July 18, 2021
Gate City United Methodist Church
Another Brick in the Wall
Ephesians 2:11-22 (NIV)
11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
The 2nd chapter of Ephesians begins with a focus on our relationship with God. Paul makes some beautiful statements. He says we are “made alive in Christ Jesus,” and notes that “it is by grace you are saved through faith.” One of my all-time favorite sayings is, “for we are God’s handiwork (masterpiece).” Then, in the verses that follow, Paul focuses on the relationships we have with one another. He stresses that we are (supposed to be) all one in Christ. The previous customs of the Jews and Gentiles, Paul says, do not matter because now it’s all about Jesus, and what Jesus has done.
One thing that Jesus did is destroy “the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” Paul likely envisioned the Temple in Jerusalem as he wrote these words, where physical walls separated the various courts (such as the court of the Gentiles from others). Those walls blocked access to going any further. Those walls separated people due to their differences. Jesus destroyed those dividing walls which separated his beloved children. Jesus tore the curtain in the Temple in two so that we all could “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). And yet, if Christ has destroyed what divides us, how then are there still dividing walls, both physical and relational, among us as God’s people?
Paul’s words, written while he might have been thinking about the Temple, make me think about Pink Floyd as I read them. In 1979 this band released an album entitled “The Wall.” One of the song lyrics comes to mind as I read this passage in Ephesians: “all in all you’re just another brick in the wall.” Perhaps the reason for the existence of separation among God’s people today is…well, us. Christ removed the barrier. Maybe we have been building it back up ever since. Paul is clear that the reason Jesus removed this barrier was to “create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace…to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”
“Thus making peace.” What a beautiful statement! What a beautiful idea! What a beautiful hope! What a beautiful dream! It is also a beautiful reality! Jesus has done it. He has created peace and reconciliation between humanity and God, and amongst all humanity. Did you catch how Jesus makes peace in verse 14? “For he himself is our peace.” It’s not that Jesus is simply offering us peace, although that offer is made to us. It’s not only that Jesus provides an opportunity for peace, although that opportunity has been created for us. It’s that Jesus IS our peace.
The image Paul gives us of this newly formed and reconciled people of peace is a house, and Jesus is the foundational cornerstone. It is not just any house, but is a “holy temple in the Lord,” where we “become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
Our differences do not have to be dividing walls. We will not agree on everything. We cannot compromise on everything. But, we can remove some bricks from the walls, and remember that even in our disagreements and differences we are still one in Christ. Perhaps only then can we truly to say to our sisters and brothers, “Peace be with you,” then hear those beautiful words in response and know their reality, “and also with you.”
Gracious and Loving God, You are my peace. Help me live in Your peace today and truly know this peace that surpasses all understanding. Let Your peace flow from me into all my relationships, so that I see every person I encounter today as Your masterpiece whom You love with an all-encompassing desire. May Your peace guard my heart, mind, and mouth in Christ Jesus, my Lord. Amen.