Teaching church history, I always feel a little pang when I get to the part of the story when I have to give this speech:
You know how we have been talking about the followers of Jesus as Christians? Well, starting from this time period forward, we have to be more distinct about what kind of Christian we are talking about, because this is when the group starts to split up.
Then I draw my “Christianitree” on the board and everyone laughs and we begin the painful process of remembering who is who, and when things started to fall apart.
In the Gospel from this Sunday Jesus prays:
“Holy Father, I pray not only for them,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.”
These words compel us to continue to strive for unity, but do any of us know what unity really looks like? Often our version of unity means compelling everyone to be like us, whoever our “us” may be.
It’s interesting to me that this Gospel is paired with the first reading, which recounts the stoning of Stephen. Is this the “I never told you this would be easy” Sunday? Neither of these readings makes me feel very optimistic.
But in the second reading from Revelation we hear:
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last,
the beginning and the end.”
The one who loves and saves us is over all, in all times. So even though our world is violent, even though we are divided, we know that there is one overarching love that winds throughout eternity.