Based on: 2 Corinthians 1:18-22
Unity. What is it? Here is some human wisdom on the topic: “All for one and one for all!”- Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers). “United we stand, divided we fall” – Aesop. “When spiders’ webs unite, they can tie up a lion.” – Ethiopian Proverb. “We cannot be separated in interest or divided in purpose. We stand together until the end” – Woodrow T. Wilson.
It seems that the collected wisdom of human experience tells us that unity is a good thing. Even human wisdom tells us that when people come together they can do things they wouldn’t be able to do on their own. It also makes sense to human reason that true unity does not come from a superficial cooperation. A group of people standing at the same bus stop do not have unity. In the same way, simply attending the same church does not mean we have unity. True unity comes from a fundamental agreement in beliefs and a common purpose. True unity means working together to reach a common goal because everyone has a belief that points them to that one goal.
The question for us today is: “Do we have unity here at St. John’s?” What do you think? Unity can certainly be damaged if we each focus on how we want to worship and we fail to ask, “How does God want us to worship?” or unity is hindered if our opinion on which Lord’s Prayer to use is based on each persons individual preference and no one stops to think, “Well, what would be pleasing to God?” I, too, have hurt the unity in this congregation when I recently I asked whether you would prefer one worship service or two. I asked you to think about your own personal preference. That’s not unity. What I should have asked is “What would be more beneficial for this church? What would be better for your brothers and sisters in Christ?” Forgive me and remind me in the future if I make that mistake again.
Do you see what gets in the way of our unity? When our focus turns inward toward ourselves and our own desires, we hurt our relationship with God and with one another. Any time we put our desires above God’s desires, we sin – no matter how small that desire seems to be.
But, when we focus on God and let him direct our lives, we have unity with him and with one another.
We could compare it to our choir. What would it be like if one person started to sing the notes he or she wanted to sing instead of what was written in the music? It probably wouldn’t sound good, would it? That’s why the members of the choir study the music. They put aside their individual preferences for the good of the whole. They follow the direction of the person who composed the music and of their director. The result is a beautiful sound that communicates the Gospel.
Sin in our lives causes discord in the music we make as we come together as Christians. Self-centered thoughts and actions remove the harmony and replaces it with cacophony. Sin separates us. But greater than the sin that separates us are the promises of God that unite us.
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he was telling them about the promises of God. Before Paul wrote this letter, he had a change of plans in regard to Corinth. He had planned to visit them, but then could not. The Corinthians started to wonder if they could trust Paul’s promises. He now assures them that even if he had to change his plans, God never does. God always keeps his promises – in Christ. All of God’s promises are “Yes” in Christ.
God’s very first promise to fallen Adam and Eve was that he would send a deliverer to rescue them from Satan’s power. Did he? “Yes!” Now all who believe in that promised Savior are also rescued from Satan’s power.
Christ’s selfless act of sacrifice was a promise kept. As the life-blood drained from his body, the cross became the instrument with which Jesus traded his perfect life for our sin stained life. With that act all of God’s promises to you became “Yes”.
Is God’s promise true that he forgives you for the discord you have caused by your sin? Yes, in Christ you are forgiven for every sin, every offense against God and neighbor. All the disunity caused by putting ourselves first is all wiped away. Because Jesus died for you, God looks at you and sees someone who is holy, someone who has led a perfect life.
Is God’s promise true that he adopted you into his family at baptism and made you his child? Yes, in Christ you are part of the family of God and you can call Jesus your brother and God, your Father.
Is God’s promise true that he will protect you from everything that is truly evil? Is God’s promise true that he will use everything that happens to you for your good? Yes and Yes, you are his child. You are the reason he sent his Son. You are the reason he has prepared a place for you called heaven. He will keep you safe.
Is God’s promise true that you will never die? Yes, even though your body will cease to function, it will be raised back to life and you will live with God forever in a place of perfect unity.
All these promises and more are “Yes” in Christ. But how do these promises unite us? Well, what happens when you believe something is true? You act on that belief. If you believe it is safe to go out of your house, then you will go out of your house and live a normal life. But if you don’t believe it is safe to go out of your house, perhaps if you lived in Egypt right now, you would believe that you were not safe outside and so you would stay in your house.
Since we all believe that God’s promises are true, doesn’t that mean that our actions based on those beliefs will be very similar? Since we believe that God’s Word contains the precious promises of forgiveness and eternal life, we will frequently come together to hear those promises. Since we believe that God will work all things for our good and that he has prepared an eternity of blessings for us, then we will not despair when trouble comes, but turn to God for strength to bear up under it.
Do you see the connection between what we believe and what we do? If we believe the same thing, then our actions are also going to be similar. And so we have the theme for today – we are “United under God’s Promises.”
When God gave Noah the sign of the rainbow in the sky, he promised that he would never again destroy the world with a flood. Every time we see a rainbow we can be reminded that God is keeping his promise. As Christians, we don’t just have a rainbow to guaranteeing that God will keep his promises. We have the Holy Spirit. He is the guarantee that all of God’s promises are “Yes” in Christ. So that by the Holy Spirit we can say, “Amen” – It is true. I know it is true. God promised. And in that promise we have unity.