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Bangalore flower seller/Photo copyright by Sayan51/Flckr

This morning on the train, I witnessed a conductor’s rudeness to an immigrant flower seller who rides in with two huge and heavy buckets of flowers to sell for twelve hours. (We’ve seen him coming home, and he usually isn’t returning until eight or nine o’clock at night.) This conductor is my least favorite and can be rude to anyone, so I don’t think his responses were particularly influenced by the passenger’s accent or skin color. But as Charles and I were reading Morning Prayer (Good Friday, when we remember we sent Jesus to the cross!), as we were quietly reading aloud the prayer of confession, I exclaimed in annoyance and frustration, “Be quiet!” as the conductor repeated himself over the loud speaker about the necessity of having your passes out (again) after he’d just checked them.

I actually started to laugh. How appropriate. In the midst of asking for God’s forgiveness:

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty, Accept our repentance, Lord. For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us, Accept our repentance, Lord.

Resurrection and life/Photo copyright by DavidRphoto/Flckr

In the middle of these words, I needed more forgiveness! How can I even comprehend how great my need is and how unable I am to gain salvation by my good works and good beliefs. Mercy upon mercy, grace upon grace, love upon love–this is what each of us must receive for salvation to be possible. For a really good blog on how great is our need for grace, read Brett McCracken’s The Horror of Grace.

So thanks to Barbara for the following combined simultaneous post (Maundy Thursday and Good Friday) on unity and the goodness of Jesus work on our behalf from Seminary Gal, Barbara Shafer. I intended to post all her Songs of ascents devotionals, but didn’t achieve that. But, good news, you can read all of them here.

 

Psalm 133:1 A song of ascents. Of David. How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! 2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. 3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

God’s Desired Dwelling Place is among His people.  It’s a place of unity and life forevermore.   This fourteenth Song of Ascents brings us nearly to the top of our pilgrimage of praise, Up to Jerusalem! Looking out over the horizon, the psalmist reflects upon what it means to be God’s people and writes three lines of poetic beauty.

Our psalmist writes that it is good and pleasant–just like precious oil–when brothers and sisters live in unity.  It’s delightful, an eternal blessing and an expression of what true life is all about.  Unity is hard to come by in this world and these days, the “brotherhood of man” seems dysfunctional at best.

Why is that?  True life can only happen because God has given us The Gift of Unity.  Do you ever think of unity as a gift?

Jesus did.  He prayed for this gift for us.  In John 17:20-24, we read Jesus’ prayer.  ”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. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.”

Our psalmist poetically describes The Gift of Unity as God’s heavenly blessing, even life forevermore.  Think about how, like Aaron’s anointing, this unity is holy and divinely inspired:  God models unity within Himself.  He is One God; yet Triune as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

Therefore, Jesus spoke of The Gift of Unity as evidence that Jesus was sent from the Father; proof that the Father loves us; and is the greatest witness to the world that Jesus Christ came to give His life as a ransom for many. The Gift of Unity means that we can experience the relational joy of God’s internal oneness.  By being one people–a community bound together by faith and in the love of Christ, we can enjoy true life forevermore as God’s gracious gift.

Luke 22:7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed… (13b) So they prepared the Passover. 14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” 17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

Photo copyright by Avondale Pattillo UMC/Flckr

Today is Good Friday and the day we remember Jesus’ death on the cross.  At first blush, the name Good Friday seems kind of incongruous.  How can it possibly be good that Jesus died?

In John 14:1, Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

What’s so good about Good Friday?  It’s good for us.  Jesus had to leave in order to prepare a place for us by first making peace with God on our behalf. 

The Gift of Unity we experience is because–apart from the sinless Son of God–every man, woman, and child ever born shares one fallen nature, one sin condition, one common need for a Savior, and for all who believe, Jesus provided the one and only way.

We must share in Christ's body and blood, together/Copyright photo by hoyasmeg/Flckr

This Gift of Unity is seen in no more profound expression than in the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist.   It is here that Christians—everywhere in the world and from Jesus’ Last Supper onward in time—we have a pilgrimage to share a simple meal remembering the one and only Messiah.

Our pilgrimage is no longer once a year to a holy place like Jerusalem or to a temple in that city.  We journey spiritually and remember continually.  We climb the steps Up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Gift of Unity made possible by the new covenant in His blood.  Blood that was shed as the Good of Good Friday.

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:26)