I don’t know if you have played the game apples to apples? Apples to Apples is a wildly popular and relatively simple card-based board game. The objective is to simply match nouns to adjectives, but the results are often hilarious. If you have played it you know what I mean. It becomes hilarious because we describe the same thing in different ways based upon our experience. Based upon the cards we have been dealt (both in the game but more so in life.) Us using different words to describe the same reality is one reason of why unity within the Church can be challenging. Now, on the other hand, we also use the same word to describe different realities…
I can use the word “apple” to describe the fruit. I can also use it to describe a certain computer brand. I can use it to refer to New York City, the “Big Apple”. We use the same word to describe wildly different physical realities and revelations. One you eat. One you use. One you visit or live in. Us using the same words but meaning totally different things is another piece of why unity within the Church can be challenging.
So what to do, if we are at a deadlock in terms of understanding what we mean with our different words? How do we communicate what we really mean in a way that brings healing rather than fear and segregation?
I believe we must go beneath the surface of the obvious physical revelation. Christ Himself goes below the surface into the grave and we must follow Him. As Church, we are part of His body so we must follow Him where He goes. We must take a bite out of the apple to know how it tastes and to realize its function. We must break it. We must use the Apple computer to realize what it’s purpose is, we must “break it in”, and we must enter and live in New York City if we hope to truly know it and it’s people, we must “break a new frontier”.
An interpretive look from a distance, making a judgment call about any of these three objects, will not provide you with enough information to judge their purpose and know their identity. If this is true about innate objects how much more is it true for real persons and congregations?
If we do eat the apple, if we do use the computer, if we do visit New York we will soon realize that they all carry a different segment of revelation. The apple carries nutrition for life. The computer carries technology that can be used for life. The city carries houses persons and society for life. What are you carrying? To ask that question in honesty and be prepared to listen is a way forward in terms of unity within the Church I believe. To want to know who you are so that we may know God better through each other.
If we investigate these three realities closely, if we go under the surface deep enough, we will discover what science has already shown, that different revelations of reality all consist of the same building blocks. Neutrons, protons, and atoms move in constant interaction with each other. These particles can only be constituted if they, in turn, interact with light or bosons and Higgs particles and such.
In essence, we are being created by Gods light in every single moment. Life springs forth when we share that light with others in relationship. As a Church, we aim to be a place where we can live as true communion, so that we can discover that unity of which we are already a part of but often has such a hard time to see because of how we look at different objects, realities and persons from a safe distance rather than up close. I encourage you to make it personal, to invite the personal encounter into your objective observation. Take the risk of being open and honest about your success and your struggles.
Unity, this knowing who you are as a person (or congregation, or denomination) so that you can know the other, the different person (congregation or denomination), intimately is not only mandated in how creation is being designed and upheld. It is also a direct consequence of us being created in the image of God the Trinity. Three Persons seeing each other’s distinct face but yet so close in Their covenant that they are One God. Unity is not about becoming someone else or being assumed into someone else. Unity is about knowing who you are as person so that you can have true fellowship with another person. So that we as persons might be one. This goes for our own person, our family and for the Church.