We are planning a service day on Martin Luther King Day and my AmeriCorps team proposed doing a mural on one of the walls of our new building. This mural is to have the theme of unity. I loved the idea and began trying to think of symbols of unity. I want a design that celebrates the incredible diversity of our city and at the same time the unity of spirit that fills our ministry; or at least the spirit that I wish filled our ministry. This spirit does break through on occasion and it is a beautiful sight to see. I most often encounter it when we do our monthly youth and family mission’s event. During these events, suburban and urban, rich and poor, black and white, all join together to help their neighbors in need and miraculously find that they themselves receive the greatest gift.
I have long believed that we will never see the whole of the Christian church agree on doctrine, or worship style, or church polity. The only thing that the Church is able to unite around is the care of the poor, the fight for justice and the liberation of the oppressed. No one would argue that the hungry should not be fed or that the homeless should not be sheltered. So why do we spend so much of our time and energy focused on the things we disagree on and so little time uniting around the things we do agree on? That is a question for which I have no answer.
I had a professor in Seminary that argued that one reading of the Sabbath was to see the Sabbath as a celebration of liberation and a call to do justice. He asked the question, “What if one Sunday a month, instead of studying the word, we actually sought to live the word by caring for the poor?” I was intrigued by his question and decided to do my part in finding out. It is for this reason that on the second Sunday of the month, we assemble youth groups, Sunday school classes and individuals and family who desire to dedicate one Sabbath to caring for the poor. It is this monthly event where I see unity most vividly displayed.
I do not know how to capture this kind of spirit in a mural or a symbol but I do hope and pray that it is more than a token and instead a way of living that is evidenced in the very existence of our ministry. I pray that this spirit would define the ministry of Embrace Richmond and that Embrace would actively seek to bring unity in our city and most especially to the church universal.
Let us never forget Jesus parting prayer, his last hope for his followers “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:23