Sermon Illustrations on Unity
Across All Barriers
Across all barriers of land and language, wealth and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, we are one, created from the same dust, subject to the same laws, and destined for the same end. With this compassion you can say, “In the face of the oppressed I recognize my own face, and in the hands of the oppressors I recognize my own hands. Their flesh is my flesh, their blood is my blood, their pain is my pain, their smile is my smile.”
Taken from Henri Nouwen, With Open Hands, Ave Maria Press.
The Victory of God
The victory of God in our time over this deathly idolatry is hidden from us, as God’s decisive victory is always hidden from us. We do not know exactly when and where the victory has been wrought. It is hidden in the weakness of neighbor love, in the foolishness of mercy, in the vulnerability of compassion, in the staggering alternatives of forgiveness and generosity which permit new life to emerge in situations of despair and brutality.
Walter Breuggeman, Source Unknown.
The Church of San Diego
We were recently with a collection of pastors in San Diego and were asked to share about our common call to peacemaking. Fully aware of the posturing and isolation of many of these churches, we found it a sacred experience to see these individuals gathered together representing their respective communities. Also fully aware of the inherent tension resting under the surface, we opened with this: “If the apostle Paul were still around and wrote a letter to the church in San Diego, it wouldn’t be labeled First Presbyterian, First Baptist, Calvary, Evangelical Covenant, or any other denominational name. It would be labeled ‘the Church of San Diego.’”
Jon Huckins & Jer Swigart, Mending the Divides: Creative Love in a Conflicted World, InterVarsity Press.
Playing Second Fiddle
An Admirer once asked Leonard Bernstein, celebrated orchestra conductor, what was the hardest instrument to play. He replied without hesitation: “Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm or second French horn or second flute, now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.” (Source: James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited, Tyndale, 1988, p. 450, Brett Blair, Sermon Illustrations, 1999.)
Togetherness & The Genius of the Gold-Saddle Goatfish
The gold-saddle goatfish is a small fish native to Hawaiian reefs with a distinctive coloring. In the past few years, divers in Hawaii have come across a fascinating phenomenon. During their regular dives, they’ve begun to notice a large fish with the same brilliant colors as the gold-saddle goatfish. Upon closer inspection, the divers realized this wasn’t one large fish, but in fact a school of gold saddle fish swimming together in such impressive unity and in such a perfect fish-shaped pattern as to appear like one imposingly large fish, not to be trifled with. It turns out, when the gold-saddle fish feels threatened, they join together, unified in fish formation to appear much larger.
The gold saddle goatfish provides an important lesson for those facing threats. Do we turn inward, trusting only ourselves? Or do we “huddle up” with our neighbors, our friends, or even our churches to face the oncoming storm, be it a global pandemic or something of a local variety?
Stuart Strachan Jr.
Walking Towards Unity
Some marches are not against anyone or anything. They are marches for something or someone. Jesus. Peace. Hope. Unity. In a town where I lived for many years, a few of us organized an annual Walk of the Nations. It wasn’t against anything. It was a sign of unity.
We called upon the community—schools, churches, business, government, First Nations leaders, clubs, and all and any individuals—to walk together. Hundreds responded. We walked together as a sign that, whatever the differences between us, we were neighbors.
We all loved our children and our parents. We all wanted a community that was safe and flourishing. We all wanted to live without fear, hunger, hate. So we walked. As far as I know, that community still gathers every year to do this.
This kind of walking—walking as a sign of unity—has a deep echo in the twenty-five Psalms, from 120 to 134, called the Songs of Ascents. These songs were sung by pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem, to the temple, to gather and to worship and to feast.
…Rich and poor, old and young, male and female, slave and free, every tribe and tongue and nation—all walk together to the same place and sing as they go. The singing, as the walking, helps level differences. It declares shared cause and shared faith and shared humanity. I wonder what it would look like to recover something of this in our churches. In liturgical churches, a form of the Ascent Psalms is preserved in processionals, where the community sings as the officiants march into the sanctuary, holding the Scriptures aloft. I dream of being part of a church that does this. We walk together singing. We invite onlookers to join us.
… For your next walk, consider inviting along two or three fellow church members. Find something that will unify you—a cause, a prayer, a penitence, or a praise—and enact your oneness in a walk.
Mark Buchanan, God Walk: Moving at the Speed of Your Soul, Zondervan, 2020.
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