Our church has been involved in a movement of anti-racist churches in Lansing, Michigan. As the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning, and following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, a Black gospel singer in the area reached out to us to help organize a “Prayerdemic.” The Prayerdemic included an open letter from Christian leaders in the region taking a stance against racialized violence.
The letter was carefully written to garner support across a broad theological spectrum of Christian traditions. Mainline denominational progressives signed the letter as well as evangelical conservatives. White, Black, and brown Christian leaders signed it. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a local document signed by so many diverse Christian leaders.
Despite this overwhelming consensus, I received one email from a local pastor who told me that while he agreed with 99 percent of the letter, he couldn’t sign it because he disagreed with one sentence. How much do you have to agree with a fellow follower of Jesus to partner together in mission?
My list of required agreements has gotten very small: Jesus and love. I’m not saying certain disagreements aren’t important, but I can overlook a lot if we agree on Jesus and love. I’ve taken my cue for this shrinking list from Jesus himself.
In our reading today, Jesus prays that we would be unified in our love for one another as Jesus is unified with the Father and the Spirit in love. He prays that the world would know the unique nature of who he is by the unity of love that his followers have for one another. That seems like a big challenge some days. Thankfully, Jesus is praying for us to accomplish it!
Where do you need to overlook a disagreement with another follower of Jesus for the sake of shared mission?
How did you first hear about the gospel? Was it from your family or a friend? Or was it from a completely unexpected source? This week’s readings remind us that God uses many different techniques of revelation. Paul and Silas are in prison in Philippi, and the guard of the prison has no idea that he is about to encounter the power of God and come to faith. The psalmist says that creation itself reveals God’s glory and power. In Revelation, Jesus speaks directly about his future return and reign, as attested by his messenger and by the Spirit. Jesus prays in John for his followers, because through their unity the gospel will be proclaimed to others. Although Jesus ascends to heaven, the revelation of his plan and purpose does not end.
Read Acts 16:16-34. Recall a difficult time in your life. Were you able to continue to praise God through this time?
Read Psalm 97. Write your own word picture of what it means to be a child of God, who is in control.
Read Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21. How has Jesus’ invitation to partake of the water of life changed you?
Read John 17:20-26. What signs of division do you see in your community? How can you work toward the oneness to which God calls us?
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