The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Yesterday during fellowship time, I got to talk to a 6th grader in our congregation about Boy Scout Camp. It took me back to when I was a Boy Scout and all the fun I had at camp. He talked about the camporee that he was at this past weekend and his troop competed against other troops from other places in Oregon. His troop only had four members and the were competing against troops with as many as 20 people in the troop! The challenges were harder for them because they each have their unique skills but not as many skills as a troop of 20.
This reminded me of my own winter skills challenges that I participated in as a Boy Scout. And, it reminded me of lunch. When we went to this event, we were all told to bring a can of soup. The kitchen would combine the cans of soup together to feed all of the scouts for the day. Thankfully, they mixed like with like; the didn’t put tomato soup with the chicken. And even though you might be eating “chicken” soup. Your bowl might have spiral noodles and pieces of carrot, you might have straight noodles and little chunks of chicken like you find in the “OG” Campbell’s soup, or you might even get a dumpling and a mushy pea depending on what cans of soup were dumped in the kettle. It tasted like chicken soup but you could identify some of the brands and varieties in the pot.
When Jesus talks about he and the father being one, he’s talking about unity. He’s talking about sharing the same mission, having the same goals. He’s not talking about uniformity or how he and the father are absolutely the same. We confuse uniformity with unity all of the time. And, by doing so we can misinterpret what Jesus means when he says that he and the Father are one. Going back to the soup example, all of the chicken soup tasted good together yet each retained some of it’s uniqueness.
As the church, we have been formed into one body. A body that is united in a common mission and a common goal. But we aren’t uniform in our beliefs and approaches to life. This is part of what makes us unique. Bethesda is a little like the chicken soup. As God’s people in this place, we can take on a common flavor but once you dig in, you might find stars and dumplings, carrots and peas, straight noodles and spiral noodles. All adding to our unique identity.
The danger is when we move from unity to uniformity. Then we lose the uniqueness, we lose the individuality that comes together to make us who we are. We are both “one”, yet still identifiable on our own. We are all children of God, but like all children we have our unique traits, unique skills and unique abilities. At our best, we use these individual skills and abilities for the sake of the whole, for the sake of the Gospel that we share.
God’s Peace, Pastor Steve