Sunday, October 2, 2011

One From Many, Philippians 4:1-9

Do you remember the movie – Michael; a 1996 movie where John Travolta plays the archangel? The tag for the movies says, “He’s an angel, not a saint.” On their travels, Michael diverts the group because he wants to see the world’s largest ball of twine; 12' tall at least. The task of unifying that much string, yarn, or twine is quite a job.

Yarn Ball - Can you imagine how many individual strands have to be knotted together to make a giant ball? Each strand alone seems inadequate, too small to do much but together they make more.

It’s a classic statement,“Together we are more than any of us alone." We know statements like that about unity but they take on a deeper level of understanding when we have shared an experience of unity. A Lifeboat experience; something that we go thru together can form bonds between people.
I had those experiences during my CPE training at Sibley hospital. The first death you attend, the first hospital-wide crisis.
Life-boat experiences don’t have to be traumatic. A work-camp, a week at summer camp, a week at disaster relief, a retreat weekend, can all be experiences that form lasting bonds between the people who share the common experience.
The common experience crosses the boundaries that might normally keep people apart. We can talk about being one, but until something pushes us across those boundaries, we don’t really feel it.     When we do cross over, the feeling of unity is powerful and good, but it isn’t enough to prevent all future struggles.

LIFE TOGETHER is tough. The 2 co-workers about which Paul writes, evidently had some difficulty getting along. There was enough struggle that the community didn’t feel like ONE. Paul not only encourages them, like anyone might appeal to a leader to solve their congregation’s internal conflict. But Paul immediately turns to the rest of the community, placing responsibility in the whole “life-boat” for the well-being of the members.

Paul sees a bigger picture than most of us have at any given moment. When he speaks of the Book of Life, we are to remember that bigger picture. We are to hear his words, “The Lord is near” and stop trying to figure out when or what it means, and instead realize that the Lord is truly HERE, - every time we act like it, he is here. And our action is what makes us truly ONE.

Perhaps it is easier to talk about than to accomplish.Oh, Paul gives us specifics, saying in v. 8
“whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure,  whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, …think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned . .and the God of peace will be with you.

God’s Spirit’s that brings God's power right into our community, can transform simple humans into more than we can imagine. Remembering that we are part of a bigger picture that includes others, maybe even others with whom we disagree is part of our call as Christians to be ONE.

This transformation of many into one is the way a gifted artist transforms simple strands of yarn into much more. You’ve seen talented knitters and crochet-ers take a ball of yarn and make a masterpiece.
They really change the picture we see from a simple ball of many pieces, into a work of art and a functional cover.

Our lives, our community & our world can be transformed.

But it doesn’t happen passively. Just as the Artist opens her-him self to inspiration then adds their own perspiration to create a masterpiece, so we have to take the life God gives us and make more of it.

God is working here in this place, in this congregation. God has given YOU the ability to work for unity. God GIVES US the ability to create ONE world from many persons.

We are more than yarn strips that someone winds into a ball.
We have to ask ourselves what have we done lately to add or create unity across the borders of life?

1. If other cultures are OUR challenge, perhaps attending one of the many festivals.. Latino TODAY, 1-5 at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

2. If other political views are your challenge, listening, reading and inviting discussion with someone we differ with, can help us learn how we are One beyond our differences.

3. If the border that separates us from others is the difference between support for America’s military action and the work of a peace activist; then we need to find a way to speak to which ever is the "other side" because in spite of these dramatic differences, we are ONE.

The choice is NOT whether to remain a single string or join a communal "BALL."
The choice is whether to be merely part of a ball,
[deluding ourselves into thinking we are in ONE b/c we are all wrapped up tight] or
to add our perspiration to the spirits inspiration in order to create a God-blessed-world where the many make a Beautiful ONE.  

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