Last week Canadian singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen passed away at the age of 82. I must confess I did not grow up with his music; it was not the type of music that we would listen to on our “boom box”. However, in the past few years I had become quite familiar with one of his songs, “Hallelujah,” as I had seen it performed on several singing competition TV shows. In a recent news report about his death, one of his songs “Anthem” was mentioned and a couple of the verses of that song really stood out to me…
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Immediately I thought about how divided the country is right now. Around election season you always expect people to divide along party lines, but this election season seemed especially divisive. Part of it was the rhetoric of the candidates themselves; however, I don’t think they are the only cause for the division we now see. This deeply rooted division has been there all along, but through this election it revealed itself like cracks in a wall. It’s like peeling of wallpaper only to find that the walls were in fact cracking, compromising the integrity of the structure. It’s sad to see people divide over politics and race or anything else. It can be really discouraging to turn on the news and see the hate and fear that seems to permeate throughout our society. We look around and are sobered by the cracks that we see in so many areas in our communities. But those cracks are also how the light gets in.
I believe now, as much as ever, the church must shine through its unity. Instead of being deflated by the division and hate or yet worse take part in it, we must see it as an opportunity to show those around us what is possible through the blood of Jesus. It’s through our brokenness and the brokenness of this world that we see our own need for Jesus more clearly. As we see the cracks in everything around us, we must remember these hopeful words, it is how THE LIGHT gets in! Against the backdrop of this divided world we have an “in” to spread the gospel. God, through a unified church, can be seen more clearly in a divided world. In fact, because of the cracks of division and hate, the church can shine brighter!
One of the many special qualities about our church is our diversity. Between Central, Mercer and the Shore we have disciples from over 40 different countries in our combined membership of over 280. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that, “the most segregated hour in America is 11am on Sunday mornings.” Although this is sadly true for most of Christian America, I am so grateful that this does not apply to us as a church. Every year in late February or early March we celebrate our diversity as a church and dedicate a worship service that we call “International Sunday”. We sing songs in different languages, we have a flag ceremony at the end of service and then we top it off by having a meal together with food characteristic of the 40 countries that we represent. It is one of the most encouraging services we have all year. But that celebration is only possible because of the redemptive & unifying power of the blood of Jesus!
As Jesus was preparing to go to die on the Cross, what was most on his heart to pray for was unity. The Gospel of John records how he prayed for the unity of His disciples at the time and those to come…
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. —John 17 (NIV)
As Christians, we must remember that Jesus prayed for our unity. It was what was most on his heart. That prayer was for us also, and it is amazing to consider that we can be an answered prayer for Jesus by simply being unified. Equally amazing is that our unity can serve as an evidence that Jesus was sent by the Father and so confirming that he was and is the very Son of God! A unified group of diverse believers can communicate some very powerful ideals. At no time has that communication been more important.
Let’s remember, we are disciples first. Our allegiance is to God above everything! Our hope is in Jesus and not in politicians or political parties! We are in the world and yet not of the world! We may look different, we may have different preferences but we are unified because we have the same love of the Lord! And because we love Him we love one another. In fact Jesus said that we could be identified as his true followers in this world by how we love one another (John 13:34-35). We must seek what unifies more than what divides. We must put the interests of others above our own. Jesus did it and so must we!
Don’t get pulled in to foolish arguments! Don’t allow the division around us to seep into the church! Stay clear minded and focused on Jesus! Don’t let fear rule your hearts, because in Jesus hope never dies! Don’t allow the cracks in the walls around you to cause you despair; remember it’s how the light gets in. Church it’s our time to shine! Let’s shine brightly!
…to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. —Ephesians 3:21