A Call to Unity by John Burke and Jon Eng

In response to our series called You Belong Here and the message we shared on A Diverse Community, all of our Austin campuses were invited to come together at Gateway North for A Call to Unity – a night of community and solidarity for us all.

Here are the message notes from John Burke and Jon Eng:

  • Tonight is all about Healing and Unity as God’s Family
  • I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. Revelation 7:9
  • God is inviting us to bring Heaven’s kingdom to earth–your will be done on earth, as in Heaven.
  • In my travels around the world, I have seen some of the racial/ethnic tensions and injustices. Evil has shown up throughout history and in all different societies. This is not just a political, American issue.
  • I truly think this is a TEST that God is putting before us. God is saying, “Do you see what I’m doing?”
  • This is the Revelation vision! We’ve been pursuing God’s heart for over 20 years, and we’re continuing to pursue that in this season, not just to messy, broken, unchurched but to all nations God’s bringing.
  • But we must become cross-cultural agents for God’s kingdom. We want to reach all cultures and all people far from God. WE must become a healing, unified community to do that.
  • Tonight going to invite God, who is here, to heal us and unite us. Unity comes by affirming God’s beauty created in His Image, and asking that He unite us. And Healing comes with confession, lament, repentance, That’s what we will walk though INTERACTIVE.

Celebration: Beauty  

  • So first, Let’s Affirm God’s Word: So God created human beings in his own image. Genesis 1:27.
  • We love all of God’s people because we are all created in the image of God.
  • This past Sunday, some people heard that we were elevating some cultures and ethnicities above others. And that is not our intent at all.
  • The world is setting us against each other.
  • We’re all part of the solution!
  • That’s true if you’re white, black, Asian, Hispanic, bi-racial. Whether you’re a police officer, a doctor, a student, or someone who’s struggling to make ends meet.
  • It’s amazing to see the beauty that emerges when our different cultures each point to something profound about God. And each one of us have very different experiences. Someone who grew up in small town Texas won’t have the same experiences as someone who grew up in the Big Apple, NYC or someone from Korea or Pakistan.
  • God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:24-27
  • We need each other.
  • Let’s start by saying what’s beautiful. We’re going to be interactive. We’ll only have a short time. 20-30 seconds each.
  • Share in small groups what you appreciate about your culture, ethnicity, or family background.

Confession

  • Most of you responded to our message on diversity with excitement and curiosity!
  • Some were angry and left. And if some of you found yourself feeling angry about what was shared on Sunday, please know that we’re not saying you’re the problem, or any culture is the problem. Instead, we’re saying that you, me, all of us are all a part of God’s solution. We don’t believe the solution is political–if you heard that, you missed us–we believe the solution is to let God heal us and unite us.
  • Healing starts with Confession:
    Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16 (Don’t worry–not going to make you confess to strangers sitting next to you).
  • But God heals as we admit/confess personally:
    Maybe confessing wrong attitudes –
    “I don’t really care about uniting across diversity”
    “confessing racist history”
    “maybe bitterness or unforgiveness for what’s been done to you or others”
    “maybe putting politics or rights above seeking God’s will”
    In any way we get triggered and set against each other, evil is dividing us when Holy Spirit wants to unite us.  So ask God to search your heart.
  • Corporate Confession for what’s happening in our nation. The Prayer of Daniel confessed the sins of the Israelite nation, and his own, even he had never even participated in things like idolatry or sexual brokenness.
  • I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.” Daniel 9:4-5
  • Communal confession can be a difficult thing for those of us who think individualistically.
    Again, one of the beautiful parts of American majority culture is freedom of individuals.
    And yet, most of the scriptures are not written to individuals, but to the Israelites, the people of God, the church as community. It’s to a “we” and not a “me.”
  • God honors corporate confession. Right after Daniel prays it says:
    I went on praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people, pleading with the Lord my God for Jerusalem…[Gabriel the angel comes saying] “Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding. 23 The moment you began praying, a command was given. Daniel 9:20-23
  • EXERCISE – Pray silently – do personal and corporate confession – remembering Jesus is here and sees our hearts and honors a humble, contrite heart of confession–He heals us.  Search my heart first, confess anything driving you against or away from unity–then confess the sins of our city and nation causing division and hurt.

Lament

  • Jesus wept at the tomb with Mary and Martha.
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15
  • Grief and Healing go together. There is a whole book called Lamentations when Jerusalem was sacked.
  • Lament means “It shouldn’t be that way”
  • Lament is simply affirming with God and with brothers and sisters as a community that things happen against God’s will, hurts us or others, and it shouldn’t be that way.  But we must all have a soft heart on this, this is not just a “Me” but a “We” exercise.
  • That can be a healing thing for people of color in our church.
    For the police in our church.
    For white people feeling attacked or defensive.
    Remember it’s not “you did this” it’s “God this is happening, we see it, we mourn…it shouldn’t be that way.”

