Archives For unity

Many of us are overwhelmed with a sense of anxiety right now. For the most part, if we are to compare our situation to those in history who have suffered trials, we have some things in common and can glean some lessons.

Here in Nashville, we’ve been tested less than two weeks ago by a tornado which ripped through the middle of our city and surrounding counties. I’ve seen more volunteers than ever rise up to serve as true Tennesseans making me proud as the Church in action, a city of true brotherly love, and a group of Americans gathered to serve their fellow man. Now we face something new yet familiar­ –­– something that forces us to stand together not in proximity but in distance. It is a battle that we have to fight differently. There are lessons from the past to guide us.

Recently I read The Killer Angels, which was made into a movie called Gettysburg in the early 1990s. I hope many of you have read and seen its adaptation. If you have not, it is worth your time since you have a lot of it now. Perhaps one of the most famous stories from the battle is about Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a 34-year old professor of modern languages at Maine’s exclusive Bowdoin College. In 1862, he left there to join the newly formed 20th Maine regiment, which had been organized under President Lincoln’s second call for troops on July 2, 1962. One year later to the date, Chamberlain and the 20th Maine would face their greatest test at the battle of Gettysburg. A unit fielded a total of 1,621 men but at the time leading up to Gettysburg was reduced to some 266 soldiers. Earlier, 120 three-year enlistees from the 2nd Maine Infantry were marched under guard under the 20th Maine. They were mutineers and claimed they had only enlisted to fight under the 2nd Maine flag, and if their flag went home, so should they. By law, however, the men still owed the Army another year of service. Chamberlain had orders to shoot the mutineers if they refused duty but instead, he offered them something different. Almost all of them joined Chamberlain.

On Little Round Top near Gettysburg, the 120 experienced combat veterans from the 2nd Maine brought the 20th’s ranks up to 386 infantrymen and helped hold Chamberlain’s wobbling line together. The rest is history and the 20th Maine does hold the line to save the Union lines. The battle is won and perhaps even the war.

Watch the speech here.

You can read more at Battlefields.org.

Chamberlain’s talk to these men and the way he conducted himself in the battle help us today in the following ways:

  • We reminded in tough times that we are one.

In the book and movie, Chamberlain reminds those who are weary that “What we’re fighting for in the end is each other” Let us not forget that my situation is as dire as yours. But we all must be reminded that there will be others who will suffer more. Let us be compassionate and sacrificial in our ways to serve them.

  • Look to the person on your side.

While this situation requires us to have distance from our neighbor, we can still love them. As Chamberlain was constantly checking in on his soldiers, we can do the same by standing strong with them in good communication, encouragement, and prayer.

  • Be prepared for drastic measures.  

The situation may worsen and could require us to go into full lock down. If this happens, be prepared to fix your metaphorical bayonets like the 20th Maine and charge down Little Round Top. Like them, we will get through this.

I’m no scholar.

I’m no dummy, either (I think).

Almost 20 years ago, I accepted Christ while recognizing his great love offered for me. It was simple to me. I needed help and he was there. I took the step and I’ve never looked back since.

As I’ve grown as a Christian and naturally in age, I’ve come to recognize that not everything in life makes sense to me. Not that I don’t seek the great answers to life and even some of the smaller ones, I have just come to realize that God knows and I am generally okay with that. One thing that I do realize is that the more I try to figure it out by myself, the more confused, alone, and lost I feel. Like the show, LOST, the characters struggle to fight their way on “the island” individually versus bonding together. It is a common theme in the entire six seasons of the show. I love that show because it is a central theme of life. Alone we are lost. Together, we are one.

The classic line from Jack, the hero of the show is,

If we can’t live together, we’re gonna die alone.

Early in my Christian life, God instilled the verse Ephesians 4:3 NIV in me, especially remembering it whenever I was in any petty argument or witnessed one in the church.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.

Every time I read it, it hits me like a brick.

