All for One
When I was a kid, one of the musicals that made a deep impression on me was West Side Story. A modern version of Romeo and Juliet, its beautiful music by the brilliant Leonard Bernstein spoke deeply to me.
My favorite song from that musical was “One Hand, One Heart.” It is sung in a scene where the two star-crossed lovers, Tony and Maria, pretend to have a wedding, since they believe a real one is impossible due to their different backgrounds. Despite themselves, despite belonging to groups who hate each other, Tony and Maria are drawn together, and able to see beyond the labels that try to keep them as enemies. They pretend to make their vows, then together they sing these simple lines, first in harmony, and then in unison:
Make of our lives one life,
Day after day, one life.
Now it begins, now we start
One hand, one heart…”
The beginning of the letter to the Ephesians starts with a magnificent description of God as the one who “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.” The letter then goes on to detail how God’s love for us, especially as revealed through God’s Son Jesus, has brought together a tremendous diversity of people in the Church, people who normally would not cross the very strict sets of hierarchies and boundaries in the Mediterranean world: slaves and free persons. Jews and Greeks. Male and Female.
In this Sunday’s reading from Ephesians 4: 1-16, we once again hear the word “one” repeated, seven times over:
one God who encompasses all that exists, from sub-atomic particles to galaxies.
All things are one, brought together by God’s love. Our reading today begins by turning to how we respond to such an outstanding gift of love.
It strikes me anew every time I read the line about being chosen by God before time. Because much of the Christian thought that seems to dominate these days, that we see even in commercials on TV, starts from the other direction—it emphasizes that our relationship with God starts with our personal decision.
How would it change us if, instead of thinking that we have chosen God, to start from the conviction that God has chosen us, from even before the time we were born?
As Christ in the world, we are called to embody the love of God, which rests not on vengeance or fear, but on grace and abundant mercy for all who will open their hearts to the hope that is Christ. The life of the Christian individual and the Christian community is ultimately intended to reflect the life of Christ, because we are one in Christ for the world, called to work for true peace, which can only be founded on true justice, which is an outgrowth of true love for each other through grace which admits no exceptions. Through the true bread of Jesus, we come to know who we really are: bearers of God’s love into the world.
To act before God as God sees us: As beautiful. As beloved.
To act in the world as what we are: the Body of Christ.
One in Spirit. All for one.
What grace this is!
The Rev. Leslie Scoopmire is a writer, musician, and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri. She is priest-in-charge of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO. She posts daily prayers at her blog Abiding In Hope, and collects spiritual writings and images at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.