Loving | Embodied
Last week I peeled back the onion a bit and shared with you my affinity for the hit television show Naked & Afraid. If you weren’t here, just search “Teer Hardy Naked and Afraid” on your podcast app and you’ll find it. Actually, don’t search that word combination.
Back to the onion, a bucket-list trip of mine is to a monastery in France
Taizé is an ecumenical community in France’s Burgundy region.
Founded during World War II by Robert Schütz, Brother Roger, the community began as his quest to live a life according to the scriptures. The monetary became a quest to express a different kind of Christian life.
Since the end of the war, Protestant and Catholic brothers have come together to live in community with one another, united in the ministry of Christ and seeking to be a community of kindness, simplicity, and reconciliation.
The Taizé community has become a point of pilgrimage for young Christians from all over the world as they seek to not only live in an intentional community with one another but to also seek to study the scriptures, discovering the love and peace of Christ through their experiences with pilgrims from around the world.
We find ourselves again in Jesus' farewell discourse. After turning towards Jerusalem, Jesus entered the city like a triumphant leader but now we find Jesus preparing to leave this world. Jesus is preparing his followers for what is to come. In the coming hours Jesus will be betrayed by Judas for 30 pieces of silver and denied by Peter. Jesus knows that what the disciples are about to witness and experience will rattle them to their core and their faith in him will begin to wane.
In the coming hours the disciples will begin to ask questions and in doing so, doubt will begin to creep in and as they address/confront one another's doubts the unity of the group once found in their Rabbi will splinter. The disciples will begin to argue and in doing so allow disagreements to move to the forefront of the community, placing the liberating Good News - Christ is risen and ascended - as an after thought. Looking at the first Christian communities through the letters of Saint Paul, it seems much of Paul's writings were to address disunity within the communal recipients of his letters.
Instead of a focus on unity in him, Jesus foresees disfunction, human tendencies taking the place of his call for love, justice, and mercy. Jesus does what he does better than any of the High Priests of the Temple, better than any of the disciples, and better than anyone's most faithful grandmother. Jesus offers a prayer.
In the garden, the place he would arrested in, Jesus prays:
I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me...“Righteous Father, even the world didn’t know you, but I’ve known you, and these believers know that you sent me. I’ve made your name known to them and will continue to make it known so that your love for me will be in them, and I myself will be in them." - John 17:22-23, 25-26, CEB
"That they (us today) may be one as we (Jesus and the Father, our Creator) are one."
Throughout his ministry, Jesus repeatedly pointed to the Oneness shared with the One who sent him, in addition to the Oneness he shares with us, humanity, the created.The embodied unity of Jesus, G-d our Creator, and the Holy Spirit has been highlighted in our readings since Easter.
On the cross Jesus declared that G-d's will be done - that in his obedience G-d's will would be fulfilled and G-d would be glorified. Over the past two weeks we have read about Christ's unity with the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Holy Companion.
The unity of G-d the Creator, G-d the Son, and G-d the Holy Spirit serves as the example for what Jesus meant in his prayer for his disciples 2000 years ago and us as disciples today.
Jesus prayer is not unity for the sake of unity.
Unity not so that church council meetings do not take an ungodly amount of time.
Unity not so that we have a perfectly defined and organized doctrine.
Unity not so that we are just going through the motions of living out our calling.
Unity "so that the world may believe that you have sent me."
Unity so that the world may come to have faith.
That is huge!
Our unity so that others may have faith changes what it means for us to act as a unified body - the Church, not just Mount Olivet of the United Methodist Church.
The problem is that we think unity comes from nearly defined doctrinal statements and books of discipline. We try to make others confirm to what we believe to be the correct expression, practice, and teaching and in doing so we begin the process of splintering and breaking apart that which was unified in Christ's lordship and noting else. As theologian Stanely Hauerwas puts it, "Jesus is Lord. Everything else is bullshit."
Christ's lordship because of his faithful unity with our Creator is the unifying point for the Church. At the end of the day, we can faithfully debate doctrine, disciple, and Church law but if we lose sight of Jesus as our unifier, then the faithful debate is for nothing.
Unity in Christ is a powerful witness to the world. After all, Jesus prayed that our unity will bring others to faith. We are a community of people marked by the waters of not only of our baptism but Christ's baptism as well. We are sent out to embody the faithful unity of G-d into our community and the world.
Our sending and embodiment makes us dependent on one another. If a person or group of people are told to leave the community because of doctrinal or other disputes, we have missed the point of Christ's perfect faithfulness and love.
If the hand tells the food it is not needed and can be cutoff, the body is not unified.
The disposable mentality towards others when living in community receiving its identity in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus tells the very people for whom Jesus prayed would find faith because of our faithfulness we are anything but the unified body we claim to be. Our lack of faithfulness to Christ's prayer for unity tells those still looking to find faith that there is place for them at Christ's table of grace, when the reality is that we were invited to table despite our lack of unity. And it is Jesus' table of grace where we find ourselves unified in his sacrificial offering for us.
"This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” - John 13:35, CEB
The work the Taizé community has been engaged in since 1940 is rooted in unity. Unity among Christians during and after World War II but also unity among the Church in the midst of division and disagreement. But in everything they community does, they point to the life death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
Unity in the community is not for the sake of attracting another bus full of pilgrims, but rather to share the life saving grace of Jesus Christ. The brothers depend upon one another for their daily care.
The work beginning with Brother Rodger and continuing today at Taizé lives into what Christ said in John 13, “This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other,” so that the world may come to have faith in Christ.
The world will know Christ's love by not the unity we advertise, but by the unity we find in Christ's love for one another. Our unity - beyond Mount Olivet the United Methodist Church but also including them - shows to the world Christ's love through the way we love one another.
The Good News is through Christ's faithfulnesses to us, Christ's prayer for us does not change because of our lack of unity or faith. Our lack of unity - our willingness to cutoff and push aside part of the body - does not reduce what happened in Bethlehem, in the Jordan, on Calvary's Hill, in the empty tomb, or in Christ's ascension.