Saturday, February 19, 2011

Week 4 - Beyond Solidarity to Community

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
John 17:21

It is not enough to live in solidarity with those who are poor and suffering the world. It is not enough to validate them, to see their plight and to feel badly. It is not enough to mail them a check. These are all points of beginning, but they are not the destination described in Jesus’ prayer for oneness.

In the Way of Jesus, solidarity and community are two vastly different things.

Solidarity says, “You can exist in my world;” community says, “You can live with me, under my roof.”

Solidarity says, “I’m sorry you’re sick;” Community says, “Have my medicine; I am well only if you are.”

Solidarity says, “It is horrible that your children are starving;” Community says, “Your children are my children, too.”

Solidarity says, “I wish things were fair for you;” Community says, “I choose to take your suffering as my own; we will work for justice together.”

Solidarity can abide with a distance and detachment that love cannot, and love is the new law of community in the kingdom of Jesus.

In his book, Community and Growth, Jean Vanier says this:
“Belonging should always be for becoming…Community is not for producing things outside of itself; it is not a gathering of people struggling to win a cause. It is a place of communion where people care for others, and are cared for by others; a place where they become vulnerable to one another.”

Vulnerability or openness – of heart, of mind, of faith, of resources – is required for the oneness of Jesus to occur. Without it, there is no real community for any of us.

The Real Question: Where is God inviting me to move beyond the safety zone of solidarity and into His community of oneness and love?

Family Talk: What would it look like for our family to do a better job of loving one another?

ONE in Prayer: God, forgive me for the times that I have settled for a comfortable solidarity when you have been calling me into community with others. I offer my heart, my mind, my faith and my resources to the vulnerability of your transforming love. Father, make us one. Amen.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Week 4 - The Work of the Spirit

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
John 17:21

How can oneness ever be possible in the Body of Christ or in the world when we are all so different? How can we ever achieve this?
We can’t. Only the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Jesus Himself – can accomplish making us one.

God has given us some compass points, however, so that we can tell if our lives are directionally correct in terms of being formed more in the image of Jesus. Some of these points, we often refer to as the “fruits of the Spirit.” Galatians 5 lists them simply for us:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control…Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” [Galatians 5:22, 25]

These things – love, joy, peace, patience, and so on – are not a to-do list for the spiritual. They are precisely the things we cannot do; they are the results of the Spirit’s work in us. What God is telling us all along, over and over, throughout Scripture is, “You cannot do it yourself – and, you do not have to. I am here.”

So, the work of becoming one with God and one another is the work of opening ourselves up to God’s transforming presence and power in our lives. It is allowing the Spirit to work with freedom and creativity in us so that the world, and we as a part of it, comes to experience the fullness of life in God.

The Real Question: Where do I try to perform my way into holiness rather than simply allowing God to do His work in me? How can I let go today to give the Spirit more freedom to work in me?

Family Talk: Ask your kids to take in a deep breath, hold it and then slowly let it out. Remind them that God’s Spirit is much like the air we breathe. It is God living in us that makes it possible for us to be one with God and one another.

ONE in Prayer: God, You see me and know me. I invite your Spirit to come into my heart and life in a new way and I ask You to work freely in me to accomplish what only You can do. And I know that this will be very good. Amen.

There was a time when life turned upside down and some my Lakeland family came to my home to pray for me. I remember being overwhelmed seeing them come into my home one at a time there to just “be” with me. The moment we started praying I couldn’t stop weeping the pain of everything came rushing forward and through the barriers I was trying to hide it behind. Suddenly a calm came about me and the weeping stopped and I just felt like it wasn’t a bunch a friends there praying for me but the arms, hands and face of God in that room living that moment with me. Feeling God isn’t something we often get a chance to tangibly do. I did that day. Each and every one of those women represented God’s love for me.  
- Tracie

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Week 4 - Oneness, Not Sameness

