Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
Color is a complicated concept. While even a 2 year old can correctly name a color, to understand how we see color is difficult. A simplified explanation tells us that color has three properties: hue, the shade, e.g. red or green; saturation, the strength of the color; and luminance, the brightness of the color. When I took this image with my camera it recorded all the properties of color. You see the image in black and white because I changed the color properties with my image editing software. My software allows me to change any one of the color properties of the image and when I do it changes the whole image. For example I can take a fall scene and increase the saturation of the yellows and reds to make the trees stand out. Or, as I did in this image, I can de-saturation an image so that the green of the grass and the pine needles and the brown of the tree trunk become shades of gray.
When we say that someone is color blind what we are saying is that the person doesn’t see all the properties of color. He or she only sees saturation and brightness but not hue. The image a color blind person sees is incomplete. In the same way we can be color blind when we look at our world. Just like the properties of color we all have properties though which we look at the world - our race, our economic status, our neighborhoods, our politics, and even our religious beliefs. We develop a kind of blindness, our vision is incomplete. The result of all of our color blindness is division and disunity.
The church at Corinth was having such a problem with discord and division. Paul wrote to them to help them get over their color blindness, to develop a complete vision. He admonished them first to examine themselves to look to see what properties were missing. If we are going to live in unity with all, we will need to begin by examining the way the properties of our lives influence the image we see. We will need to listen to those people whose properties are different from ours. We will need to see where and how we are color blind. It won’t be easy and will most likely be painful. We don’t like to think of ourselves as racist or prejudice but when we look carefully we will find that we are. Our vision is incomplete and our image of the world is missing something. While we don’t have editing software that will allow us to easily change the properties that we are using to see each other, Paul writes to the Corinthians that we have something more powerful - “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” This is the only way we can began to remove the divisions and walk in unity with each other.
God Of All People
Examine our hearts and show us where the properties of our lives keep us from seeing the unjust way we and our culture treat others. Give us the courage to reach out to someone whose properties of life are different from ours. As we listen to each other give us wisdom to find ways to seek justice for all who have been oppressed so we can live in unity.
Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
I have always loved Queen Anne’s Lace so I was excited when I saw this group in the gardens. When I looked closer I saw this tiny purple flower growing in between all the Queen Anne’s Lace. I liked this one especially that seemed to be poking its head in the center. It would have been easy to overlook without looking closely with my macro lens.
In this passage of scripture there is one phrase that can be easily overlooked, “along with the women.” In our modern culture when men and women routinely pray together we just skip over this little phrase. But, in this time, the idea that women and men would pray together in one room was something that just wasn’t done. It was because of Jesus’s love and teachings that both male and female followers of Christ prayed together. From this small group of men and women the church began to spread the love of Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit.
In our country today we are divided: black/white, republican/democrat, liberal/conservative, rich/poor, wearing a mask/demanding our rights, and on and on. We seem to have lost the ability to think of anyone but ourselves, our side. We focus only on winning and end up hurting each other. We need to pray together again. We need to see things from the other side. We need to grow together like the Queen Anne’s Lace and the little purple flower. This will only be possible when we trust the Holy Spirit and allow him to convict us of our sin and show us how to walk in service to our fellow humans, especially those on the other side. Then, like the two flowers made more beautiful because they are together, we can find unity in Christ.
Give us a heart of love. Teach us to love our enemies. Give us wisdom to find ways to seek justice for those who have suffered injustice for so long. Give us courage to take one small step and reach out to someone on the other side, in the power of your love.
View the post for February 27 for an explanation of my Lenten Project
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Recently I learned that the root systems of aspen trees are different from the root systems of other trees. Each aspen tree in a grove of aspens is a shoot from a single root ball with their roots connected and intertwined - each tree coming from one single source. When Jesus prayed with his disciples on the night he was betrayed he not only prayed for them but also for us, his disciples who would come in the future. He prayed that his disciples would have a kind of unity like that of an aspen grove. He prayed that our roots would be intertwined like his were with Father God. He knew that we would need each other to walk through this life. He knew we would only find the source for life and strength in him as he found his strength in Father God. He prayed for complete unity made possible by God’s love. Dear friends may we seek to be intertwined with each other like the aspen trees, many shoots with one source, our Father God.
