"for in Christ you are all children of God through faith. As many of you were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." In other words, and to relate Paul and Johns language pictures; "you who are in Christ, are part of the one vine, you are connected, sourced, fed and find your life through Christ." You, he says, the Church out there, Paul is addressing us, a church celebrating an anniversary of coming together, of unity, of connectedness. And Paul reminds us, and all churches, of our fundamental identity in Christ "in Christ you are all children of God, through faith."
But the reality we live with every day is different isnt it?
We live with disagreements and tensions, even in the church. Divisions of long standing, denominationalism, debates, schisms and even wars have been fought over our differences.
Is it heresy to believe in the ongoing charismata ? the gifts of the Spirit, the issue was dividing the church 1700 years ago and again in many places through the last century. Today, still the Church debates the proper role of women in the church and matters of sexual morality and leadership. Deep divisions are formed, splits are threatened so it is very timely to be reminded of what Paul says to a young church facing a crisis of division:
"In Christ," he says, you are all children of God, through faith." part of the one vine this is your identity, he tells them.
But identity has consequences, because of this common bond, Paul concludes, "there is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave nor free, there is no longer male or female, for you are all one in Christ."
Debate, discuss, argue if you must, but, says the Apostle of the early church, it is of your very nature now to be one. To be Christian is to seek unity, to be connected, to be bound together because, in Christ all barriers are transcended, all divisions broken down, all issues rendered second rate, - for in Christ we are one!!!!
Uniters by our very essence as Christians.
Then it is in this oneness, that is the gift of Christ, that we share as one around our Lords table. Here we bear witness to our unity and pray for a greater unity, here we are fed by Christ, our true vine.
In the image of Christ, the vine and of us as branches, we have not only the same picture of unity and connectedness, but there is a further extension; fruitfulness. The vine exists for the purpose, not just of hanging together, but of producing fruit.
So, in the life of the church there is training and pruning, seasons come and go, the time of certain committees, organizations, groups, functions of buildings even will come and go. There will be pruning, but all for the purpose of continuing to be fruitful.
Hanging together for 27 years as a Uniting Church is good, but only because our unity is in Christ and it exists to bear fruit that brings glory to God. To God be the glory in all that we do! Amen.