The other day my, girlfriend posted something on Facebook that hit me in a place I wasn’t expecting. Essentially, she was asking mainstream worship artists to stop covering lesser known worship groups’ songs because their versions of the song were not as musically interesting, or just frankly, were bad. While in a lot of ways I agree, I also see value for these cover songs. In the place of unity, the more well-known musicians bringing songs out of hiding allows for more of the Church to have access to them. There is something to be said about making a tool that fits more venues than just an individual’s preference. While I feel preference is recognized by the Lord, how important is it in the grand picture of the Kingdom of Heaven coming to Earth and our role as coheirs in being Kingdom bringers? If you don’t like a version of a song, isn’t it simple to just not listen to it? The reality is that we need both versions of the song. We need both expressions. We need each other.
Over the past year, the Lord has revealed to me His heart for seeing unity in His bride. He has brought it to the foreground of ministry in my life and has begun to unveil the mystery behind it. Peace stands as a building block for allowing unity to move from theory to practice. I have found that peace, patience, understanding, love, honor, hope, and joy are all applicable tools in the fight towards “together.” We as the Church have lost the importance of friendship, honoring differing expression, and what it means to love each other well.
Paul wrote it this way, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14. God, who is by definition Love, desires to bind us together in perfect unity by making us a people dedicated to having a true knowledge of these aforementioned traits, and then participating in the practice of them all.
This past week I celebrated the life of a brother that was taken much before his time was up (in my opinion). During the service which was held at a Lutheran church, we spoke the words of the Nicene Creed, affirming our faith for the truths promised us by the Lord Almighty. The ancient line that so often trips up so many hearts and minds is this “And I believe one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” That does not mean that only one church is valid. It does not mean that only your church is important. It does not mean that only one expression is valued. It DOES mean that we are in this thing together.
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3
That strong suggestion there of “make every effort” is one that echoes in my whole person. The calling to see many people come together and love one another well isn’t merely wishful thinking. There is something to be said about how iron sharpens iron as is stated in Proverbs. Iron does not sharpen iron by simply existing next to one another or by “coexisting.” Iron sharpens iron by striking each other. That means there needs to be some friction. There needs to be places where we overlap. There needs to be places where more than one church is invited to serve. Thinking that we need to stick only to our own congregation is missing the point of service. There is an opportunity to serve one another in the places where we lack or in the things that we may not understand.
At Crestwood Vineyard, we have lots of problems! It is beautiful. Our staff knows how much we need Jesus and how Holy Spirit is guiding this whole expression. We do not have the answers to every problem. We do not figure things out every time something goes wrong. In the midst of the hardship and strife, we submit to the One with the answers and proclaim “It is well!”
So, what does this have to do with Christmas? What does this have to do with the theology of Emmanuel, God with us? The last thing I want to do is add sentimentality to the season. As AT pointed out on Sunday, we really don’t need any more Precious Moments figurines. Through the Christmas season, we get to declare the story of the Prince of Peace. Many traditions, stories, services, times of worship, cantatas, plays, dances, and the like are being performed to shout the glory of Christ the King! Go experience something new. Go encounter God in a way you never have before. Go ask someone how you can love them well through this season. This isn’t a new message by any stretch of the imagination. This isn’t a new challenge. Unity is not false hope, it is a promise of what is to come. The pictures of heavenly worship in Revelation are what we are invited to participate in. Do church by loving THE Church, in all of its beautiful expressions.