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
John 17:21

Although it may sound pessimistic, when we’re honest, we know that it is true: there is nothing in the world – no system, no politics, no economy, or cause – that is going to make us one. The world operates in a system of self-preserving power; it insists that the only way to live with another is to coerce conformity. Sadly, the Church has operated similarly at times. But this is not the way of Jesus; He operates in self-surrendering love.
In one of his letters, St. Paul gives us a picture of what living in this kind of love is meant to look like:
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ…. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”… If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” [1 Corinthians 12:12, 19-21, 26-27]
God is not calling us to sameness, but to oneness. We will always be distinct in who we are, but God provides His own love as the bond to create connection where the world would mark separateness. When one of us suffers, we all feel it. When one hungers, we all go without. When one of us finds joy, we all celebrate. As we take on Jesus’ life of self-surrendering love, oneness not only becomes possible, but the norm.
The Real Question: Do experience life as part of the Body of Christ? Do I hurt when others hurt, celebrate when others celebrate? Do I really live as one?
Family Talk: Share with you children the differences you see in them. Be sure to include how putting those differences together as a family makes you a stronger more complete family.
ONE in Prayer: Jesus, I thank you for the beauty who You have created me to be in Your Body, the Church. Please help me to see and value others in the Body, and to cherish and protect the bond of love for which You paid the ultimate price. Amen.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Week 4 - One with Others

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
John 17:21

His own prayer reveals that Jesus wants us to be joined with God and with each other, but He also wants more than that. He is bravely asking His Father for the whole world; He doesn’t want anyone to be left out. He says that if we are one in God, then the whole world will see and believe that God has come to them.

Becoming one with others is not just a sappy sentiment reserved for campfire songs; it is integral to our given mission of spreading the life of God in the world. If we are not one, the whole message has not gone out, the full text of the Good News is remains undelivered.

Simply “believing” in oneness without practicing it through action is not an option for followers of Jesus. The Bible is quite clear:
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?...Faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” [James 2:14, 17]
Choosing to live as one with others requires a commitment to live what I believe out loud. It demands that I actively seek out and set aside what separates me from others, and invite God’s love to conquer that divide. It means moving through fear and forgiveness. It insists on letting go of self-preservation in order to embrace another.

The Real Question: How do I practice oneness with others? What do my actions reveal about my love?

Family Talk: Pick one members of your family and have everyone else express one thing about them that they like, admire etc. If time allows pick another member and do the same thing.

ONE in Prayer: God, Help me not just to believe in love but to live in it. Give me Your passion for oneness with God and with others and help me to bring about Your kingdom, even in the small and daily decisions of my life. Amen.

College life was unique for me in that our campus ministry was truly "One". For a while, we cleaned random peoples' dorms, prayed together, ate together, and even gave drunk people rides home from the bars together. The unity among us was so strong that we felt very comfortable and at home talking about the many things God had done and was doing in us and for us.
- Andrew

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Week 4 - One with Myself

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
John 17:21

Wait. Didn’t Jesus say that we have to “die to self” to follow Him? Yes, he did. But to “die to self,” you need to have a self to die to first.

God is not asking you to hide your failures and just swap in new behavior plan. He is actually asking you for a lot more. He wants you to be healed and whole. He wants you to be well, at the top of your game. And then die; and then get empty. That is the sacrifice of love – not the leftovers of yourself.

The self that God gave you – regardless of what kind of shape it may be in at the moment – was intended to be a container to carry the glory of God. The Apostle Paul put it this way:
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)

If parts of you are crushed and broken, God will help you – because He cherishes you, and because He knows that you have amazing potential. Your healing is not the end of your story; it is just barely the beginning. But it is a necessary beginning. Get into the transforming presence of God so that He can change you into the whole of who He has always intended you to be. Then, you can shine as His follower and build up others.

The Real Question: Am I “one” with the self God has given to me? What places in me need the healing touch of God, to bring Him glory?

