St. Matthew’s Sermon 04-17-2016

St. Matthew’s Sermon 04-17-2016

That They May All Be One

Acts 9:36-43, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, John 10:22-30

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

I thought long and hard about finding thee perfect scripture reading for today’s message. I found that there is not one… there are many. Narrowing things down a bit I found that of the 4 Gospels, no other speaks of unity as much as John’s. And this is very convenient as our lectionary is currently leading us through a section of John. Even in today’s reading we read the closing line where Jesus say’s “…The Father and I are one.” expressing the unity of the Father and the Son. But to help me in delivering the message I  wish to focus on today we have to go back a little bit in John’s writing, not far, actually it’s just a little earlier in this same chapter 10.

At that point, Jesus is addressing some Pharisees who were having a problem understanding that something good could come out of evil. Jesus had just given sight to a man who was born blind. To them, in their beliefs, his condition was the result of being born in sin, the inheritance he received from sinful parents. They were sure of this because the scripture reads “… by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Jesus then gives them metaphor about Sheep and Shepherd and sheep fold and gate but they still do not understand so he tries again saying to them…

“Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”.

Following that His words give us the image of the “good shepherd” [painting behind];

“14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd”.

This “good Shepherd” imagery recalls the words from the ancient scripture of Ezekiel where God is speaking out against the false shepherds of Israel, those who should be caring for the people but instead are condemned for eating the fat, clothing themselves with the wool, “you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep” God says, and continues…

17 As for you, my flock, I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats: 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?

20 Therefore, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, 22 I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

Jesus is, no doubt that “good shepherd”, sent by God, one with God, who will judge between sheep and sheep; The one who gathers those scattered by the false shepherds, the Pharisees, uniting them into one flock; bringing together the flock of Israel and those who don’t belong to that flock into God’s fold through the gate that is himself. He and the Father are one and so He is the gateway to God.


We can see, then, the message of unity Jesus is giving us, He and God are one. But Jesus has just begun to scratch the surface of that part of his message. He builds on it from there and brings it to fullness a bit later in John’s account in his farewell prayer found in chapter 17.

Here we read, in part…

6“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them”.

“All mine are yours, and yours are mine”; now Jesus is asking that his Disciples be a full part of his unity with God. They have received the word and know its truth; they have been made one with Christ who is one with God. Through Christ, they are now one with him and one with God.

But then, still in his prayer, Jesus pulls all the bonds together saying…

20“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, 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. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,

“As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us…” That is you and me! And it is from this prayer for us that the United Church of Christ takes its motto “That they may all be one”.


As we learn from the Book of Acts and the Epistles, the Disciples were not always of one mind. The Jerusalem church and Paul had disagreements. There was also conflict between Peter and the Jerusalem Church when Peter baptized a family of Gentiles, those of other folds. This doesn’t mean that Christ’s prayer failed. It just shows us that there were some things that still had to be worked out… and they were over time through prayer and hard work; and they were all one.

And from Paul, we hear the greatest metaphor of the unity Christ calls for. From 1 Corinthians 12:

12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.  13 For we were all baptized by a one Spirit into one body––whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free––and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.  15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?  20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body…

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

(Demonstrate standing on one foot)

Left foot / right foot

I favor left because the right causes me pain

But wouldn’t cut off the right, it still keeps me in balance

This is how we are called to be one with each other, one with Christ, and through Christ, one with God. This is what it means to be the Church, The Body of Christ; to recognize that we are all different, different parts of that body with different functions to perform. No one part can function alone and if we try to stand too far to the left or the right we become unbalanced and vulnerable to toppling or collapsing… it takes two differing views, one on the left and one on the right, both firmly planted, to keep us in balance as Christ would have us be.

This is how we must be in St. Matthew’s Church; this is how we must be in the UNITED Church of Christ; this is how we must be in the Universal Church.


John 10:22-30
10:22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter,
10:23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.
10:24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
10:25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me;
10:26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.
10:27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.
10:28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.
10:29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.
10:30 The Father and I are one.”




John 17:20-26 20“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, 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. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

25“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”




Acts 9:36-43
9:36 Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity.
9:37 At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs.
9:38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.”
9:39 So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them.
9:40 Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up.
9:41 He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive.
9:42 This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.
9:43 Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

Psalm 23
23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
23:3 he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me.
23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.


Revelation 7:9-17
7:9 After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.
7:10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
7:11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
7:12 singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
7:13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?”
7:14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
7:15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.
7:16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat;
7:17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”