own house in order. That is, we can’t afford to overlook unrepentant immorality in the church. We may have to have some hard conversations and do some hard things to get a fellow believer to wake up–and we may have to do some waking up ourselves–but if we care about one another, we need to take this responsibility seriously.

Freedom (chapters 8-11): Freedom is wonderful, and as Christians we’re free to do a lot of things. However, most of all we’re free to love. This may mean freely choosing not to exercise some of our freedoms out of love for someone else. This isn’t a license to start criticizing the behavior of others; it’s an opportunity to put the wellbeing of other people ahead of our own enjoyment.

Love (chapter 13): Anything we do has to be guided by love. Paul isn’t talking about romantic bliss; he’s talking about the hard work of getting along with people we may not even like very much. We don’t get to pick who our relatives are, even in the church family.

Hope (chapter 15): Whenever we’re tempted to get annoyed with one another, we need to remember the big picture. Our differences will shrink in light of the glorious future God has planned for us. Because of the resurrection, we know that our work for the Lord is not in vain.

What have you learned from 1 Corinthians?

Be united


This week’s passage, 1 Corinthians 16:1-12, seems to be a light one in substance.  Paul, the author of the Corinthian letter has been talking about some pretty heavy stuff over the course of his letter.  As he is coming to an end of his letter he has just a few more things to address.  But just because this stuff seems of less importance, or things we just gloss over, does not mean it has little value.

mattIn fact, we as believers need to make sure that we notice what is in God’s word.  It is there for a reason.

I would like to focus on verse 10:  “If Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am.”

The church at Corinth has been a divided group from the start.  Some follow Paul, others Apollos, some Cephas (or Peter) and others say they follow Christ (Chapter 1, verse 12).  How many times have we seen that human beings choose to support particular group or person and then say that they don’t like others just because they are different?  Paul makes the point that Timothy, his young apprentice, is working for Christ just as he is.

This was always an encouraging thought to me as a young believer.  My grandfather was a pastor for many years.   My father has been a pastor and in the ministry for a long time.  For a long while I thought I had to live up to the expectations that others had of me based off of who my grandfather and father were.  However, I came to a realization that I don’t have to live up to others expectations of me.  Just as Paul states about Timothy, they (Timothy and Paul) are all preaching the same message so it should be heard and respected.  The way it is taught or stated may be different, but the basics of “Christ crucified” are all that matters.  The only expectations that I need to worry about are those of God.  What does He expect of me?

I think that Paul wants to make sure that the church at Corinth does not discount what Timothy has to offer because he is too young or different than Paul.  Paul knows that Timothy has a lot to offer and is willing to lay everything down for the sake of the gospel.  To him that is all that matters.

Be united.  Love one another.  Be open to what others have to offer even if it may be new to you or different than what you are used to.

So my question to you is are you accepting of what others have to offer even though it may be different than what you are used to?  How can we open ourselves to new opinions, thoughts or ideas?

When the Lord’s Supper was a Real Meal


One of the interesting discoveries you make in reading Paul’s letter to the Corinthians was that the “Lord’s Supper” was a real meal! That’s what we learned last Sunday in Pastor Rich’s message on 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.  And that was the problem! The meal that was meant to remind them of their unity and equality in Christ became a cause for division because the rich indulged themselves with the food they brought while the poor who could bring little watched others eat while they went hungry.

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Rich talked about how our worship is a time of “going together”–that as we move toward God we move toward each other. And the “Lord’s Supper” or Eucharist is meant to be a meal that celebrates our common salvation in Christ–that the things that distinguish us in the rest of life should not distinguish us when we “go together” with others in the church. No one should get special treatment. There should be no “in crowd”. And it seems that this is the case, particularly in our threefold communion times where a teenager may wash the feet of an elderly person, where we all equally share the food, and where the bread and cup are distributed to all.

It is worthwhile asking if distinctions creep in at other times and draw us apart. The fact that we are young and old, from different ethnic backgrounds, and do enjoy differing degrees of economic success–do these ever crop up and divide us? The fact that we are quite diverse seems to be a good thing. But do we value difference, even when we are not sure what value people who are different from us bring to our body? Unity and equality in Christ don’t mean we are all the same. Rather unity and equality mean we are all different and yet equally valuable. We all are equal at the cross–all of us needed Jesus death.  And we are one by sharing in common Christ’s death for us, reflected in the bread and cup we share. We don’t have to create unity by eliminating diversity.

Rich asked us to reflect on “In what ways am I neglecting the needs of others and thinking about myself?” It strikes me that one way I do this is when I fail to value those most different from me in our congregation enough to even know what they need, or whether they are in need. Sometimes though, what people need most is not to have a need met, but to have their uniqueness affirmed as important. What a terrible loss it would be if someone’s unique gifts went unnoticed. That’s my application–to try with Christ’s grace to break out of my self-absorption enough to be a person who notices.