Family Talk: Ask your kids a series of questions leading to a key point.
Q: What does the Bible say about everything that God made? It is good, beautiful, amazing, and more!
Q: Where did you come from? Who made you? A: God
Q: What does that say about you? A: I am good, beautiful and amazing!
God made me, and that makes me very special!

ONE in Prayer: God, I thank You for the gift of myself that You have given to me. I ask for Your help to become aware of the places in me that still need Your healing, restoring touch. I pray that You would reunite my life to Your hope for who I can be in the world, for the glory of Your name. Amen.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Week 4 - One with God

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
John 17:21

Be with the One who loves you.

At the core of Jesus’ prayer, in the message of His life, in the whole of the Gospel, that is the very simple (but not easy) invitation that is spoken over and over and over again. We often make it seem like so much more than that, but this last prayer of Christ repeats the bottom line like a steady heartbeat: “I am God, and I want you to be with me.”

When we hear and accept that invitation and allow its truth to seep into our hearts, past the thick walls that we have constructed out of fear and woundedness, we are gradually but consistently transformed. We begin to see that we are not alone; God is with us. We come to understand that none of us live singular lives; Jesus’ prayer was for all people to be connected to Him and to each other. We come to realize that our living is always an expression of something – or Someone – greater than ourselves, and that our choices reveal what that is. We begin to desire what God desires. Our prayers begin to echo Jesus’ prayer for the world, asking God to join us to others as we are joined to Him.

In following Jesus, not only are we saying “no” to all of the things we want Him to save us from, we are also, even more so, saying “yes” to a brand new way of life. We are saying yes to a life that is one with God’s heart for ourselves, others and the world. We are saying yes to an eternity of surrender to Love, starting here, starting now.

The Real Question: Does my heart say “yes” to God? Have I accepted His invitation to live this day with Him?

Family Talk: Talk with your kids about the earliest time you remember saying “yes” to God’s love for you.

ONE in Prayer: God, Your love is something that I can never understand, but I do accept it. I need You. I want to live each day in Your company. I surrender to Your love. Amen.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Week 4 - Last Words

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
John 17:21

When someone is facing death, we pay special attention to what they say. Last words can carry the weight of a whole life within them. They often tell us in a nutshell something essential about the person speaking.

The night of His betrayal that led straight to His execution, Jesus spent time in prayer. While it was not unusual for Him to pray at length to His Father in heaven, this was no ordinary prayer. This was His last recorded prayer before the events of His death churned into motion. Like so many other last words, the words of this prayer reveal something essential about the Person who is speaking them.

And what did He pray for, knowing what lay ahead? Did He pray for punishment to come down on those who opposed and threatened Him? No. Did He pray for world peace, to avoid all death and destruction? No. Did He pray that His Father would provide an escape for His followers to flee the dangerous world? No.

Jesus prayed for oneness.

He knew that there is but one solution to every threat or danger, suffering or injustice, and that solution is to be one with God, just as He was Himself. God is love, and only Love can adequately address anything and everything that comes to us in this life. Love keeps us safe, at peace, and forgiven. Living in Love, living in God, is the only way that we can live with God and each other as one and experience a taste of the togetherness for which we were made. That is the life that Jesus has and the life He most wants for us. It is what was on His heart just before He died.

The Real Question: Do I share Jesus’ ultimate desire for me: to be one with God and others?

Family Talk: Question:-What are the two greatest commandments according to Jesus? Answer: Love God and Love others. What does it mean to love?

ONE in Prayer: Jesus, I join your prayer for me – to live as one with God and others. Build into me an awareness of Your love that holds us all and let Your love guide my life. Amen.

Over the last few years, a oneness with our families has grown.  We have been through traumatic times together and shared many special memories together as one. Our children are “our” children and there is nothing we would not do for each other. I truly believe that God brought our families together as One.  There is so much joy in a true feeling of ”Oneness,” with God especially, when being “One” can be shared.
– Connie

Week 4 - AS ONE

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

John 17:21