Preaching Connection: Unity

Additional content related to Unity

John 17:6-19

Jesus prays for our protection. He prays for our protection so that we may be one, as God is one (v 11). Our unity is a witness to the Trinity. He does not pray that we will be removed from the trials and temptations, from the pressures of the world, or isolated from alternate ways…

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Psalm 133

Come on and admit it: I am not the only one tempted to insert one more adverb into the opening verse of Psalm 133: “How good and pleasant and rare it is when God’s people live together in unity.” We are painfully aware of why the temptation to insert “rare” exists today.  Too many congregations…

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Philippians 2:1-13

This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson offers preachers a virtual embarrassment of theological riches. Its verses 5-11’s celebration of Jesus’ humiliation and exaltation are among Christians’ favorite passages. They, in fact, make up the Epistolary Lesson’s reading on each Palm Sunday. However, as the New Testament scholar Troy Troftgruben notes, this 17th Sunday after Pentecost also offers…

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Acts 1:1-21

It’s hard to remember a Pentecost Sunday on which the brokenness and division of the world into which God sent the Holy Spirit was on fuller display than 2023’s. So much pulls groups of people and nations apart that if people are to be united, something drastic must happen. Yet Luke begins his description of…

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John 17:1-11

Unity, it seems, is that elusive description for God’s church. We hear the calls for it but disagree on the terms. We know it is part of God’s solution for what ails humanity, but we cannot grasp the way of sacrifice on the road to peace. We rightly identify it as the way that Jesus…

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John 4:5-42

Last week, we listened in on a philosophical conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus, and here, we see its message lived out in practice. In fact, over the next few weeks of the lectionary, we are going to watch as Jesus reveals himself to people on the margins, experiencing some sort of separation. Against the backdrop…

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Romans 15:4-13

Few things are arguably in shorter supply in both our culture and the Church of Jesus Christ than unity. It’s not just that the Church has long been divided into Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant camps. It’s also that 21st century churches and denominations seem to be dividing nearly as often as some of us…

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Galatians 3:23-29

Occasionally the Revised Common Lectionary’s choice of where to begin and end a Lesson isn’t just puzzling. It’s also downright bewildering. This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson is a case in point. After all, the chasm between verses’ 23-25 and 26-29 may seem to be a kind of grand canyon that has no bridge that crosses it….

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John 17:20-26

Though Jesus prayed this prayer before his crucifixion and resurrection, as part of the season of Easter this passage continues to shape our understanding of the Resurrection New Life that God invites us to live. This is especially true because Christ’s prayer is for his people across time and space—and not just the disciples who…

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Ephesians 2:11-22

Could Paul say anything more counter-cultural yet hopeful than Christ has made the two one? (14). We live, after all, in a world that’s deeply divided along so many lines. In fact, the gaps those fault lines create also seem to be widening. Democrats vs. Republicans. Liberal Party members vs. Conservative Party members. Vaxxers vs….

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Acts 2:2-21

Arguably it is harder to write a fresh sermon on Pentecost than on Christmas or Easter.  Those last two major events in redemptive history are proclaimed in multiple Biblical texts, so there are different angles to take on Christmas and Easter.  Pentecost, on the other hand, is reported in only one text, our text for…

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1 Corinthians 9:16-23

It’s perhaps somewhat ironic that in Epiphany’s season that focuses on light, the RCL appoints epistolary lessons whose mysteries leave at least some of its readers in the dark. It doesn’t help that the RCL often drops its proclaimers into the middle of chapters that discuss of complex issues. This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson is no…

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Philippians 2:1-13

We sometimes think of tensions within the Church, between churches or among Christians as new phenomena. Christians sometimes assume that, for example, the veritable plethora of denominations and congregations is a somehow recent development. This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson, however, suggests that tension within and among churches is ancient. After all, tensions in the Philippian church…

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Romans 14:1-12

Americans live in a “me first” culture that would rather talk about our rights than our responsibilities. We like to sometimes loudly assert our right to privacy, our right to choose, our right to bear arms and even our right to cheer for the New York Yankees. After all, doesn’t Americans’ secular Holy Grail, the…

