Unity - St Bride's: Reflection

St Bride's: Sermons


Philippians 4:4-14 and

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Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.

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It is not that long ago that we had St Paul's letter to the Philippians as one of our set readings.  I said then that it is one of my favourite letters and pieces of St Paul's writing, so I am more than happy to be enjoying it again this morning.

The letter to the Philippians has been called - not only the most tender letter that Paul ever wrote, but also the most delightful. It brims over with expressions of praise, confidence and rejoicing, despite the fact that this is one of Paul's prison epistles, written in Rome during his first imprisonment.
Paul exhorts the Philippians to stand fast in the Lord. He gives specific directions to some - and to all general directions - and expresses, despite his own situation, the need for contentment in every condition of life.

Within the letter there are some wonderful themes one being - An appeal for Steadfastness and Unity.

Paul does not use the word unity, but the plea for it prevails, as it does in other letters. The word itself is not used often within scripture. As far as I can see it is used only three times.

In Psalm 133 we read - How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity. - it is a Blessing. Unity is used twice in the letter to the Ephesians both times in chapter 4 where the follows of Christ are urged to make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.
This does not mean that the desire and the call to unity is absent in teachings of both the old and the new testaments. Certainly there are examples in our Lord's life and teaching when the spirit of unity is encouraged.

So too - It is very much part of the teaching and in understanding God. And is at the very heart of God, seen vividly in the concept of the Trinity - or Tri-Unity - In Communion and in Unity. So Unity and the need to have all things in common is of Christ's teaching AND part of the life and being of the early church.

In The Acts of the Apostles we hear that the believers were one in heart and mind - having everything in common - in fact - dwelling in unity.I like to think that the desire for Unity is a God given - a God instilled attribute and that we prefer and work towards unity - Harmony in our lives rather than disharmony and disunity, although when we look around at this troubled world it is sometime very difficult to see how it can be so.

I am or tend to be one of life's optimists - and try to see the desire for unity in the people's motivation for doing things - indeed in all of life. I was away during the recent Scottish independence debate and watched it from afar, I thought then that the desire to maintain union would come through. I was so glad that I was not proved wrong.

As Christians, in a world where so often fear and disunity is a much greater reality than peace and unity, it is, or at least should be our aim to live out the gospel of true shalom - peace - wholeness - unity and harmony in every way we possibly can.

I have been fascinated reading the recent newspaper reports on the researchers from hospitals around the world, including Southampton and London, who conducted a study on the experiences and brain activity of 2,060 people who suffered cardiac arrest. 330 survivors spoke of many things - some talked of (and I quote) - a "sense of unity with the universe".
Some of the things written were difficult to grasp - Nevertheless I was intrigued that unity featured in the report.

I believe that it is a concept and goal for us to look to - to aspire to and to hope and pray that others might do so too. For us that might never be on a grand scale - but simply where we live and in those areas where we have our being and live out our daily lives.

To do this we need to - as St Paul urges - to persevere in all things especially in building unity in the Church - in our and in others lives.

Here at St Brides after this period of interregnum, there is a new journey to begin, a new path to walk -- together. Having everything in common AND in doing so - finding peace. And Paul concludes in a wonderful way with the promise of God's abiding presence as the God of peace.

So - We take all of that and we embrace that which is good - continually
given thanks and being thankful that we have this peace in our hearts - so that we can experience how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity.

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