“Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.”
John Fawcett penned those timeless words in 1782. Those words echo a clear understanding of what it means to be a covenant community. Jesus prayed a very specific prayer, recorded in John chapter seventeen, advocating for the unity of the hearts of his present and future followers. Harmony within the body of believers is an essential core of our life together as Christ followers.
I love the start of a “new year.” I like the opportunity to reflect and to reboot that is offered at the close of one year and the start of another. While 2019 will hold many of the same obstacles and challenges that we faced in 2018, the start of a new year does offer each of us the chance to begin again. We can each make the choice to change and to improve.
My focus for this new year will be on maintaining Christian unity. Unity is not uniformity. As a follower of Jesus Christ there are a few essentials that bind me together with other believers.
My baptism binds me together with Christ and with those identifying with Christ in this sacred symbol of our common connectional faith. I am bound together with other believers because of the love of God revealed and shared with us through the sacred acts of Jesus (his birth, life, death and resurrection).
I am bound together as a member of God’s household through a common call and commission from Christ to serve as his ambassador to the world. I am bound together through a common commitment and promise to abide by the godly standards of faith and practice shared through God’s holy word, the Bible. I am bound to other believers because of my intentional surrender and pledge to die to self that I might be made alive by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and be used as a vessel for God’s glory.
As United Methodists, we have made a pledge to express our loyalty through offering our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our personal witness for Jesus Christ. As United Methodists, we are bound together by five official books and one unofficial book that help us to maintain a common core commitment; the Bible, our Hymn book, our Book of Worship, our Book of Discipline, and our Book of Resolutions. The unofficial book, of course, is our Cookbook!
We are blessed to be Christians, and we are blessed to live out our Christian witness as United Methodists. My hope for 2019 is that we will not allow anything to divide or disrupt our unity. My hope is that our focus will not be on the areas of disagreement within our fellowship, but that our focus will center upon the mission and the ministry to which we are called as followers of Jesus Christ. The world needs our light and our salt!
Please know that I am praying for our denomination to reflect Jesus Christ and to honor him as we seek to serve as conduits of God’s grace and mercy to our needy world.
Happy New Year!
Bishop Frank J. Beard