Friday, October 10, 2014

One Church, One Faith, One Lord

Something I didn't quote in my Evensong post last month was the closing hymn, which was "Thy Hand, O God, Has Guided" by Edward H. Plumptre. Before service started, I had a long conversation with the lady sitting next to me about ecumenism, to what extent it's valuable, and what unity in the Body really looks like. Between the discussions we had around the college Christian Fellowship last spring and all the discussion about the United Methodist Church right now, I've been thinking about unity a lot, so this really felt like God speaking.

Thy hand, O God, has guided
Thy flock, from age to age;
The wondrous tale is written,
Full clear, on every page;
Our fathers owned thy goodness,
And we their deeds record;
And both of this bear witness:
One Church, one faith, one Lord.

The Church is not just today. The Church is through all time, those who have had faith in the one Lord. God has been present, guiding God's followers through all time and in all contexts, and we have so much evidence of this - in the Bible, of course, but throughout theological writing, throughout the stories we've heard in and about the church - God is present. There is one God who is everlasting and omnipresent.

When we look around and look at the church, we may see that details have changed. It may seem like everything changes. But there is one Lord, and so there is one Church united by faith in God.

Thy heralds brought glad tidings
To greatest, as to least;
They bade men rise, and hasten
To share the great King's feast;
And this was all their teaching,
In every deed and word,
To all alike proclaiming
One Church, one faith, one Lord.

We serve a living Lord who invites us - all of us - into relationship with God. The gospel is the good news for all people, and God calls us to live out that good news in our life and to share it with all the world. Our "every deed and word" should be for God's glory and should reflect the gospel in our lives so that everyone around might see and hear and know the joy that we have through Christ. There is one God, who is the one Lord; there is one gospel, and there is one Church in all the world proclaiming the gospel in faith.

When shadows thick were falling,
And all seemed sunk in night,
Thou, Lord, didst send thy servants,
Thy chosen sons of light.
On them and on thy people
Thy plenteous grace was poured,
And this was still their message:
One Church, one faith, one Lord.

Through many a day of darkness,
Through many a scene of strife,
The faithful few fought bravely,
To guard the nation's life.
Their Gospel of redemption,
Sin pardoned, man restored,
Was all in this enfolded:
One Church, one faith, one Lord.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5). God does not forsake us, and God does not forsake the world. God is merciful, and through God's grace there is hope even in the darkest of places and times. Christ is the light of the world, and we as disciples are now in light. God calls the Church, the Body, to live as children of light (Ephesians 5:8) and sends us out that the Light might be known. By God's grace we came to know God, by God's grace we are forgiven, justified, and sanctified, and by God's grace we hear and accept God's call to go into all the world and spread the hope that is God's great mercy on all of us.

And we, shall we be faithless?
Shall hearts fail, hands hang down?
Shall we evade the conflict,
And cast away our crown?
Not so: in God's deep counsels
Some better thing is stored;
We will maintain, unflinching,
One Church, one faith, one Lord.

"The faithful few fought bravely." And shall we? Is it not worth fighting for our faith? God is great, and so relationship with God is always the better thing. Fight the good fight; grow in holiness; do not stagnate. We are "prone to wander," as "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" says, but with God's help and grace we can stay near to God and be every growing in faith.

Thy mercy will not fail us,
Nor leave thy work undone;
With thy right hand to help us,
The victory shall be won;
And then, by men and angels,
Thy name shall be adored,
And this shall be their anthem:
One Church, one faith, one Lord.

This is hope. God's mercy will not fail. God's work will be done. God's name will be adored. Victory through Christ is already secured, and if we are faithful, then we share in that victory each day and forevermore. One Church, one faith, one Lord: this is triumph.

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