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Saturday, August 15, 2015

What Is Unity?

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Today I bought a thermos glass made of shiny stainless steel.  Around the top third of the glass is a broad green strip with two coconut palms printed in white on one side, and on the opposite side, another palm with the words: "Living in Paradise."  There is, of course, a sense in which paradise is never achieved on earth; for instance, consider the occasional toothache.  Yet looking back over my 71 years, there is a real sense in which I have always lived in paradise.  I have never been without love or friendship (AND have never missed a meal!).  By the way,  just today a friend gave me a glass with the Great Seal of the United States' eagle emblazoned upon it.  The eagle holds in its beak a banner with the words: E pluribus unum ("Out of Many, One").  An abiding aspect of any conjectured paradise is unity.  I think we all have to agree that even in the United States we often woefully lack true unity. This evening while I was thinking about unity and how it is characterized, my brother Bob and sister-in-law Linda gave me a call from Georgia (they are both retired Methodist ministers).  They had some great ideas about unity.  Here are some of them contributed by Linda:


I Corinthians 1:10  Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.

Wayne was talking about his blog and trying to define unity.  I thought of Paul's letter to the Corinthians, calling them to be united, and the word study I'd done while in seminary. It's fun to look at the various words used in the translated scripture to see if there is a deeper meaning.
The word Paul used was a form of katartismos, meaning either to adjust or put in order, to restore; or to equip or prepare.  It's also a medical term, used to describe the setting of a bone, being perfectly re-joined. Paul could have used other Greek words, more religious words, that might have evoked a spiritual unity.  Instead, he used the word that would evoke action.

A form of katartismos is used also in Mark, Jesus calling the disciples as they were mending their nets.  So a fish net is a metaphor for unity.

My husband, Wayne's brother, likes to throw his cast net to try to catch mullet.  When he's successful, the net covers the fish and they try to scatter.  As they swim to the left, the rest of the net responds; as they swim to the right, the net responds.  However, if there is a break in the net, it's not worth anything.  As united people, when someone hurts, the rest of us respond  with compassion. When someone rejoices we respond with congratulations. But, when there is disunity;  when there is hatred, jealousy, bitterness, fear, anger,  then it's like a big rip in the net and we're not worth anything as a community.  (By the way, look at the last five letters of community!)

Thanks for the opportunity to participate in Weiner World!

Linda Standifer, United Methodist clergy, retired

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