United in Spirit
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes that we should live a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called. He goes on to describe what that looks like, and ends with this line: “maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
The mission statement of the United Church of Christ now reads, “United the Spirit and inspired by God’s grace, we will love all, welcome all, and seek justice for all.”
As we continue on our spiritual journey into the mystic, we are looking at the various phrases that ended up in the Purpose, Mission, and Vision statement of the United Church of Christ – this week I reflect on these words: United in the Spirit.
They are more than a little reminiscent of Paul’s own words in Ephesians that ask us to maintain the unity of the Spirit as a way of living out the calling to which we have been called. As we relate past with present here, we note that the context for both Paul’s words and the UCC statement is mission – that for which we were called.
Paul argues that to live a life worthy of our calling, we must maintain the unity of the Spirit. Unity is a condition that follows discipleship. Because we are called onto this pathway, we must, as followers of the one we call Jesus, work to maintain the unity of the Spirit.
The United Church of Christ has always known that this unity was central to our identity as disciples. It has always believed that its mission will only succeed if such unity remains central to our way of walking in the world. Love, hospitality, and justice all emanate from that fundamental commitment to maintain the unity of the spirit.
And so it is as we begin to express our mission – a call to love and welcome and justice, we can only do it if and as we remain united in spirit.
This podcast will be released on the very day Americans are called to elect a new president. These moments always sharpen a focus on the divisions that persist in this country. Few of us who vote today can remember a time when the divisions were as pronounced as they are right now. Many of us anticipate, and fear, that no matter the outcome of this election it is going to very hard to heal the wounds that these divisions have opened.
Now more than ever, those who walk this spiritual pathway must work to maintain the unity of the Spirit. No love will be received, no welcome accepted, nor any justice survive if not offered in a true spirit of unity. Discovering pathways of common cause, interest, and purpose in a climate where battles are fought on political, theological, and biblical fronts will not be an easy task – but it may be among our most important.
This is exactly what disciples of the risen Christ must seek. It is a noble undertaking – this commitment to maintaining unity. It is truly something worthy of the calling to which we have been called. Those whose side wins today cannot let their joy or relief serve as an impediment to healing deep wounds of division and misunderstanding. Those whose side loses cannot let their anger or their disappointment keep them from both accepting the outcome of a democratic process that gives all a voice and vote, or from committing to repairing the damage inflicted on an erstwhile United States of America.
Gentle souls, every day something will happen to threaten our oneness. But a spirit is alive which seeks to maintain unity. As you seek your own spiritual pathway, know that spirit. Choose to walk with her. Let her guide you. Trust that her impulses will always arc toward love and justice – and then we can all walk together on our journey Into the Mystic