Apologies from Joyce

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Joyce Wild writes:
I realised when I watched the service today from Wimborne, which Pauline and I shared, that part of my sermon wasn't there. This is my fault entirely as I was learning how to record and then send to Richard. Below is the full sermon/talk. My apologies to all. Joyce

Sermon for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, 24 January 2021

The Unity of the whole person
Think of any piece of electrical equipment you have in your house. You will know that unless it is plugged in to the source and switched on it will not work. So, it is with us as Christians. Our source though is not electrical it comes directly from God through his son Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the reading from John's Gospel Jesus speaks to his disciples about the connectedness needed to him so that they will bear fruit.

Reading John Ch15:1-17
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
New Revised Standard Version

This portion of scripture asks us to look upon the whole person who is in Christ. It tells us that Jesus is the vine, God the vine dresser and that you and I the believers are the branches. Our role is to bear fruit and to do that we need to be connected to Jesus. How? By reading his word and following his teaching, praying in Jesus' name bringing before God all our petitions and listening fervently for his answers. Deep down within each believer there is that joy that passes all understanding which enables us to know that no matter what is happening around us or too us we are loved and sustained by God. Jesus remained in the Fathers love by his obedience, so we remain in his love by obediently loving one another.
Dorotheus of Gaza, a monk in Palestine in the 6th century, expressed this in the following way — see image above.

Moving closer to others, living together in community with others, sometimes with people very different from ourselves, can be challenging but Jesus reminded his disciples that they didn't choose him he chose them. Just like them our standing and relationship with him is a matter of grace. This is our ultimate encouragement in mission. We go not because we are worthy, or equipped, or attractive or skilled or experienced or in any way suitable no we go because we have been summoned and sent. And surely it is better to go united in Christ with other Christians rather than go it alone.

A time of silence to reflect on the unity of the whole person

The visible Unity of Christians

Reading 1 Corinthians Ch1 v 10-13a
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Talk

At Lunch Club once I was asked the difference between the Methodist Church and all the other churches in the town. Why if you all professed to be Christians did you need so many denominations. Tricky question! My answer was well we all believe in the one true God, we all believe that we come to God through his son Jesus and that by the power of Christ's Holy Spirit each one of us on a daily basis follows the teachings of Christ.
However, like the rest of the human race the church is made up of a variety of people all with differing views and ideas when it comes to the act of collective worship, the way the church leadership works and the type of buildings we worship in. But whatever way we express our love for God does not detract from our fundamental beliefs. We are in Christ and Christ is not divided.
As Christians we celebrate the diversity of the Christian family, we don't condemn others choices, make snide remarks or dismiss others way of doing church.
Rather we accept that the church of Christ is made up of a diverse group of people who can live in harmony with each other whilst at the same time share the resources and talents each church congregation has to offer.
The folk of Blandford/Wimborne should witness that visible unity of the churches when we collectively respond to the social issues that face the people of the town and its outlaying villages. There should a working together whenever possible for the good of the community sharing the gospel message with those we meet on life's journey.

A time of silence to reflect on the visible unity of Christians

The Unity of all people and all creation

Reading Revelation Ch7 v 9-12
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.

When Christ returns or we meet with in him in heaven he won't ask whether we were a Methodist, a Baptist an Anglican, a Catholic, an evangelical or a liberal. No Christ will want to know if we have fulfilled our mission as branches grafted into the vine.
Have we as part of the universal church of Christ shown to a hurting broken world that we are connected to Jesus. Do our words and our actions reflect the Holy Spirit working in us and do those around us see the unity in our diversity as the Church of Christ.
Let each of us take up the challenge of this year's theme and let each one of us abide in God's love and bear much fruit. Amen.

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