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Easter 7

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John 17:20–26 NIV84
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. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Introduction: This part of Jesus’ prayer on Maundy Thursday seems like an impossible dream. Why? He is praying for unity in a diverse world.
Our world wasn’t always diverse. At least, not according to the Bible. We believe that we all have a common ancestor.
Acts 17:24–28 NIV84
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
St. Paul is referring to the biblical account of creation from Genesis. In Genesis we also learned that a major cataclysmic event occurred at the time of Noah when the world was deluged and destroyed by a flood and only a handful of people survived. We could say that Noah and his family were united although not long after disembarking from the ark, a conflict arose between the three brothers. The next major story in the Bible is the account of the Tower of Babel. It begins with an emphasis on unity.
Genesis 11:1–9 NIV84
1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” 5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” 8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.
This seems to be ironic and contradictory to me. In our text Jesus is praying for complete unity, but in Genesis God dispersed the people because they were united. What is the difference? PAUSE
A key to understanding this is why people unite and the basis of their unity.
In the Genesis account God’s created people were united against God. “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scatter over the face of the whole earth.” This was in direct violation of honoring God instead of themselves and opposition to God’s command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”
Jesus’ prayer for unity is not that people unite against God and his will for their lives but that they unite in serving God and carrying out his will for them.
So when we are seeking unity, we need to as these questions:
Why Unite?
Some benefits of being united is that harmony among the participants, mutual aid and defense, pooling resources together in order to accomplish more.
Harmony among participants.
I have been playing the saxophone since I was in the fifth grade. Either the baritone or the tenor. Neither is a great solo instrument. They are designed be be played with others. Have you ever played in a band . . . or at least listened to one? You realize how important it is for each instrument to be played the right note at the right time.
Other examples include individual players on a sports team and the coordinated use of the parts of the body.
Mutual aid and defense. How long would it take one person to build a barn? I would think it would be a very long process. And yet, many barns have been raised in just day. An entire community of people will gather to put one up quickly because they are working as one.
This is Memorial Day weekend. This military based holiday was designed to remember those who gave their lives for the country. We may reflect on how the armed forces are designed so that battles depend on others to provide a united front in battle. And even how nations will unite against a common enemy.
I’m sure we are all familiar with this motto that emphasizes unity.
"United we stand, divided we fall" is a phrase used in many different kinds of mottos, most often to inspire unity and collaboration. Its core concept lies in the collectivist notion that if individual members of a certain group with binding ideals – such as a union, coalition, confederation or alliance – work on their own instead of as a team, they are each doomed to fail and will all be defeated. The phrase is also often referred to with only the words "United we stand".

Christian Bible references[edit]

A similar phrase also appears in the biblical "New Testament" – translated into English from the historic Greek in Mark 3:25 as "And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand". Similar verses of the Christian Bible include Matthew 12:25 ("And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand") and Luke 11:17 ("But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.").
United States History
The first attributed use in modern times is to Founding Father John Dickinson in his pre-Revolutionary War song "The Liberty Song", first published on July 7, 1768, in both the Pennsylvania Journal and Pennsylvania Gazette newspapers.[4] In the song Dickinson wrote: "Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!".U
Patrick Henry used the phrase in his last public speech, given in March 1799, in which he denounced The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. Clasping his hands and swaying unsteadily, Henry declaimed, "Let us trust God, and our better judgment to set us right hereafter. United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs." At the end of his oration, Henry fell into the arms of bystanders and was carried, almost lifeless, into a nearby tavern. Two months afterward, he died.
During his unsuccessful campaign against Stephen Douglas in 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech centered on the House divided analogy to illustrate the need for a universal decision on slavery across all states.
Since 1942, this phrase has been the official non-Latin state motto of Kentucky.[5]
On the Missouri flag, the phrase is also written around the center circle.
Pooling Resources to Accomplish More
This has been touched on above. Unity helps to provide mutual aid and defense. It also provides a means by which more can be accomplished as individuals work together. In the Genesis account of the Tower of Babel, this was realized. It can also apply to building barns and winning battles. Great projects need a coordinated plan, resources, and personnel to get things done.
Certainly, Jesus as we was looking ahead to the future saw a great vision of what was going to happen after his death, resurrection, and ascension. He understood that in order for his work to benefit the world, the Gospel message would need to be witnessed, learned, believed, and taught. Unlike today when a message can go viral over night, the task of presenting the truth would be much more difficult — but not impossible.
A key component of that happening was unity. And so Jesus prays for it. They type of unity his is praying for is one of agreement on who God is, what he has done to save us, and how we are to respond to it. He compares it to the complete unity he has with the Father and the unity his disciples are to have with him.
On what is this unity based?
Matthew 28:19–20 NIV84
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Did the early Christians understand the importance of unity in doctrine and practice?
Ephesians 4:1–16 NIV84
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” 9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
1 Corinthians 1:10 NIV
10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.
Galatians 3:26–29 NIV
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Philippians 2:1–5 NIV
1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Has Jesus prayer come true?
The Holy Christian Church . . . the Communion of Saints.
Will not be fully realized until the age to come but in the mean time we strive for true unity.
How can we be a fulfillment of Jesus prayer for unity?
Life Application Bible Notes (Chapter 17)
17:20 Jesus prayed for all who would follow him, including you and others you know. He prayed for unity (17:11), protection from the evil one (17:15), and holiness (17:17). Knowing that Jesus prayed for us should give us confidence as we work for his Kingdom.17:21–23 Jesus’ great desire for his disciples was that they would become one. He wanted them unified as a powerful witness to the reality of God’s love. Are you helping to unify the body of Christ, the church? You can pray for other Christians, avoid gossip, build others up, work together in humility, give your time and money, exalt Christ, and refuse to get sidetracked arguing over divisive matters.17:21–23 Jesus prayed for unity among believers based on the believers’ unity with him and the Father. Christians can know unity among themselves if they are living in union with God. For example, each branch living in union with the vine is united with all other branches doing the same.
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