I wrote the following as one of four devotions for the January 2015 Virginia United Methodist Advocate. This devotion was on John 17:6-21. It was used recently as our devotion during a church staff meeting. As I listened to my words being read aloud, I realized that buried in here is a vision for the UMC.

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When I traveled on mission trips to Costa Rica, no matter where we were, we were always welcomed with open arms and warm hearts. Often we were invited to sit around a table where coffee and cookies were offered. This simple act of hospitality reminded me of going and sitting around the kitchen table at my grandparents.

The table would grow as an aunt or another cousin or two would randomly show up. As we gathered around the table, we would share stories about our lives, our churches, and things we noticed in the news. There would be lots of laughter, and every once and awhile a disagreement. No matter what we had been doing that day or where we had been, we were united around that table.

Our friends in Costa Rica taught us the phrase “somos uno,” or “we are one.” Even though there were so many differences – our skin tones, our hair, our language, even our worship – we were one.

Lately, there seems to be a lot more things that divide us than unites us. At dinner parties, in coffee shops, and at church meetings, we find ourselves debating with others over politics, theology, the authority of Scripture, and more. Despite these differences and the conflicts they create, Jesus prays for unity among the people of God.

We learned as we served side by side with our Costa Rican brothers and sisters, that the spiritual unity that binds us together is stronger than any differences we may have. We are one because we share together in relationship with Jesus Christ; a relationship built on the love of God and love for others.

Jesus is gathered around a table with his disciples. By the time we get to today’s scripture, Jesus’ dinner table conversation has turned into a very intimate prayer for his disciples. This prayer goes beyond the barrier of time and extends to John’s audience and to us. Twice in the prayer, Jesus prays for the church to “be one” (verses 21 and 23).

Prayer unites us. Let us gather at the dinner table, break some bread, tell our stories, and celebrate the unity that is between us.