• November 23, 2014

Scripture makes an appeal for unity

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Posted: Saturday, February 8, 2014 4:30 am

There are certain events that capture our attention and keep us riveted to the news. This Super Bowl wasn’t one of them, with such a lopsided blowout by the Seattle Seahawks.

Pilot Chesley Sullenberger lands his plane in the Hudson River after engine failure and saves the lives of everyone on board — now that grabs our attention.

Twenty-six years ago, a toddler named Jessica McClure fell down a well in Midland, and the eyes of the nation were glued to the news reports of heroic efforts to rescue “Baby Jessica.” Everywhere, people were thinking, talking, praying about the struggle to save this one child.

An event from outside our community has the effect of bringing us together in one heart and mind as we want this toddler to live. With relief, we witnessed the successful rescue efforts as Baby Jessica emerged from the well.

In the Scriptures there is an appeal to be of one mind and heart not just for a day or a week as a news story comes along.

It’s an appeal to let hostility and divisiveness go for the sake of unity. St. Paul writes to a particular church in Corinth, and we would do well to heed his plea. “I appeal to you by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree and there be no dissension among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”

An appeal carries with it the connotation of persuasion rather than coercion. It’s an appeal to the heart and mind rather than a threat of force to comply. God comes to us with the power of appeal, not the forcing of souls.

With infinite love and patience, God draws us close by a loving relationship that invites our spirits to respond in faith, and that relationship is best seen in the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Jesus never resorted to force or fear to win people to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus never bribed anyone by promising something in return. The Good News of forgiveness in Christ is the appeal of God to the world.

Yes, it can be rejected, but the appeal is toward acceptance, a freely received reception of new life that God offers. God gives all life and breath, and the message of the open and empty tomb of His Son confirms his merciful intent on our behalf. It’s all there for you, to receive in the freedom and joy of a trusting heart.

During my senior year in high school in Houston, my physiology class got to witness open heart surgery by Dr. Michael DeBakey from the observation room above his surgical suite.

It’s an awesome thing to see the human heart exposed to the careful hands of a surgeon making needed repairs so that life may continue. But the heart is more than a vital organ keeping us alive; it is the essence of our being, the center of feeling and emotion that can never be taken for granted. Hearts and minds are knit together not only by the processes of our bodies, but also are united in community. We share the same space, and through families of faith we begin to serve God’s world with common purpose. It’s easy to tear apart the delicate fabric of unity. Issues come up that divide us, and the tendency toward self-gratification often becomes the chief goal of life.

But God’s appeal can change lives, for it points in the direction of wholeness. Our values, priorities, ideals, how we direct our time, all enter the picture. It truly matters that you respond to God’s appeal to love Him with your whole being and your neighbors as yourselves for we’re all in this together. Persuaded by faith, we can honor the appeal by St. Paul and be united in the same mind and the same judgment for the good of all. Amen

The Rev. RAY ZISCHANG is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Killeen.

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