This past week has been a time for reflection and a very strong sense of patriotism as we recognize the 75th anniversary of D-Day. On the NBC nightly news, my eyes welled up with tears as I listened to the stories from the few remaining service members who stormed the beaches that fateful day; a day that turned the tide of the war and history. Listening this morning to the French president giving his speech in French, and then, turning to those proud veterans seated in rows behind him, in English, and offering his words of thanks to each of them for their service was nothing short of amazing. The standing ovation for that recognition warmed my heart.
Just last Sunday, in my message I relayed a story from the early days of World War II. As Germany bombed England unmercifully, the British teetered near defeat. German planes dropped tons of bombs on London. The people of London urged the Queen Mother to send her children to safety in Canada. She replied by saying, “The children cannot go unless I go, and I will not go without the King, and the King will not go!” What resolve and what strength to show in such a frightening time! Is it any wonder that England held on? Is it any wonder that they survived? Is it any wonder that they won? That terrible war welded the British together so strongly that it helped them to keep going in spite of the terrors of war.
Inspirational stories like these should offer all of us as sense of pride and unity. War is ugly on so many fronts, but the stories of bravery and unity of purpose should inspire us to be kinder and gentler as a nation and a people. Jesus wanted his people to come together in unity, and he still does.
Are we united as one? Do we talk about “we” or do we talk in terms of “us and them”? The primary purpose of our existence is for us as one body to be effective in our witness to the world. The fulfillment of this prayer is not up to us. The Holy Spirit continues to bless us with unity. Jesus prays for the success of our witness.
God loves diversity, yet God calls us to be one. If we have Christ’s love, we can love one another and we can show the world how much God loves them. Unity is often missing because, although Christians seek to be one with Christ, they refuse to be one with each other. Unity in Christ means that we must give up something of ourselves.
Unity does not mean sameness. It means similarity of purpose, of situation, of allegiance, of intention, and of behavior towards one another. It means accepting. For those who believe, it means gathering under the canopy of creation and being part of a great singleness of purpose.
We are to be the channel of God’s love to the world. When we are ready to consent to love, God is always ready to love back. We have to reach out to those in need, to those who are in pain, to those who are being excluded. We must respect ALL people and the entire environment. Unity in sharing God’s love is a broad and inclusive platform upon which we as Christians can stand and tolerate great diversity. There is no place in this unity for hate, prejudice or writing people off because we don’t like something in their lifestyles. We must do the right thing by following the Golden Rule — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If we do, God will be happy with us from this day forward, for all time.
Pastor Jerry Oliver — Mayfield United Methodist Church and Northampton United Methodist Church at Fish House.