Lament Exercise:

We have invited Sulinda McManus to join us. Sulinda is the Kid’s Director at Gateway South. She’s from a Hispanic background and in a biracial marriage to a white man who serves as a police officer. The three of us will read a statement of Lament–something we’ve heard that’s wrong, broken, not God’s will or ways, and when we say “WE Mourn” let’s all cry out to God “It shouldn’t be that way” with one voice together.

We are acknowledging something’s wrong–we’re grieving the loss of God’s will and ways, God’s peace, unity.  This invites God to heal us as we grieve it together.

  1. Jon E: Our nation is set on edge – there’s more division and anger than we’ve ever seen – people are raging against each other.  It’s not Your Will Lord. “We mourn” – “It shouldn’t be that way”
  2. Sulinda: Our Police risk their lives to protect us under Your Authority, Lord. Some violate that trust, but most are good and honorable men and women, yet our Police morale is at an all-time low. They don’t feel honored or valued or supported, and it affects how they work. You Lord, tell us all authority is established by you for our peace. This is not your will Lord. “We mourn” – “It shouldn’t be that way”
  3. John B: Race pitted against race, there’s distrust, harm, and a lack of empathy. We have failed to see each other fully in the ways You God created us. Evil – both personal and systemic – has kept us apart. It’s not your will Lord. We mourn this brokenness. – “It shouldn’t be that way”
  4. Jon E:  For our White Brothers and sisters who may have felt personally accused of racism or wanted to disengage because you felt attacked. Living from a place of guilt or shame is not God’s desire as we dismantle systems of evil together. “We mourn” – “It shouldn’t be that way”
  5. John B: People of color in our church who hear racist slurs and struggle with fear for their children. And the communities they represent that have historically suffered in ways many of us can’t imagine – from structural and personal racism and Jim Crow laws to the loss of life. It’s not your will Lord. “We mourn” – “It shouldn’t be that way”
  6. Sulinda: People from other nations have rarely gotten invited into our homes, rarely experienced hospitality from Americans, many feel isolated and alone, that’s not Your will Lord. “We mourn” – “It shouldn’t be that way”
  7.  Jon E: Jesus came to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, to set the oppressed free…For areas of injustice, people who feel overlooked and are marginalized or oppressed. “We mourn” – “It shouldn’t be that way”
  8. John B: We lament how our politics and media continue to divide us. How we’re swayed by evil to attack and divide when it’s your will to heal and unite. “We mourn” – “It shouldn’t be that way”

Lamentations turns to Hope:

I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.
– Lamentations 3:19-23

Repentance

Repentance is a 180 turn from our ways to God’s ways.

God, YOU DO have a will and a way, and we are going to go your way! There is now no longer Greek nor Jew…

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” John 17:20-21

Pray together in groups of 3-4 for Unity, teach us to love and value one another like God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit loves.

Hanto Yo – Unity of All (read together)

God of surprises, you call us from the narrowness of our traditions to new ways of being church, from the captivities of our culture to creative witness for justice, from the smallness of our horizons, to the bigness of your vision.

Clear the way in us, your people, that we might call others to freedom and renewed faith.

Jesus, wounded healer, you call us from preoccupation with our own histories and hurts to daily tasks of peacemaking, from abusive power and protocol to partnership and pilgrimage, from isolation and insularity to inclusive community.

Clear the way in us, your people, that we might call others to wholeness and integrity.

Holy, transforming Spirit, you call us from fear to faithfulness, from clutter to clarity, from a desire to control to deeper trust, from the refusal to love to a readiness to risk.

Clear the way in us, your people, that we might all know the beauty and power and danger of the gospel.

Thanksgiving and Remembrance

Praise and Remember as we take Communion

If ready, as you go, lay down anything hindering God’s call to unity in our lives and look into the eyes of the people you pass and thank God for the price he paid to bring us together as one body.

As we sing “Lay it all down” when you feel ready–get up and go to the stations thanking God for his sacrifice to bring us all into unity–bring it back and take it together.

Resources

  1. Watch the entire Diverse Community Panel Discussion
  2. Not Like Me: Learning to Love, Serve, and Influence our Divided World
  3. Beyond Colorblind Course – Online and at Gateway North starts March 26th at 7pm
    Register Here
  4. A Call To Unity at 7pm on March 27th at Gateway in South Austin
    6800 West Gate Blvd. 78745
    Come at 6pm for our Multicultural Dinner – Bring an entree, side dish, or dessert from your cultural background!
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