We are One
Acts 1:6-14 & John 17:1-11
May 21, 2023
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Jane Shelton, CRE

We’re all very familiar with the chant, “We’re Number One,” “We’re Number One,” right? We associate that cheer most often at sports events that we are involved with when cheering on our favorite team.

It is also used in other competitive arenas, including educational competitions, retail competitions and so on.

Today, however, I want to talk about the difference in being number one and actually being one. There is a significant difference.

First, let’s take a look at where the disciples are in this place and time, and let’s think about how difficult it is for us to see people we love leave us, whether it is because they are moving away or because they have entered their eternal home. In either case we experience grief and loss and uncertainty.

I imagine the disciples having these same feelings. Imagine how confusing everything must have been for them. The Savior they believed that was sent to them to physically save them being crucified, and watching that horror, actually living through it. Then, in this horrific scene, removing the body from the cross and preparing the body for burial.

While attempting to process all of this horror and sadness, experiencing the mystery and joy of Jesus raised from the tomb. Walking and talking with him in the garden and later in Galilee. The elation they must have felt having him return, it’s what we all hope for when someone we care for leaves.

Yet, just as the disciples and others are processing this information of the resurrection of Jesus, they are being told that he will once again leave them. What an emotional roller coaster!

Life is full of ups and downs, so how do we cope with ever changing situations? Especially those situations we don’t anticipate. Even when we do, it’s not always easy to accept the road we know that has been laid before us.

Interestingly in our Acts scripture, when the disciples ask Jesus if now is the time to restore Israel, Jesus replies that it is not for them to know the time. What is important is that they will be filled with the Holy Spirit to continue the work to be done in the world. God’s work will never be done until the time is decided by God, and our work is to be witnesses to his love and mercy until that time.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked that you be praying for those who do not know Christ, those who search for another answer to life and come up empty, those who turn to weapons with violence and drugs of numbness to end life. How do we help them?

It’s past time that we ask ourselves hard questions. Are we failing as witnesses? Are we recognizing people who are hurting and need help? Where do we see there might be one person to whom we can witness, and how do we witness to them? Are we capable of being a witness? What exactly does it mean to witness to someone?

Sometimes God uses us in some small act that we carry out when we are not even aware how that act touches someone. Sometimes it may be in a word we speak to someone, when we don’t even know that the person we are speaking to needs to hear those words. When we live like Jesus, without judgement, God uses us in our actions. I believe this is one way to witness.

Other ways to witness are when we actually see a need, and we fill that need by providing food, like through Break Bread Together. We can witness by volunteering to deliver a meal, or by providing funding monetarily to help purchase the meals.

We can witness through music by having special talents to play a piano, organ, a flute, violin or hand bells for worship. We can witness by praising God when lifting our voices in song.

We can witness by inviting others to attend our Generations of Faith Sunday School, our Sunday worship, and our First Friday Contemplative Service.

We can witnesses through prayer in worship services, attending Centering Prayer through Zoom, through our Facebook Prayer Group, and through word of mouth.

We can be witnesses in our community when we get involved in our community events like the Break Bread Together Bun Run, Pub Theology and Coffee Corner.

Being a witness is living a life like Christ by having a conversation, showing mercy and grace, and leaving judgements aside so that we can freely accept others where THEY are, and learn about their lives, rather than thinking we live a life more righteous so that we pass them with disregard.

This opens the door to share, not in judgement of where someone is in their life, rather in understanding that people come from different places and with different scars than where we have come with the scars we carry. Everyone’s life is different, their history is different, their paths are different. Our goal as witnesses is to share with them what a life with Jesus looks like, what it feels like. Is it perfect? No. Is it pain free? No. But it is a life that is merciful and allows forgiveness to someone who thinks there is no alternative other than to end a life, or live a life of numbness.

In a life where everyone is told they have to be number one to be somebody, where does that leave people who do not feel they are number one? Our worldly standards of being number one are so much different than being one with Jesus.

One of the most beautiful things written in the Bible may be the prayer Jesus prays for his disciples and followers in John 17.

These were his loyal followers. People that loved him, and even when they didn’t always get it right, even when they were not number one, they began to understand all that Jesus did and said. We’re told they were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together. This group of men and women were devoted to being more like Jesus, and they were focused together in prayer. They were one together.

Jesus was sent by God to show them the way, and Jesus says in his prayer, “they now know everything you have given me is from you.”

“They now understand the words you gave me; they have received and they know in truth; they believe you sent me.”

“I am asking on their behalf (not those of the world), but the ones you gave me, because they are yours and because they are yours, they are mine.”

All are one together in the word of God.

Jesus is asking for their protection because they are all one together. Jesus is asking because he loves them, and they love Jesus, and even more important, they now understand that Jesus and God are one. They understand because of their trust and faith of having seen Jesus, having heard Jesus, and knowing he is the one God sent to save them from darkness into eternal life. A life worth living.

This knowledge didn’t make them, and it doesn’t make us, better than everyone else. It means we have come to an understanding of who God is and who Jesus is having love without limits. As witnesses, are we also capable to love without limits?

How do we witness to show others their life is worth living? How do we show them their life also has meaning? It’s so simple, it is complex…we simply love them. We love them for who they are and where they are, the way Jesus loves us. We let them know we care by acknowledging them and having a conversation with them.

God’s love is unconditional love and this kind of love has healing. It has meaning, and it gives meaning. God’s love holds truth that none of us are perfect. This truth gives meaning to life, it gives purpose, and where there is purpose in someone’s life, they have reason to live life, not end life.

I saw a Facebook post this week by an unknown author that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. It said, “We are all a bit broken in some way, but remember….even broken crayons can fill a page with glorious color…”. That statement takes my breath, and it is so relatable…even broken crayons can fill a page with glorious color when shown they still have color to provide! How do we show others how to color, that they still have it within themselves to fill a page with joy and color?!

We, as witnesses, have a responsibility to make the truth known. Jesus is free to all who believe, to all who trust in all that he has been given from God the Father, and in turn all that has been given to us, not to just hold within ourselves and possess, but to share with others.

Together as one, not being number one, but together as one, the disciples and Jesus followers grew together as one. One focus, one mind, one spirit, and one witness. A full box of broken crayons.

Jesus prayed, “Protect them in your name that you have given me so they may be one as we are one.”

We were chosen to be of one mind, one body, one spirit for the glory of God. One together in Spirit, One together in Christ, and one together in God. We have been led here by the passion of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, broken crayons, together as one, waiting to fill a page with glorious color. May we continue to witness with the same passion as Jesus. Amen.

Cover Image from Unsplash; free domain