Intertwine our hearts. Show us how we can love each other as Christ loves us and let our unity lead others to you.
And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?
Come and sit with me by the creek. Listen to the mountain stream. Feel the soft breeze through the trees and the coolness of the evening air. Come and see the mighty works of God. Each of us hears, sees, and experiences God in different ways. He made us that way. After we have walked with God alone, through valleys and mountains, then we need to sit with each other and share those times. When we take this time to step across boundaries of language and culture, then we learn new ways of experiencing God. And we hear him even stronger in our own language and stand amazed in his presence.
Come and sit with us today. Teach us to listen and to appreciate the many ways you speak to your children.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
At first glance, it looks like one single, little flower working hard to push through the rocks. But when you look closer you see that it is more than just a single flower but a plant of many parts, each part serving its own function. Together each part not only helps the plant survive but reproduce and make many more plants, some in the same place and some carried away by water, wind, and creatures to grow in a new place. Christ meant for the church to be like this. We all have different gifts and when we use them to support and help each other then we grow together as a community and can spread the love of Christ both near and far.
Help us to see the value in each person. Help us to help each other find the purpose that you have for us so that together we can share the love that you so richly lavished on us.
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Two small flowers pushing their way though the fallen log remind me of the power of living in community. Community can only be accomplished when we allow Jesus to join us together. For it is through his grace that we are brought together. When we learn to see ourselves and each other as God’s precious children then we can become a dwelling place for God with the rich fellowship of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
In these days of deep division in our world, teach us to love each other. Help us to love one another the way you loved us and then dwell in our midst.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
It was the spring after the fires in the park as we walked on the Cove Hardwood Trail. Everywhere were fallen and burned trees, but underneath them the spring flowers were beginning to bloom again. All varieties growing together after the devastating fires, pushing up from the scorched ground.
One of the most important things about being a part of a church is the strength that you draw from each other when you face fiery trials. When you walk in the light of Jesus, you find others who are following that light and you don’t have to walk alone. Like the flowers after the fire, you will bloom again.
Father of Light,
Thank you for the church and the people you put in our lives to walk with us in the light of your love. Cleanse us from our sins and grow us in the rich fellowship of your love in Christian community.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6-8, ESV
Just about any place you hike in the Smokies in the spring you will see trilliums. There are many different types and colors of trilliums. But no matter their color or size, they will always have three leaves and three petals. Members of the body of Christ, like the trilliums in the Smokies, have a variety of gifts. We all are called to serve Christ using the gift that he has given. Even though we have different gifts we all have the same Lord and grow in the same soil of his love.
Thank you for the gifts that you have given each of us in the body of Christ. Help us to use those gifts to bring you glory.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! Psalm 133:1, ESV
If you want to find wildflowers you must walk slowly and look carefully all along the trail, as all the other hikers pass you by. As I walked along the trail on my first wildflower hike of the spring, I saw these two little flowers, a trillium and a hepatica, growing so close together that they looked like they were one plant. Even though both species of these flowers can have different colors, both of these specific flowers were white. There they were both sharing the same ground and the same color, living in beautiful unity, unique and special because they were growing so close to each other.
I think these two little flowers are a picture of what it should be like for us as Christians to live in our world, a world filled with fear, isolation, and individualism. We have all been washed clean and white by the sacrifice of our resurrected Lord. We all take strength from the same soil, the word of God. Yet sometimes we seek our own way and fail to love each other. Living in unity means we will have to let go of “rugged individualism” that our society seems to value so much. We will have to take the focus off of ourselves and look hard for ways to meet the needs of our brothers. And when we do we our field of view will grow beyond ourselves and we will be filled with peace from the beauty we see.
As we move through our world today open our eyes to the needs of our brothers and show us ways to meet those needs. Broader our field of view beyond ourselves so we can live in unity.
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