Depending on several factors, I introduce Cyndi using one or more titles. Occasionally, I’ll use “partners” to describe our connection. Partner is a word loaded with layers and implications. From lab partners to business partners and from committed relationships to spouses, saying we are partners results in a multitude of expectations.
However, a few conclusions are consistently presumed. The first is that our connection is more than casual. And if I further qualify our connection as wife or spouse, I’ve added a formal qualification that is both legal and spiritual.
Second, there is an expectation of mutuality. In other words, partners imply that each of us cares about the other and contributes towards keeping our connection near the top of what’s essential.
There is only one higher priority, but it is one where Cyndi and I agree. God comes first for us, and we often pray that our connection with Jesus Christ is protected.
Mutuality suggests common goals. However, partners don’t always see eye-to-eye on how to get there. So some process of maintaining unity amid disagreement helps our partnership flourish.
One of the more confusing ideas in Christianity is that God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are distinct and the same. In early Christian tradition, this idea was codified by church leaders as “of the same substance.” Each person of the Trinity exists independently, yet they are indistinguishable. This means that when we pray to the One True God, we’re praying to God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus and God are One and, thus, are of the same mind and substance. Christ was not created. Instead, we know that the One True God created all that there is. Jesus is also distinct and chose to live with the limitations of humanism and accepted the peculiarities of each person He met without controlling the outcome.
As Jesus faced His impending arrest and execution, He chose to share His last meal with His closest followers. In actuality, we don’t know who was there. Nearly all paintings of the Last Supper present the twelve disciples; however, Jacopo Tintoretto’s version depicts additional persons (Circa 1594). So we don’t really know how big the party was, but we know that Jesus knew how to feed a crowd.
John’s Gospel leaves us with a prayer said by Jesus at some point during their last evening together. The prayer comes after Jesus explained what was about to happen to Him and warned His followers that they would initially be scattered and uncertain about what to do next. Jesus explained that trouble and hardship don’t disappear because they know Him.
Keep them safe by the power of your name…so that they may be one just as you and I are one.
Jesus began His prayer by acknowledging His special connection with God. They are partners in the most intimate sense of the word. But what would come of His followers once He was no longer with them physically in a world with no Zoom or FaceTime? How would the partnership continue without their Leader holding them all together?
Robert Morris, Jr., in his book, Pray Like Jesus, identifies six prayer requests spoken by Jesus. In the first three, Jesus prays that His followers be guarded, guided, and unified. These are the building blocks of any partnership. Mainly when there are so many pressures to let our guard down, go in different directions, and split up. Staying in a relationship of mutuality as equal partners requires divine assistance.
Jesus knew this and walked in the places His followers walked, facing even greater temptations. But His unity with God and the Holy Spirit sustained Him in His humanity as Jesus overcame the world and defeated death. God was in charge all along but chose to illustrate what life can look like, leaving us with a model to follow.
To be guarded is to be held close when we falter. Partnerships among us offer support systems in the form of life groups that read and discuss scripture together, pray together, and share challenges with one another. Whether a couple, a few, or a large gathering, we’re better able to face a world offering a plethora of alternatives when we stay grounded in the teachings of Christ.
To be guided is to follow a path that leads to joy, abundance, and eternal life. Who doesn’t want these? Hope knows that there is a path through the desert to places blossoming with possibility. Sadly, broken relationships create hopelessness.
To be unified is to hold tight to our mutuality. We’re unified when we work in partnership toward the common good. Of course, we may disagree on the best way to reach our shared goals. Still, we agree to find sufficient commonality to stay engaged and face challenges together.
Jesus prayed that His followers would stay unified. I don’t believe that this meant one church any more than He suggested that we all live in the same city. We share the same planet even as some of us hope to find an escape to someplace else in our universe.
And isn’t it interesting when we discover that not a single drop of water has been created since the beginning of our planet? We can remove impurities from water, add chemicals, and add poisons to water, but we can’t make new water. So unity should at least mean that we agree to treat water as a life-giving gift.
The City of Flint has faced numerous challenges over the past several decades. While the pandemic affected everyone, the catastrophe that resulted in poisoned water hasn’t happened in most cities. Likewise, while most cities gain and lose businesses, few have felt the impact and survived the losses experienced by Flint.
The carnage is everywhere. Abandoned houses, businesses, and long lines for commodities to support basic needs. We can’t save all of the structures since substantially fewer of us live here. But we can make decisions and work together for the common good.
But such unity begins with guarding our souls and discerning divine guidance individually and collectively.
I’m reminded that our next election is only a couple weeks away. Our nation chose a model of unity that utilizes a democratic process to make significant decisions together. Each and every vote matters. So I encourage all to cast our votes as equal partners working together for the common good. Don’t let anyone discourage or intimate you enough to miss out on casting your vote.
Some say that our democracy is under attack. It sounds like a few of us would rather have a king than a democracy. But I believe we already have a King more powerful and more benevolent than any human king could ever be. So, instead, I count among my many blessings that my vote matters. And even if a different outcome emerges from our elections than I hoped for, I know that my voice matters. And so does yours.
The Creator of all that exists prays that you are guarded, guided, and unified. The mere idea takes my breath away. But this idea also gives me hope.
May God guard, guide, and unify you in your relationships and may we build and maintain the community that we hope for together.
Each Sunday during our series, Pray, we’re collecting prayer requests. You can submit a request online from our website home page. In addition, prayer request forms are located around the church and during water and food giveaways.
You can join us each Sunday in person or online by clicking the button on our website’s homepage – Click here to watch. This button takes you to our YouTube channel. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.
A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this publication by email. Send a request to connect@FlintAsbury.org or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.
Content for this series is based in part on:
Robert L. Morris, Jr.. Pray Like Jesus: What We Can Learn From the Six Recorded Prayers of Jesus. Bloomington, IL: Westbow Press, 2019.
Leslie Livingston. “20 Last Supper Paintings from Renaissance Italy,” © The Geographical Cure, November 3, 2021. Link.