Spend enough time on a boat and you will have occasion to thank God for your lines. Whether tying up at a dock, towing a skier, or holding your vessel to an anchor on the bottom, these threefold cords matter. Bow lines, spring lines, stern lines, anchor lines — if you are a mariner you understand right away that the ropes you buy for various uses are not optional accessories, but are essential for both comfort and safety on your boat.
Ten centuries before the birth of Jesus, Israel’s king Solomon applied the image of a three-stranded rope to a spiritual truth.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow ... And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him — a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9f)
We like to think that successful people get that way because they are independent, capable of handling their own problems, and in need of no one. What we fail to notice is that rugged individualists are seldom successful, and self-made men aren’t often actually “self-made." Remember the Lone Ranger? If you do then you will also recall that he didn’t really range alone; his friend, Tonto, was always at his side — because two are better than one.
Nowhere has this truth played out in a more important setting than in the Church today. There are many people in our country who observe how frequently the body of Christ forgets to apply the lesson of the threefold cord to herself. I cannot tell you how many denominations try and convince folks that they, alone, are the true Church. I cannot tell you how many congregations approach sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ as if they were competing against all the other congregations in the area for a greater share of the “market."
No wonder so many people are put off by the whole idea of organized religion! So much of what folks see and hear is clearly self-serving. The world, the flesh and the devil are all powerful forces in today’s world. When God’s Church separates herself into lots of individual cords and attempts to restrain the influence of the forces driving our culture we find these forces breaking free of them as if they were straw. No wonder Christianity is becoming more and more marginalized on the cultural landscape!
I am pleased to tell you that Destin is different. Years ago, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, the clergy and congregations of our community began to come together in profound ways. The more things that we did together, and the more we prayed for one another and for our community, the more the Lord impressed us with his truth — together we are the Church of Destin. We are one Church here made up of many congregations, each bringing unique gifts and talents to make us whole.
Want proof? Starting on Sunday, May 5, the Church of Destin begins celebrating the 10th Annual Week of Blessings. Seventeen congregations, which meet on this little peninsula of land, are joining together to ask God to bless this community in a multitude of ways. Yet the week is simply the most visible expression of what is quietly happening throughout the year. Every Sunday these congregations pray for one another. Every two weeks the pastors gather for an hour of prayer.
When something wonderful is happening at Village Baptist, or Destin United Methodist, Destiny Worship Center, or Shoreline Church or any other body of believers, clergy and laity alike are eager to participate. Can you believe it? Tongue-speaking Pentecostals worshiping alongside Southern Baptists kneeling at the altar rail of a Lutheran sanctuary while a Methodist reads from Scripture and a Presbyterian preaches about how close he feels to some Anglicans with whom he recently spent time in prayer.
The Church of Destin is far from perfect, and there is much for us all to learn about what it means to be one in Christ. We still have differences in style, theological interpretation, and emphases. But it is our love of Jesus which overcomes all the obstacles placed in our way. And it is our love for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ which is bigger than our own sinful inclinations. Together we have come to understand ourselves as the threefold line holding the world to the sure and certain anchor of hope which is Jesus. It is a threefold cord which is not easily broken.
The Rev. Mike Hesse is senior pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin.