Our Formations lesson this week is a good one. Its one that is especially timely and challenging for us at the outset of 2017. Our focus has been on Christ Our Savior. If we believe Christ is our savior, then our habits, actions, and words should reflect this fact. Our lessons have been looking at different behaviors in which this truth should be clearly visible. First, we have considered what we are willing to loose or give up so that we can fully follow Jesus. Last week we considered what we have been saved from and for what we are being saved.
This Sunday we consider how, in Christ, we are a new, unified people. The key question is: Whom do I need to embrace as a brother or sister in Christ? This is timely as we stand a week away from the inauguration of a new president and one day from MLK day observance. On many fronts, 2016 was a year that our nation and even the whole world seemed divided. This includes people of faith. How are Paul’s words instructive to followers of Christ, who are to be a witness to God’s unified and coming kingdom?
Since our scripture lesson is from Ephesians, I love what the introduction to Ephesians has to say in the Message version. (This is a scholar writing about Paul’s main focus to the church at Ephesus.)
What we know about God and what we do for God have a way of getting broken apart in our lives. The moment the organic unity of belief and behavior is damaged in any way, we are incapable of living out the full humanity for which we were created.Paul’s letter to the Ephesians joins together what has been torn apart in our sin-wrecked world. He begins with an exuberant exploration of what Christians believe about God, and then, like a surgeon skillfully setting a compound fracture, “sets” this belief in God into our behavior before God so that the bones – belief and behavior – knit together and heal.Once our attention is called to it, we notice these fractures all over the place. There is hardly a bone in our bodies that has escaped injury, hardly a relationship in city or job, school or church, family or country, that isn’t out of joint or limping in pain. There is much work to be done.And so Paul goes to work. He ranges widely, from heaven to earth and back again, showing how Jesus, the Messiah, is eternally and tirelessly bringing everything and everyone together. He also shows us that in addition to having this work done in and for us, we are participants in this most urgent work. Now that we know what is going on, that the energy of reconciliation is the dynamo at the heart of the universe, it is imperative that we join in vigorously and perseveringly, convinced that every detail in our lives contributes (or not) to what Paul describes as God’s plan worked out by Christ, “a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
What a great introduction to our lesson and what a great summary of God’s work, first in Jesus, and now, through the Holy Spirit, in us! This lesson has the power to offend and inspire – all at the same time. Offend, because we all are guilty of building dividing walls (Ephesians 2:14) and inspire, because God has empowered us to be a community of reconciliation! First, and foremost, within our own local churches, then with fellow Christians, and finally, with the whole world! The song, “They will know we are Christians by our Love” could never be more true. How we treat one another and then how we treat the world – regardless of their beliefs – points the ultimate truth of God’s love and saving plan.
Some useful questions to ask:
- Using Ephesians 2:14: What are some dividing walls within the Christian community? In RVA?
- How, based on Jesus’ example, and Paul’s words, do we go about tearing these walls down?
And using Ephesians 2: 19-22:
- How do we become a “home for God” or God’s household when there are seemingly so many divisions and cracks? (I like the image of Christ as a skillful surgeon resetting compound fractures).
- Can we, being built on a foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Christ as the foundation, create in our lives together a home in which God can dwell and God’s saving plan for all people be evident?
Ours is a church that truly is diverse in background, experience, and political persuasion. The last in this list makes us unique in that studies show – and the election showed – people are living and socializing in like-minded groups. Increasingly, we live in bubbles unaware of the other’s point of view. This makes it easier – almost inevitable – to create an us – them dichotomy.
- How then, can we, a diverse church, live together and love one another, despite our differences?
- Can this happen? Is it possible?
- If we are able, is this one way our church can show God’s coming Kingdom to a world that desperately longs for its reconciling power?
Monday is MLK day. MLK lived his life with the mandate to be a symbol of God’s Kingdom and reconciling power among a people who were separated often by misunderstanding and hate. I think it is worthwhile to remember his example. Below is a fun video clip from “Kid President” about MLK that really goes well with the lesson. Use a laptop to show this video to your class, if you so choose. You should be able to access an internet signal throughout the building by connecting to “hrbcopen”.
God of reconciliation, may you be with your people, who through diversity of ethnicity, skin color, social status, and wealth are created in your image. May we be unified in the power of your love and Holy Spirit, even when we disagree. May the world know you by the love we have for each other. May our unity in you build bonds that are stronger than any differences we have. In fact, may our differences be something we are able to celebrate.
In Christ, who has reconciled us to you, we pray. Amen.
Blessings to you along your journey of faith this week!
* Quote is from the Message Remix, Eugene Peterson. Navpress, Colorado Springs, Co.