Sermon – Pentecost 9 – July 22, 2018
Ephesians 2:11-22 ‘Tearing Down Walls’
CT: Jesus broke down the wall of hostility that separates us from our heavenly Father and through His Church removes the walls we put up between one another.
Intro: Walls and fences divide and separate people. Trump’s wall on the Mexican border is not a new idea. There was Hadrian’s Wall, the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall; all built because of the tensions and hostilities between nations. But walls don’t have to be made out of mortar, brick, and razor wire; walls of hostility arise between races (it’s called Apartheid in South Africa and Residential Schools in Canada), or between sexes (it’s called the ‘glass ceiling’ for women in big business), and even between ordinary people (call it what you like: divorce, a family feud, settling an estate, or all the reasons one puts forward for not attending church). They are the walls of hostility that separate people from each other, but even more serious; they are visible signs of what separates us from God.
OT Walls: Paul’s letter to the Ephesians draws our attention to an age old wall of hostility between God’s chosen people and the rest of the nations. God’s people had more than the 10 commandments; they also had ceremonial laws, social laws, worship laws; all of which set them apart from all the other nations around them. They were constant reminders of whose they were, but it also had the effect of building up walls of pride and resentment over others; today we call it anti-Semitism. The division was visible in the Temple in Jesus’ day in the form of a fence that separated the Gentiles (non Jewish) people from the Jews. It was like having two peoples; the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. The ‘have nots’ were separated from the promise of the Messiah, alienated from God’s chosen people, strangers to God’s promises, having no hope and without God in the world. That’s a lot of reasons to build walls of hostility between people!
Remember: Paul’s words are not meant to rub our Gentile noses in the mud, but to bring the miracle of grace to mind. Apart from God we are without hope or a future worth considering. But our printed text leaves out one very important word, ‘therefore’. ‘Therefore’ is there for a reason! Paul’s letter has just stated how we, who were once dead in our trespasses, have been made alive in Christ. You know the passage: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Therefore…remember who you were…where you came from… remember you too are dependent upon God’s grace!
Hard Hat Jesus: We are now under grace because Jesus tore down the old dividing wall; not with a wrecking ball, wire cutters, or a bulldozer; but with a cross, a crown of thorns, and the shedding of His blood. He took the violence and divisions we inflict on each other into His own body, not to simply mend old fences; no, a new man is made in the place of two. Physical walls, along with that fence in the Temple did tumble down; the Roman army took care of that. But Jesus broke down the dividing wall of hostility—the impenetrable wall of sin and our sinfulness that separates all people from our heavenly Father and Creator, opening the way for His Church—a place where all the guilt ridden fences we put up in our backyards with each other can also come tumbling down. He came preaching peace to the people on both sides of the fence so that all people may have access in the one Spirit to the Father.
Great Wall: At Jesus’ death the curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. All that separated us from God has been torn down! As the writer of Hebrews says, “we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh….” We have the most certain hope in the forgiveness of sins; Jesus paid the due penalty of our sin, buried them deep in His grave from which He rose in a victorious powerful statement of life for you, and He now presents you as pure and holy, members of God’s household. We have every reason to gather together and encourage one another.
One House: The Christian Church in Ephesus struggled with the idea of one new man out of two. Can differing peoples be together in one room? Yes! That’s the Christian Church! And wonderful things happen when the whole Body works together; VBS, Upwards Sports Camp, men’s breakfast, ladies circles, mission dinners; doing the work God has prepared for us to do. And it doesn’t go unnoticed in our community or by the evil foe. The Christian Church is a sure and certain sign of Satan’s defeat by Jesus on the cross, which Satan rails against. And the devil so easily goads sinful nature into putting up partition walls Christ’s Church. Distance is a favourite wall that goes up in response to a hurt-felt word. We tack up the partitions of un-forgiveness. Privacy is another partition where people talk about being Christian apart from the space that Jesus made. They call it a private faith; without Jesus’ Body. Judgement cubicles divide by laying claim to who belongs or not. After all we don’t want the wrong kind of people in here! They’re signs of that old wall of hostility in side us.
No Walls: But Jesus’ Church needs no walls; it is without guilt and regret, for He is the cornerstone. His forgiveness binds us together. God’s workmanship reaches out to all people of the world—of every race, gender, age, and time. We are no longer aliens or strangers to God’s family; we are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household. More than that, we are a functional part of that new spacious Church (think of how your family works together!)—joined together by Christ Himself—a dwelling place for God—all by the Spirit’s work.
I know the Church without walls is hard for us to imagine with all those denominations carving up the one, whole, Christian Church. The key is to keep our eyes on the One who tore the dividing walls down—on the Builder Jesus Christ who tears down our walls by the work of His firm but forgiving hands. Here among us, Christ builds His house with the truth of His Word, free of partitions that others will see, hear, and know the love of God we have been given in Christ Jesus.