Glenda Simpkins Hoffman
Today was the inauguration, and the theme of President Biden’s speech was America United. Whatever our political views, I think we can agree that we are a divided nation in which emotions are running high. I hope we can agree that building unity and peaceful cooperation toward a better future would benefit us all.
But today I’m not writing about unity in America. I want to address the topic of unity in the church, because it is something God cares about deeply. In Ephesians 4:1-5, Paul writes, “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
In this passage, unity is the end goal, but it starts with who God is: one God revealed in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the Trinity we see and experience the relational nature of our God who created us in his image to live in loving relationships with him and with others. The Trinity is the source of our being. By grace through faith we are drawn into the new life by the Spirit and the one body of Christ. This is all God’s doing. If we live our true identity, we will experience unity with one another. But how does this happen?
Paul encourages each follower of Christ to “lead a life worthy of the calling to which you are called.” We are called as God’s children to reflect his image in us as we love the Lord and love the people, serve the Lord and serve the people. It is our inner attitude and outward actions of humility, gentleness, and patience that enable us to bear with one another in love—even in the midst of difference and times of anxiety.
We need the Holy Spirit to transform us so that we become the kind of people who are “response-able”—able to do what needs to be done in the moment. As I said in my earlier post, each of us is called to become more like Christ. As we are transformed, we are able to experience God’s love more and more and share that love with others. This is what brings about a sense of unity—our shared relationship with God as our Father and with each other as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.
In times of change, transition, and uncertainty, we are tempted to focus on what we don’t know. But what is needed is to focus on what we do know about our Triune God who never changes and our identity in him that is secure and stable, no matter what may be happening around us.
Not only do we need to stay connected God, but we also need to stay connected with each other. Our mission is becoming like Christ together: We live out our transformation in community through loving relationships
In times of anxiety, it can be tempting to withdraw. COVID-19 has caused us to be more physically isolated from each other. In times of transition, people may get weary of all the change and decide to withdraw. But what is really important is to stay connected with others.
Another temptation is to try to control what we can’t really control or even try to force an outcome in a way that is unhealthy, unhelpful, hurtful, and even harmful. We saw the disastrous results of that at the Capitol a few weeks ago.
There is another alternative: Stay connected to others. Relationships are where we grow and change the most. Life change happens best in community. It is in the context of relationships that we can know and be known, love and be loved, serve and be served, celebrate and be celebrated. During times of change, uncertainty, and anxiety, it’s important to stay connected with others.
I have been encouraged to witness how some of the women in the Monday night and Tuesday morning Bible studies have become more personally connected through this period of the pandemic. They are sharing more and praying for each other more and remaining connected during the week.
I’ve been encouraged by those connecting around racial reconciliation to listen and to learn. This is a way of staying connected when others are pulling away or acting out.
There are many kinds of communities to learn, grow, pray, and serve together. Staying connected is always important, but it’s never more important than now in this time of transition as Pete retires. As I have said before, we will grieve his absence in our midst. We will continue to pray for him and Chris and all God has ahead for them.
And we will live into the hope and truth that God has a good future for him and for us. Again, it’s important that we stay connected with others. Who are the people in the church you are connected to right now? Who are the people you know who are not connected? What could each of us do to reach out to stay connected and help others to stay connected to each other in this body of Christ at VPC?
There are many ways to love the Lord and love the people, serve the Lord and serve the people. Let’s stay connected and live the unity we already have in unity.