Scripture for this Sunday: Acts 4.32–35; Psalm 133; 1 John 1.1-2.2; John 20.19-31
Unity is a challenging thing. We see it in successful sports teams: a collection of very talented individuals generally does not succeed without that sense of unity that we call team spirit.
Today’s scriptures deal with different forms of unity. The psalm describes in graphic (if somewhat messy!) terms the sweetness of life in unity.
The followers of Jesus found themselves united in fear in an upper room – only Thomas daring to go out and thus miss an encounter with the risen Christ. Yet even so, the others were not so quick to recognise Jesus when he appeared: unity in disarray.
By the time of the very early church, the disciples were united in the purpose of spreading the word of the gospel, and communal life found unity in sharing and mutual support. As time goes on, human unity tends to become frail, and some 50-70 years after the resurrection of Jesus the epistles attributed to John found it necessary to call Christians not just to follow Jesus, but to follow his way of light, too.
Centuries later, Christianity developed denominations and divisions. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed 70 years ago, challenged evangelical Germans to stand up to the Third Reich – unsuccessfully, in the main part. He became drawn into the plot to kill Adolf Hitler, spent much of WW2 in jail, and was executed only shortly before the end of the war.
His writings remind us that we need the presence of other Christians to survive, and that we cannot be stuck in other parts of history: the church must live and act in the present.
He coined the term “cheap grace” that describes adherence to sets of propositions or rules as a delusion of salvation; only obedience to the call to a life of service will do.
Unity is hard to come by and easily misunderstood: it is not uniformity. We are created to be different – a mosaic – people who blend their differences to make a difference in the world. Like a good sports team, we have to learn to reconcile our differences, and seek to find unity in common purpose.