"I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one-I in them and you in me-so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." John 17:22-23 (NIV)
The theme for the Montreat Worship and Music Conference this past summer was "Rise, O Church." The conference hymn text "Rise, O Church, like Christ Arisen," written by Susan Palo Cherwien, was sung daily in worship. Paul Westermeyer, professor of church music at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, wrote a little volume titled "Rise, O Church - Reflections on the Church, Its Music, and Empire" based on Cherwien's hymn.
Westermeyer's writings are about the church rising, as it does generation after generation, to take up its role in the world. In worship this Sunday, Gray will conclude his sermon series based on the Six Great Ends of the Church, or one could say six roles of the Church that constitute its purpose in the world.
Cherwien's hymn was written for the occasion of the consecration of Rev. Shannon Johnson in 2007; however, the text could well have been penned in relation to the Six Great Ends of the Church. In the passage above from John's Gospel, the Lord emphasized the importance of unity among his followers, and the standard is the unity of the Father and the Son.
There are two indwellings here: that of the Son in believers, and that of the Father in the Son. It is because the latter is a reality that the former can take place, perfected in unity. Again the emphasis on unity is connected not only with the mission of Jesus but also with God's love for people and for Christ. When our focus remains unified on the "roles" of the Church, we live into the future glory God has promised each of us.
In this day and age of instant gratification, we would do well to remind ourselves that the Christian's greatest blessing is to be with Jesus in eternal splendor. Rise, O Church, like Christ arisen! May we through our love for one another envision whose we are, and whose, our praise - Christ, our present, past, and goal.