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One in the Spirit

May 27, 2019

How wonderful it is, how pleasant, for God’s people to live together in harmony! . . .  It is like the dew on Mount Hermon, falling on the hills of Zion.  That is where the Lord has promised his blessing—life that never ends.” (Psalm 133: 1, 3, Good News Translation)

A few days ago, Mammoth Mountain announced that it would be extending its ski and snowboard season into August this year. That has only happened twice before, in 2017 and in 1995.  The rainfall and snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountain range this year was good news for all of California, and especially for the Central Valley farmers who rely on a healthy snowpack to provide water for their crops and to restore groundwater levels that the drought of recent years has left depleted.  Water is necessary for all animal and plant life.  It gives us energy, it cleanses us, it refreshes us.

In Psalm 133, David extols the virtues of God’s people living and working together in harmony, comparing it to the refreshing water that falls on the foothills of Mount Hermon. The pilgrims who sang David’s psalm of ascent as they walked the 17 miles up from Jericho to Jerusalem were aware of the importance of water for all living things: “How wonderful it is, how pleasant, for God’s people to live together in harmony! . . .  It is like the dew on Mount Hermon, falling on the hills of Zion.  That is where the Lord has promised his blessing—life that never ends” (Psalm 133: 1, 3, Good News Translation).[1]  The summit of Mount Hermon is on the border of current day Syria and Lebanon. It is the highest summit in the area.  Like the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the melting water from Mt. Hermon’s snowpack has fed springs at the base of the mountain and watered plant life below the snow line for centuries.

Water is a symbol of the unity of all the saints—of God’s people—because we are united with the Holy Spirit at our baptism.  The Holy Spirit lives in the hearts of believers.  We share that in common. God is the eternal fountain; he sent Jesus, as a spring of living water, to quench the thirst of a dying world. The Holy Spirit was also sent by the Father to minister, guide, and satisfy our deep-seated thirst or need for the things of God.  We receive the Holy Spirit at our baptism, when we are reborn in the Spirit.

The reading from Revelation emphasizes the healing quality of the water of life:  “The angel also showed me the river of the water of life, sparkling like crystal, and coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing down the middle of the city’s street. On each side of the river was the tree of life, which bears fruit twelve times a year, once each month; and its leaves are for the healing of the nations. Nothing that is under God’s curse will be found in the city” (Revelation 22: 1-3, Good News Translation).  When we are in heaven, we will again have access to the tree of life, which was forbidden to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

John quotes Jesus’ prayer for the unity of all members of the church and for all who would follow them: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 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. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17: 20-23).  It was a rough road, but through it all, the apostles remained true to the teachings of Jesus, and encouraged all in the early church to remain unified in purpose and faith.

The unity theme is continued in the reading from Acts. In the book of Acts, Luke recounts the acts of the apostles during the 30 years after Jesus ascended into heaven. The early church was established during those 30 years.  One of the first acts of the apostles was to appoint an apostle to replace Judas Iscariot, who had betrayed Jesus. One requirement for the replacement was someone who had been with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry, so that he had the full benefit of Jesus’ teaching.  The other requirement was that he was an eyewitness to the resurrected Christ (Acts 1: 21-22).[2] They understood the importance of unity among themselves. The apostles were unified in purpose and in method. They prayed for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

God crafted each of us as a unique person, so we will not always agree on everything.  We can play the same song on different instruments in the orchestra. But it is important that Christians remain unified in the belief in the crucified Christ—the foundation of our faith—so that “the world will know that you [the Father] sent me [Jesus] and have loved them [you and me] even as you have loved me”  (John 17: 20-23).  Jesus prayed for the unity of believers so that the world may know that he was sent by the Father, and that every person who ever lived and who will live is loved by him.  He has given us all a second chance to trust and obey.

Working together as a unified body in Christ attracts people to us.  Jesus was winsome.  He attracted honest people to him because he spoke the truth and expressed his love for people by what he did for them—showing them hospitality, feeding them, healing them, praying for them, encouraging them, and loving them.  When we aren’t sure which path to take, our first recourse should be to express our love for others through our actions, and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. That is his job—to walk beside us, to guide us, to comfort us, to lead us. Let him do his job.

Begin working for harmony now in your family, in your workplace, in your church, in your community, in your nation.  It is a choice you can make.  It is easy to spot others’ deficiencies and to capitalize on them and to complain about them.  It is easy to play the part of the victim.  It is easy to disrupt and cause dissension.   It is difficult to resolve problems amicably.  It takes a much stronger and self-confident person to overlook differences and to try to work together in peace.  Are you up for the challenge?   Jesus prayed for you over two thousand years ago and continues to pray for you. Show your unity in the Spirit so that the world knows that God loves every creature and person that he made.

Prayer:   Starting this week, I am suggesting that you practice the ancient art of lectio divina, or praying the Scriptures. I’ve listed several verses/phrases that you can choose from to pray this week during each day, throughout the day, as you begin each new task, while waiting for an appointment or in line, or at any other time during the day or night.  I generally use one phrase for each day.  But sometimes it is hard to give up a verse and go onto the next. If that happens to you, hold onto the verse that has resonated so deeply with you until you are ready to move on to the next.

If you keep one verse or phrase with you for an entire day or two, it will become a part of you. Each time the verse comes to mind, repeat it a few times, and let it sink into the recesses of your soul, as you meditate on what God is saying to you, and how the Holy Spirit wants to use it to bless you and to provide insight and guidance to the challenges of your day.

You might want to start a list of each day’s lectios in a paper journal or in the notes app of your iphone or android, to ensure that you have it with you throughout the day.  The list also becomes a source of great comfort and assistance when you need to pull up a verse that has helped you so much in the past.

For a deeper understanding of lectio divina, see Father Luke’s article,  “Accepting the Embrace of God: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina”  at https://www.saintandrewsabbey.com/Lectio_Divina_s/267.htm

You can choose your own verses or use those listed below that were taken from this week’s Scripture texts to get you started:

  • Live together in harmony!(Psalm 133: 1).
  • Jesus’ prayer for you:I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one . . .(John 17:20).
  • Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17: 23b).
  • The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true.(Revelation 22:6)

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1]The Scripture texts for the Seventh Sunday of Easter are Acts 1:12-26; Psalm 133; Revelation 22:1-6 (7-11); 12-20; John 17:20-26

[2]  A few years later Paul was accepted as an apostle because scholars believe that he was tutored by the resurrected Christ in the Arabian desert after his conversion on the road to Damascus.

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