Last week 8 local congregations gathered — in unity — to worship and pray together. It was good. Good as in Genesis-good, as in “and God looked at what he had done and saw that it was good.” For a few days I want to talk about unity in the church. Let’s start with the overflowing blessings that come through unity.
My grandma helped me to understand the concept of blessing. I remember when I was a kid and we would vacation in California. She would take us to Thrifty’s for an ice cream cone. She always got us the discount tickets to go to Disneyland and then would spend the day with us. I remember sitting at her counter as she would special-order cook my breakfast. At Little Grandma’s there was always a new toy, a special gift, during college it was rolls of quarters to do my laundry. She was full of love and life and joy.
It was always good to go to little grandma’s house because it was always good to be with her. I didn’t understand until later how much of the blessing was wrapped up in her presence…not her gifts, her presence.
But then she got Alzheimer’s…way to early. I was in college when it started. Grandpa wouldn’t put her in a nursing home. But she kept getting worse, mentally and physically. Then they moved to a new home, right next to the house I grew up in. For the last few years five or six years of her life, she lived there…but not really. No more long talks. She couldn’t communicate, I’m not even sure if she was aware of the life around her. No more special order breakfast at the counter, she couldn’t even feed herself. No more special gifts, she was bed-bound.
It was always interesting to watch my kids when we would go to Grandma’s house to visit. They never really had the chance to know her, but they always wanted to see her. They would go into the bedroom, touch her hand, say hello, and then — after a few moments — they would go and play. When they left the room, it was almost as though she was no longer in the house.
I would stay a little longer — we had history — talk to her a while longer, soon I would go. And the rest of the time…it was as though she wasn’t there. Present but not known. In the house, but no longer a force of blessing. Her house but nobody would ask her to be the host. Her kitchen but nobody would ask her to cook. For the most part, once the ritual greetings had taken place she wasn’t present…until it was time for the ritual goodbyes.
And the house was different. It was her house and she was still there, but not present. The blessing was gone, the house no longer overflowed with her blessing.
Sometimes we can get that way with God and his house… with Jesus and his church. Once upon a time, we knew He was there. We consulted Him about decisions and asked for His help often…sometimes we would just sit and talk and it was good to be in His house, because it was good to be with Him. We would find our hands full of special gifts and cook-to-order blessings. But now we have our ritual hellos and our ritual goodbyes and the rest of the time?
Well it’s His house, but it would be easy to be there and be unaware of His presence. And it doesn’t seem like the house overflows with his blessing. Listen. There is nothing more important than the manifest presence of Jesus in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our schools, in the places where we work, and throughout the communities of our region.
The Key to extra-ordinary transformation… the source of overflowing blessing is…the presence of Jesus. We long for the Father’s blessing…we need the Father’s blessing. But his blessing is always wrapped up in his presence. That’s why I am so attracted to these words in Matthew 18:20
For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20 (NIV)