BIBLE STUDY: One in the Spirit
by PEG and LISA SWETT *
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Parent of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
As elementary-school teachers, we have collected stories from interacting with children. Recently, a mother thanked Lisa for a moment she had shared with her child. While riding in the car, the radio started playing the Beetles’ song, “All You Need Is Love.” To the mother’s amazement, her 5-year-old son started singing the song loudly. When she asked him where he had learned it, he replied, “Miss Swett plays it at school.”
The mother wanted Lisa to know that in that moment — singing a Beetles song together in the car — she felt totally connected to her son.
When have you felt such a connection and oneness with another person? Can you relate to a 5-year-old? Can you relate to a 90-year-old? How can we live in harmony with others different from us?
Music brings us togetherAs mother and daughter, we have discovered a oneness and strength in our faith, especially through music. Singing together at church in the choir and small groups, and traveling across the United States and internationally with musical groups, has drawn us closer. These shared experiences have allowed us to witness to our faith to others as we have grown in our faith journey.
An anthem – “Always Be A Child” by Ray Boltz and Steve Millikan — recently struck a cord with both of us.
I was there when you drew the breath of life
And I could heard your voice
The first time that you cried
And though you couldn’t see me
I was very near
And there’s something now
That I want you to hear.
And I was there the first time that you prayed
And I heard all the promises that you made
And when you fell before me
Crying father I have sinned
I picked you up
And held you close again.
You will always be a child in my eyes
And when you need some love
My arms are open wide
And even when you’re growing old
I hope you realize
You will always be a child in my eyes.
This song reminds us God is there for us at every age and stage of our lives. We are all God’s children. We are claimed by God.
What music or Scriptures encourage you as you continue on your faith journey? What does it mean to be a child of God?
Jesus loves meAs children, many of us sang, “Jesus Loves Me.” Does this hymn speak to adults? The third verse of this hymn, No. 191 in The United Methodist Hymnal, says:
Jesus loves me still today,
walking with me on my way,
wanting as a friend to give
light and love to all who live.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.
This verse reminds us Jesus’ love is a free gift for all. Jesus’ love is always present with us. Jesus’ love welcomes us all, and calls us to share this love with others.
As followers of this loving Christ, do we work to make our churches and units of United Methodist Women as welcoming as Christ’s example? As Romans 15:5-7 reminds us, we need to welcome one another. What does it mean to welcome another in Christian love? Do we expect others to conform to our expectations, instead of taking time to listen to their stories?
Growing in faithParticipation in schools of Christian mission is one way we hear each other’s stories. We have attended these educational events together year after year, where we have taken leadership roles. We leave mission school strengthened in our faith, seeing the world through the eyes of others.
Schools of Christian mission should be available to children and youth, women and men. Does your conference offer classes for all age groups? Attending a school of Christian mission is an opportunity to come together to explore our faith in action in the world around us, an opportunity to come together as one to praise God.
Last May, we attended United Methodist Women’s Assembly in Anaheim, Calif. This was the fifth time we had attended Assembly together. What an experience to be together to worship, sing, be enriched, be informed and feel the bond shared among members of United Methodist Women. What a feeling of harmony and oneness. We certainly did as Assembly’s theme said: “Rise! Shine! Glorify God!”
As the refrain of a favorite hymn — “Many Gifts, One Spirit,” No. 114 in The United Methodist Hymnal — says, we have:
Many gifts, one Spirit,
one love known in many ways.
In our difference is blessing,
from diversity we praise one Giver,
one Lord, one Spirit,
one Word known in many ways,
hallowing our days.
For the Giver, for the gifts,
praise, praise, praise!
Eugene Peterson’s contemporary version of Romans 15:5-7 in The Message empowers us to sing God’s praises and embrace others as Jesus did:
May our dependably steady and warm-ly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir — not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Parent of our Master Jesus!
So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory. Jesus did it; now you do it!
When we sat together to research this Bible study, we were positioned as you might expect: daughter on the Internet and mother surrounded by books. Whatever our differences, we can be one voice to glorify God. We come at things from different perspectives, but we are unified in Christ’s message of love and reconciliation. Consider “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love,” No. 2223 in The Faith We Sing:
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
we are one in the Spirit,
we are one in the Lord,
and we pray that all unity
may one day be restored:
And they’ll know we are Christians
by our love, by our love;
yes, they’ll know we are Christians
by our love.
* Peg Swett of Orrington, Maine, and her daughter, Lisa Swett of Bangor, Maine, are active in United Methodist Women together. Peg Swett is a former Women’s Division director and currently a district president. Lisa Swett is president of Northeast Jurisdiction United Methodist Women’s Core Planning Group and a Women’s Division director.
Book to ReadThe following book is from United Methodist Women’s 2007 Reading Program.
A Song to Sing, A Life to Live
This book interweaves father and daughter’s stories as they reflect on music and spirituality. Reading-Program category: Nurturing for community. #2498/