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God's Word on Sunday: Survival depends on the pursuit of unity

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  • April 4, 2021

Second Sunday of Easter, April 11 (Year B) Acts 4:32-25; Psalm 118; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31

The solutions to life’s problems are often quite simple and right in front of us.

The first community of Jesus-followers found a solution that transformed them. They were of one heart and soul — that is, they were united in the essentials of their lived faith. Quarrels, selfishness and divisions were set aside as they learned to treasure and sustain one another. As part of Christ’s body, they were all united on a deep level.

The other part of their new-found way of living was the elimination of the oldest cause of strife in the world: mine and thine. No one claimed ownership or mastery over any of their shared resources, so there was no need for greed or competition.

The quality of their communal life was one of the main attractions for potential converts, for it offered hope and a joyful, supportive way of living. To be sure, the descriptions in Acts are ideals, and they had their problems and controversies. But in a fragmented, violent and unjust environment, the community of believers seemed like an oasis in the desert.

The model in Acts is radical and probably better suited to a small community that is intentional and focused. But the dangers that threaten to overwhelm our world challenge us to re-consider. The crises are numerous: economic hardship and collapse, political failure and environmental degradation. Polarization, intolerance and bigotry fuel violence and fear.

Our church communities must become more focused on a transformed life. The same applies to families, workplace and schools. Sharing, acceptance of others and the pursuit of unity and the common good are powerful tools indeed for the transformation of our world.

We are fast approaching the point where our very well-being and survival may depend on our willingness to give more than lip service to the way of life taught and demonstrated by Jesus and His first followers. It is not as easy as it sounds, for it would require a lot of dying to self and to ego, as well as willingness to let go of many things that we mistakenly think are absolutely essential.

How do we know if we are following God’s path and obeying the divine will? Faith can be an ambiguous term, but it is clear that it does not refer to assent to doctrinal formulas. Faith in Jesus is always reflected in a transformed and increasingly Christ-like life.

We know that we are on the right path when we love God and obey God’s commandments. The Gospel and Letters of John only reveal two commandments that are given by the Lord: to believe that Jesus is the one sent by God, and to love one another just as Jesus did — laying down His life for us.

John’s letter insists that these commandments are not burdensome. That does not mean that they are easy, just that they should give us a sense of joy and fulfillment. Believing that Jesus conquered the world means that we will be able to do the same by following in His footsteps.

Jesus did not come primarily to be worshipped, but to be followed. He was to be the first of an infinite stream of God-filled individuals.

In the upper room, Jesus gave His disciples a mission identical to His own. They were to continue to enlighten hearts and minds and to reveal the true nature of God to a fearful and uncomprehending world.

This would be impossible if done solely by their own power. But Jesus breathed the Spirit of God into them in a stunning act of re-creation. They were made anew and gifted with the powers necessary for the completion of their mission. This fulfilled the promise Jesus made in John 14:12 that His followers would be able to do even greater things than He because He was ascending to the Father.

This same spirit, along with its gifts, is available to all those willing to dwell and remain in Christ continually and permanently in mind, heart and soul. Our faith does not require the tangible physical proof demanded by Thomas but is manifested in transformed lives.

As long as Jesus remains outside of us, we will make little headway. Only when Jesus dwells at our deepest centre will we begin to experience the shared life of the Trinity that He promises to those following Him faithfully.

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