For those who observe the rhythms of Holy Week, today is Maundy Thursday, or “Commandment” Thursday (since “maundy” comes from the Latin “mandatum,” which means “command”). And what is the command to which this label refers? Well, the most likely candidate comes from John 13:34 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Today is a day for reflecting upon, celebrating (and dare I say, “humbling ourselves enough to receive”) the oneness that we are given in Christ.
Both of the New Testament readings from today’s Daily Office remind us of the importance of that oneness.
In the epistle lesson from 1 Corinthians 11, Paul says, “Those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.” (11:29) Read in context, this is not a statement about the nature of Christ’s “metaphysical presence” in the elements of the Lord’s Supper, but is instead a reminder that the brothers and sisters with whom we share the Supper are participants with us in the one body of Christ through the grace of His sacrifice; and therefore, any failure to treat them as such is a failure to heed His new command.
Then, in the gospel lesson from John 17, Jesus says, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you 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.” (17:20-21) Here, on the eve of His Passion, Jesus make our oneness the focus of His intercession and notes that it is through our oneness that others will come to trust in Him.
Of course, it doesn’t take a degree in theology to recognize that “being one” is not a skill at which we excel (and perhaps this goes a long way toward explaining our diminishing ability to introduce people to the One who Loves them best). We “choose up sides” over our doctrine, our politics, our worship preference, and so much more. And while I’m not naive enough to think that we can “wave a magic wand” (or even “wave a magic blog post”) and change all that, I am naive enough to think – that for one day, perhaps – we can entertain “A Dream of One”…
- Perhaps today, we can thank Jesus for the sacrifice that makes us one.
- Perhaps today, we can ask forgiveness for the attitudes and actions that diminish our oneness.
- Perhaps today, we can take some action – if only just a small one – that deepens our bond with a brother or sister in Christ (and if it’s a brother or sister who we don’t know very well, or with whom we have differences, all the better).
- Perhaps today, we can join with Jesus in praying for His broken and poured out Body: “May we be one, Father, just as You and our Lord are One.”
And who knows? If we do these things today, perhaps tomorrow our oneness will come a little bit easier, and we can be made the kind of people through whom God’s dream for God’s world becomes less a dream and more a reality.