Ut omnes unum sint.
That Latin phrase is on the crest of the United Church of Canada. It's Jesus words in John 17:21. It means "that all may be one." Latin, I suppose, is the language of official insignia - and the historic church, for that matter - and the crest is the official "signature" of the church on legal documents like certificates and licences.
Anyway, I was thinking about it because June 10th was the 88th anniversary of the union that created the United Church of Canada. The denomination's birthday, if you like. We didn't have a cake - we had a cake a few weeks ago for Pentecost, the official "birthday" of the Christian church - but it was our annual church picnic, so we had a bit of a party.
Ut omnes unum sint. It's a reminder that our church is meant to be not only "united" (it was the union of several denominations in Canada to create a wholly new church in 1925), but "uniting" people into the future.
It's also a reminder of what it means to be "one" as Jesus teaches us in John's Gospel. We aren't one in sameness, but in our respect of each other's uniqueness. We are not one by being bound together by authority, but by being in relationship with each and creating community. "One" in this context isn't about "only," it's about "all." I like to say that we should try to welcome anybody, because that's what Jesus did.
Ut omnes unum sint is about recognizing that there is a level at which we are all, regardless of any circumstance, one family. For Christians, it's Jesus who calls us to live that related-ness through love, love as Jesus lived it and taught it to be.
So I have to say that I was pretty happy with the decision last year to add something else to the United Church crest. The 41st General Council, the national body of the church, decided to acknowledge the presence of First Nations people in the church by adding four of the colours of the medicine wheel to the crest and this phrase in Mohawk: Akwe Nia'Tetewa: neren.
It's that phrase that most caught my attention. It means "all my relations."
It emphasizes that relational nature of our unity, and reminds us that "all" doesn't just mean you and I or immediate family, but all that we are related to - and that's all of creation. We are one in relationship with each other and all the world around us.
Of course, that's when it's most important to remember that it's right relationship that we seek. And that requires constant attention. Jesus calls us to live in love and grace with each other, especially when it seems hardest. And that can be in the creation of a new relationship, the ending of an old one, the restoration of a broken one or in the engagement of a treasured one.