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Romans 12:9-21

When my family travelled in Asia we saw nearly countless products that were imitation brands. One of our favorites was “Poma” (not Puma) athletic shoes. Those knock-offs, in fact, looked quite a bit like the real thing. But they were actually low-quality counterfeits. When he invites his readers to “love” in this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson,…

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Ephesians 2:11-22

When a text begins with a “Therefore” or a phrase like “After these things . . .”, you as a reader know you have to back up and read what came just before.  Sometimes we don’t do that, of course.  We have come to view the Bible as so many chopped-up chapters and verses—with convenient…

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Acts 2:2-21

Throughout nearly all of recorded human history, people’s inability to communicate with each other has divided us.  So for people to somehow come (and stay) together, something dramatic must happen.  In fact, since human efforts to fully unify people have proved largely futile or temporary, we might add that something dramatic must happen to us….

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Acts 4:32-35

Acts 4 is enough to break your heart. Was it really true at the earliest stage of the Christian community that the believers were completely one in heart and mind? Did they really share absolutely everything even as they fell adoringly and reverently at the feet of the apostles, hanging on their every word (and…

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Psalm 133

As is so often the case with the RCL, Psalm 133 seems an odd choice for this second Sunday of the Easter season– until we read it in conjunction with the other readings for today.  Read in the context of Acts 4:32-35 in particular, it is very clear why we should focus on Psalm 133. …

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Romans 14:1-12

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, inevitably any number of people have been asking whether the issues half-a-millennium ago are still relevant today.  Some even wonder if there has not been enough reform in the Catholic Church to warrant and undoing of all that Martin Luther kicked off back on All Hallowed’s…

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Psalm 133

This tiny, jewel-like Psalm is perfectly suited to our times.  Its wise words about the blessings of unity need to be heard and believed and practiced.  But even the best preacher will struggle with this little nugget, for two reasons.  First, our world is so divided that even the most eloquent sermon will sound like…

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1 Corinthians 1:10-18

In the previous sermon commentary on the first 9 verses of 1 Corinthians 1, I riffed on Tom Long’s suggestion that Paul wrote those opening verses with tongue firmly embedded in cheek.  He praises the Corinthians for the very things Paul knows full well they were in deep trouble over.  He names as would-be compliments…

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Romans 15:4-13

Acoustics are everything when it comes to how a text is heard but in these days of political turmoil—a roiling pot of many feelings that is bubbling up in also the church—Paul’s call to “accept one another” for the sake of God’s greater glory is bracing.  Right now a lot of people I know—including the…

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Psalm 67

Easter is long gone, but Psalm 67 and the other readings for this sixth Sunday of the Easter season keep the Easter theme alive by foreshadowing one of the most astonishing results of Christ’s resurrection. Let me explain that by putting Psalm 67 in liturgical perspective. Next week, we will celebrate Christ’s Ascension when, according…

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Galatians 2:1-14

To be differentiated as an individual is to be defined and connected at the same time.  The principle of self-differentiation comes to us from the family systems theory.  Aside from Christ, no human being is completely differentiated.  We all, the apostle Paul included, could be plotted somewhere on the scale of differentiation of self.  Sometimes…

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1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

Today there is a great deal of concern about the weak state of the church in western civilization. Millions have left the church to join the ranks of the “nones.” That is a serious problem, but I want to suggest that an even greater problem is the one Paul addresses in our text on this…

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Galatians 5:1-15

Comments and Observations: Unity is often confused with uniformity.  When every individual within a group has the same opinion, practices the same habits, and has the same preferences; unity seems to be natural.  What happens, however, when individuals come from different racial, cultural, economic and educational backgrounds? We can be tempted to believe that unity…

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Ephesians 2:11-22

Comments and Observations If ever there were a text that resonates with life today, it is this ancient word.  In this text Paul answers the burning question at the heart of the immigration debate in America.  What is the right path to full citizenship?  Of course, Paul is not talking about full citizenship in a…

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Psalm 133

Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider Psalm 133 is a song that at first glance appears to applaud familial unity.  After all, it uses familial language when it speaks of the wonder and beauty of “brotherly” unity.  In fact, some scholars suggest this lends credence to the idea that families sang Psalm 133 on their…

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