God commands us to make every effort. Not to fight each other. Not to live alone. But to keep the unity no matter what.

I am far from qualified to speak of or have any sort of wisdom in how to heal this but God showed me something recently that made more sense of it.

I was at a great friend’s father’s funeral this past weekend. While waiting for the service to begin, I looked around at the wide variety of people in the sanctuary. They were all over the midwest; from various economic, faith and cultural backgrounds. Despite this ragtag group’s looks, they came together in remembrance and celebration. They were unified in love and thanks for a great husband, friend, father, and son. It was beautiful like a glimpse of heaven. Next we all recited something magical.

As Christians, most of us have read the Apostles Creed. I was moved because I believe that God gave it to us through some brave men of faith in the early church to remind us of what matters most. My friends, whether they be Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, or any other Non-Denominational variety can all pretty much agree on this creed and most recite it on a regular basis in their own churches. I wish we all could live this creed with the thousands of churches that are in this wonderful yet fallen world. Imagine what we can do together.

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. AMEN.

Can you imaging if we read this everyday?  Read it out with me my Christian brothers and sisters. We will feel one together before our God and can serve better as one because of it.

Live together or die alone.

Recently I was deep in a conversation about church with two friends. I don’t even remember what we were talking about and it was probably something trivial. My friend was Catholic and I go to an Episcopal/Anglican church. In response to one of the items discussed the other person said,

You guys don’t go to a real church.

My friend and I were awestruck that he had the audacity make that judgment even though he was semi-joking. For proper context, this person went to a very impressive and cool multi-site/online church. (Yep, I just caught myself judging him right back) I know his church well and I hope you understand this clearly from me – I really love the work that they do. I think God is doing some amazing work through multi-site churches but unfortunately in what I observe among these cutting edge churches is a sense of arrogance that they are the only ones doing God’s work. Too often I see churches acting alone when they could together in unity do so much more. I have obviously contributed to this problem and if I as a follower of Christ do not embrace Ephesians 4:3, then I am a fraud.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Courtesy of Reverendfun.com

What is the call of the church, though?

We need to fish better, together.

After I became a Christian in 1994 through people who cared deeply about me in Young Life, I attended several very conservative churches and really enjoyed them. As I grew as a Christian, I became more aware of the complicated intricacies of “the church.” These nuances have not been something very attractive to me. Maybe Young Life prepared me to keep things simple? Jesus loved me so much that he died for me and by that love I am supposed to love others. That is a strong enough challenge in a cynical world. I love churches full of people doing something. Sign me up now.

Bob Goff said in his latest book Loves Does (Thomas Nelson, 2012),
Secretly incredible people keep what they do one of God’s best-kept secrets because the only one who needs to know, the God of the universe, already knows.
 Bob goes on,
Secretly incredible people just do things.

My church is not perfect and it sure isn’t full of perfect people either. It is part of a denomination that is full of controversy and struggling to grow and find its identify in this changing world. Coming from my background, It has been difficult to find my way in how I can serve well within it. As I attempt to uncover layers of the larger church, I’ve learned about people at my parish church, St. Bartholomew’s Church, who behind the scenes are part of a great caper to serve and love others. These people come from various backgrounds seeking the church as a haven, love Jesus, and are doing incredible things in his name. The genius thing about it is that I don’t hear them bragging about it. These people have embraced their role humbly and are loving others in Jesus’ name the way he calls us. I know of plenty of people at the multi-site church mentioned above who are doing great things as well and that is what inspires me to act.

I don’t really have time for wrapped up theology and endless debates about what so-and-so preacher said in response to what another said. I want genuine people who act. I have no one to blame but myself for taking part in this church madness overtaken by pride. I want what Bob Goff describes. Who’s in?

Can you imagine each church today joining together as clans united in love?

I’m ready to act. I am ready to love the way Christ called me to.

What does church unity look like for you? 

Tell me about some of the unsung heroes of your church who are behind the scenes making a difference and changing the world?